I had a heart transplant in 2018, at the age of 69, a risky surgical procedure that saved my life. I live in India
, and ever since the latest COVID-19
outbreak swept the country, I've often wondered, "Did I come back to the world to die of this disease?"
I've been living as a recluse since last year; I'm a single woman without a partner or immediate family nearby. I haven't seen my sisters, brother, their partners, or children
, with whom I'm close, in 15 months; we call each other, even do video calls, but it's not the same as sitting with them.
I order my groceries online and have them delivered to my door; I put on a mask and a face shield before going out the door to collect them because I'm afraid of getting COVID-19.
As a solid organ transplant (SOT) recipient, I wear a mask outside, avoid crowded places, and keep a social distance from others because SOT recipients are easily infected. I get a flu vaccine
every year, but I still get a cold and cough at least twice a year. I'm on medication to keep my immunity low and to keep my body
from rejecting my donor heart.
When COVID-19 first arrived in my city of Pune (about 100 miles from Mumbai) last year, I shut my apartment door and haven't let anyone in since. I'm used to being alone. I've never felt lonely before; on the contrary, I've always loved solitude and enjoy sitting, reading, and writing. But no longer. I feel desolate and scared as I continue to stay inside.
With the second wave of coronavirus
infections, my mind is racing with questions like, "What if I'm next? Should I call a cab or an ambulance if I need to rush to the hospital? Should I keep my immunosuppressants and toiletries on hand just in case?"
The unprecedented new wave of COVID-19 has left us all devastated and stunned. Each day, approximately 250,000 infections and 4,000 deaths are reported, though the actual figures are likely higher. These are alarming statistics, and they are driving me insane. More than 300,000 people
have died in India as a result of COVID-19 since 2020.
The coronavirus appeared to be under control in November 2020, so how did it resurface so quickly, this time spreading like a forest fire?
While many of us seniors stayed in our homes, following all of the instructions and doing our best to avoid infections, many others moved around unmasked, including overconfident younger people tired of the restrictions and reckless political leaders who flouted precautions and held massive election
rallies over weeks.
I'm worried because I can't go to the doctor for my routine monthly checkups. With millions of COVID-19 patients being rushed to wellness centers and hospitals every day, and many being turned away due to a lack of rooms, and reports of people gasping and dying without oxygen and ventilators, who can stay mentally "normal"?
The new variant is highly infectious, and it has been attacking the entire population, as opposed to the first wave, which primarily killed seniors. In Delhi, India's capital, my cousins and their families have all been infected with the coronavirus, and almost every family in Delhi has lost one or more members to the pandemic
Images on television
of body bags thrown casually in a hospital parking lot and hundreds of bloated bodies floating down the "holy" Ganges river make me cry, and I can't sleep
My heart rate rises to an abnormal 190 beats per minute, when it should be between 90 and 110, and I feel weak and helpless as I lie in my bed.
My concern grows as I read that older SOT recipients may not be able to produce enough antibodies to fight COVID-19, even after vaccination
. It is worth noting that scientists excluded SOT recipients from clinical trials in order to find a vaccine for the healthier majority.
Aid has been pouring in from people and governments all over the world, and essential workers are delivering food
and oxygen cylinders to patients on a daily basis, as well as transporting the dead to cremation and burial grounds. COVID-19 infected some of them through contact, but they've recovered and returned after a fortnight to continue their work for humanity. I salute them.
During the lockdown in Pune from mid-April to mid-May, the police
collected 1.785 million rupees in fines
from approximately 350,000 people who violated COVID-19 guidelines in public. Will some people never learn?
Millions of others — doctors, health care
workers, and essential service providers — have no choice but to care for infected patients.
I, too, have a choice: I can stay inside, which significantly reduces my fear and mental anxiety. I tell myself, "Instead of worrying, I can pray for the living and the dead."
But then I read an interview
with the World Health Organization
's chief scientist, in which she warns that COVID-19 response will be critical over the next six to 18 months, and I start to feel down.
What if the pandemic continues? Will I be the next victim?
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