“I was taking 16 pain killers a day!!” – Interview of a COVID-19 survivor

Chinmay, a healthy guy in his 20s works for a tech company in US. One fine day, enormous pain in his throat wakes Chinmay up. Confused, surprised and in pain, he doesn’t know what to do. It later becomes so painful that he can’t even drink water. Little does he know it is COVID-19. How did he survive the hellish phase of the disease? Check out the exclusive interview.

Gaurav: How did your life look like before you got infected?

Chinmay: I would start by saying that everyone knew that COVID is out there, genuinely, I never thought that I would get it. Couple of reasons – I consider myself a fitness-conscious person, I try to eat healthy, I try to sleep on time and I try to keep my nutrition correct. I exercise almost every day. I play cricket, I go for jogs. Also, I didn’t have severe work stress. I wasn’t working 15 hours a day. It was a relaxed routine with maintaining a healthy life style.

How did you get infected?

Most probably what happened was that I used to go to a fitness training that was allowed to be function then. They took all the precautions like allowing only 6 people at a time, wiping equipments before and after use, checking temperature daily, keeping masks on, washing hands; all those precautions were taken. However, later I came to know that there was an asymptomatic person who did not know he was infected. Being asymptomatic there was no reason for him to test. I’m not exactly sure why he got tested but we came to know that he attended training while he was infected. Immediately after knowing that we stopped going to the training for 2-3 days as a precautionary measure and even I was asymptomatic in that period.

On one fine Saturday, I woke up at 3 am and I felt my tonsils were swollen. There was considerable amount of pain in my throat. So, I decided to take pain killer. Since I was feeling sluggish, tired and my body didn’t feel normal, I immediately called my company helpline for COVID-test and handed them the sample. I got my results on Tuesday and came to know that I have COVID. It was a home testing kit that’s why I think it took 4 days.

What happened during these 4 days?

I took pain killer on Saturday morning and started with home remedies like gargling with hot water and steaming. I felt a bit better by Saturday afternoon and I thought it’s not COVID and must be something else. However, things started going south by evening and my throat was swollen like anything. I couldn’t drink, I couldn’t eat. I was in constant pain. I could not swallow anything. I resisted calling a doctor and I took another painkiller and slept early. But on Sunday morning it was too bad to ignore. I had fever. I was feeling like I don’t have any energy left. My throat was really red from inside, it was very swollen. There was no way I could eat even with a pain killer.

I had an online consultation with a doctor and send him photos of my throat. He informed me that my throat is in really bad shape. On the top of that, he said , “there are small ulcers developing on your tonsils because of hot water gargling. It’s not helping your pain; it will just increase your pain.” He asked me to take a lot of painkillers. When I say a lot, I was actually A LOT. He asked me to take 4 painkillers every 6 hours which is 16 painkillers a day. I was taking 16 painkillers a day!! He said that I have to take it so that my throat comes back to normal, swelling goes away and I can eat and drink. This happened on Sunday evening.

I worked on Monday because it was a critical phase in office. It wasn’t stressful but it was still critical. My results came on Tuesday and I stopped working after it was obvious that I have COVID. Soon after authorities called me and advised me to take rest, continue with the medication, inform them if them if the situation gets worse, isolate in my room, do not see anyone, keep cleaning the surfaces I use, and washing hands. I was out of office for the next 5 days.

So, you took 16 pain killers till Saturday?

I took it for 5 days from Monday to Friday. That was the only medication I took. By Saturday morning (a week after the throat pain) I was completely fine. The symptoms started disappearing. The ulcers in my mouth and throat were gone. I had no fever or tiredness. I could swallow, I could eat normally. My smelling and taste sensations were coming back. So, the 7-day period was really bad but fortunately it was over after that. I started doing mild exercises on Saturday. It was really bad because your muscles don’t respond after you recover from something like that. I was completely isolated and I was doing exercises in my room.

So, the doctor said that you can exercise?

I mean, he said I can get back to normal if I don’t feel anything. So, I was taking complete rest in the previous week and I can’t sleep if I don’t get tired enough so I exercised.

What were you doing to counter the side-effects of so many painkillers?

I was drinking a lot of water. When I say a lot, it was really A LOT. I used to fill huge vessel of 5-6 liters and my goal was to drink 2-3 glasses of water every hour. Even after drinking a lot of water I felt that something was heating inside. I was also taking vitamins and mineral supplements as well to help my body recover.

What kind of support did have around you?

My roommates were super super helpful and accommodating. They would cook for me. They would keep the food outside my room. Whenever I was hungry, they stopped their work and cook for me. They brought for me anything I needed from outside.

How did you go through it mentally?

The good thing was by the time I got the result I knew I was almost on the road to recovery. The worst day was Sunday. Then I was thinking it is something else. It didn’t affect me that much mentally. I was sleeping, reading books and listening to music. But after the recovery I still had to stay in isolation and that was challenging. When you are well and confined in a room that starts affecting you mentally. As humans we need to interact, go out and see sunlight. We have so many social needs. On top of that, it overlapped with Diwali. I saw everybody was celebrating through social media. I was just sitting in a room. I stayed in room for next 7-8 which was more challenging mentally.

When did you test negative?

So, here’s the thing - the virus stays in your body for at least 2-3 months. It varies from person to person. The CDC website says after you recover from it and quarantine you are not contagious. I got tested after 20-25 days and it was still positive. It’s been about 2 months since getting infected and I haven’t gotten tested again.

How are you feeling now?

I consider myself lucky that the symptoms didn’t get really bad. I recovered really quickly and the things I do to keep my health in good shape helped me recover. Everything is completely normal for past 1.5 months. At the same time, I realize how bad this virus really is. If a person like myself who considers himself healthy can suffer so much, elderly people and children will be going through much worse. There are a lot of people dying. After my incident I was really scared of the virus.

What message do you give people out there who have not seen the disease?

Do all that you can to stop the spread of the virus. Take all precautions and avoid public gathering. As and when the vaccine is available for the public please, please go for vaccination. It’s really important. There are a lot of people suffering from the virus even if you are not suffering. It should be our first priority in this new to do whatever we can to stop the spread of the virus.

Thank you so much Chinmay for sharing your experiences.
Thank you for having me.

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