'I almost died’: The story of Mumbai-man's COVID battle, and victory

·6-min read
Oxygen support after three days of near-death experience.

I saw gods... they were in PPE kits. I owe my life to them.

‘If I am alive today, it is because of the care and prayers of my wife, Purvi,’ says Bijal Ghadiali, COVID-19 survivor. The Mumbai-based techie was put on ventilator after his condition deteriorated following a spike in temperature and acute breathlessness.

‘I have no co-morbidities,’ he says, ‘yet I got the worse form of COVID-19 there is.’

Yahoo LIFE’s Khristina Jacob spoke to him to understand his story.

My mother slipped and fell while doing her chores. She sustained a fracture in her right leg on 31st August. So I admitted her in a nursing home. Before her surgery, there were pre-op tests which were required, which included included the COVID test as per the new protocol on 2nd September. She tested positive and we had to shift her to a COVID facility.

I had been with her in the nursing home and all the way to the COVID centre as well. I was visiting her to give her food, other necessities and certain medical tests which was not possible in the COVID centre.

Soon, I started to develop symptoms of dry cough and fever. I ignored it for a day or two and took home medication and followed social distancing at home.

However, on 4th September, my wife advised me to take a COVID test as we have a special-needs child and did not want to risk her.

My wife is the Assistant Nursing Superintendent and in charge of the COVID Ward in ESIC hospital of Kandivali. So I got myself admitted on 4th Sept in ESIC Hospital. The test was done and the results were positive. So they shifted me to the COVID Ward.

At the hospital gate with my wife Purvi.

My symptoms were only fever and dry cough, which were brought to control in a few days and I was supposed to be discharged in 2-3 days.

How I got critical

But in the morning of 11th September, there was a spike in temperature and I started getting breathless. CT-Scan showed some infection spread in lungs so they shifted me to the Seven Hills Hospital in Andheri on 13th September in an ambulance.

I was just on two kilos of oxygen support, and my condition got worse as the night went by. I started getting more breathless, and my oxygen levels dropped.

I felt like a fish out of water with the lack of oxygen.

Meanwhile my wife was trying to find an ICU bed for me. All the beds were taken, but as luck would have had it, one bed was made available, and they moved me in the nick of time to the ICU on 14th September.

Getting the IV and all the medical nodes plugged and inserted in body was painful. The oxygen pipes/nodes were shuffled down my mouth and nose in an attempt to prevent total collapse of the lungs.

This was a life saving manoeuvre done by the doctors at a very critical moment. Oxygen pumped through my nose was not able to sustain my lungs, so they had to pass it through my mouth to prevent my lungs from deflating.

Thanks to the line of treatment, new medicines and expertise of the doctors, nurses and personal care staff I was able to make it alive. With the quick thinking and action from a team of doctors and nurses from Kerala, I was saved before my lungs totally collapsed.

For the next few days, I was on the SPO2 machine with 15 kilos of O2 support, and with the medicine and treatment, I revived.

Gradually the O2 support was reduced and within a week I was able to breath on my own. I was then moved to an isolation ward.

Related read: Three permanent side-effects of COVID-19 that are pretty creepy

The entire family had COVID?

It was only then that I came to know that my whole family and my in-laws had tested positive too.

They all had milder symptoms of fever, cough or taste and smell issue, and were hence treated in home quarantine. They did not share this with me as I was critical and in the ICU.

The only positive thing was that my two kids tested negative for COVID and they were sent to my aunt's home to be safe from us.

I was discharged after a week of observation from the hospital and spent another week in home quarantine.

My second life

Looking at the sun and sky after one month - from the isolation recovery room.
Looking at the sun and sky after one month - from the isolation recovery room.

It was like living a second life. I was in hospital for a month. And my first experience of ever being in a hospital.

Coming out of hospital was as if out in a couple of different world. It took me a while to get adjusted to sunlight, traffic and all the noise.

Related read: Over 80% of COVID-19 patients have this vitamin deficiency; learn more about it

My time in a COVID ward

When we see others getting admitted, we think ‘how nice, they are getting everything they wanted like fruit juice, coconut water - how royally they are treated by loved ones’.

But a COVID hospital is nothing like that.

Relatives have to deposit food at the counter at the hospital gate.

It is like you are in prison and not allowed to meet anyone.

But I decided not to allow these things to bring me down. During my stay at the hospital, I got time to think over myself, what's my purpose in life. I was able to set new goals for myself, and was able to look into my life and think on all the good and bad things I had done.

I was able to reach out to ones I had wronged and say sorry to them. I also reached out and thanked the ones who were nice and kind to me. I had my phone for company so I was able to do all this.

The staff was very caring and supportive. They always spoke words of encouragement to me - especially the personal care staff who would clean up after me, give me warm food and help me out. I will always be indebted to them.

Please beware!

I keep reminding myself, my family is my responsibility.

  • If you get COVID, you are now just a number in the statistics for the government and the daily news.

  • With unlock happening, we need to be more careful. More and more people are thinking, ‘this can’t happen to me,’ Well, they’re wrong. This can happen to anybody.

  • You may never know if there is an asymptomatic person next to you in bus, train or market and you may get infected and bring the illness home for you and your loved ones.

  • Be safe, wear a mask, keep distance and sanitise yourself regularly.

  • Take care of elders, ones with aliments, and if you have special-needs children.

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