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Afshan Rizwan and Faisal Siddiqui with children Ahraz Ahmed and daughter Faria along with mother-in- law Nasreen. Image Credit: Supplied
Seyyed de la Llata/Gulf News

Dubai: When three members of a Dubai-based family of Indian expatriates tested positive for COVID-19, instead of panicking, they decided to close ranks and put up a spirited fight against the dreaded virus.

Recounting the crisis, Afshan Rizwan, a Dubai-based housewife and mother of two pre-teen children, who was one of the few in the family to test negative, told Gulf News: “All throughout the last six months, we as a family had been very careful and avoided meeting people or stepping out. We were careful as my 70-plus mother-in-law, Nasreen Siddiqui, who has diabetes and other comorbidities, lives with us. We had to protect her at all costs.”

However, the invisible adversary made way into their home through an asymptomatic guest. “On October 29, this young man who is the son of a close family friend came to visit us. He was going to India for his wedding and wanted to seek the blessings of my mother-in-law and us. He came home for lunch. All of us, that included my husband, Faisal Siddiqui, 42, my brother-in-law Khurram Siddiqui, my mother-in-law and myself, were careful. We maintained social distance,” recalled Rizwan.

But the family was sharing the same room with this young asymptomatic coronavirus-positive man who, until then, was not aware of his health status. They all took off their masks to have lunch. While Khurram shook hands to wish the young man good luck, Nasreen, in a natural gesture to bless the man, placed her hand over his head.

Mild symptoms

The next day, Faisal had a sore throat and slight temperature. In the meanwhile, the young bridegroom to-be went in for the mandatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before travel. When his result came positive, he called up the Siddiqui family to advise them to undergo tests for COVID-19.

NAT Brother in law Khuram Siddiqui-1605791709149
Khurram Siddiqui Image Credit: Supplied

Rizwan continued: “My husband, brother-in-law and I went for a test the next day and within 24 hours they both tested positive. It was a relief that I tested negative, but we were now extremely worried for my mother-in-law, who had no symptoms until then.”

The family immediately went into self-isolation as advised by the doctor, with Faisal in one room, Nasreen in another and Rizwan and the children in a separate room. Khurram, isolated himself at his residence. Rizwan said: “We were advised by Dubai Health Authority (DHA) to quarantine ourselves at home as all the three members were asymptomatic. We are so grateful to them [DHA] for their support in these difficult times. We were getting continuous calls and medical advise from doctors and DHA.”

Do not let your guard down

The family could not believe that the very first person who came to their home despite all precautions got them infected. “The positive PCR test result was such a blow to our happy and healthy family. Not in my worst nightmare had I thought we would face such a situation as we had taken all possible precautions throughout all the previous months. Hosting lunches and dinners are the best part of our family get-togethers, but since March, we put a stop to all that and all other social activities. But as fate would have it, COVID-19 still paid us a visit,” said Rizwan.

Two days later, Nasreen lost her sense of smell and was feverish and the family’s worst fears came true as she tested positive the next day. Rizwan said: “Considering my mother-in-law’s advance age and comorbidities, we were very frightened for her. Donning my mask, gloves and taking all precautions, I drove her to the testing centre, with her on the backseat of the car. When her results came in the next day, we were in shock and I quietly shed tears as I had no idea how would I manage.”

Braced and battle-ready

However, taking charge of the situation, Rizwan swung into action. She explained the situation to her children, Ahraz Ahme, 11 and Faria, 9. Displaying wisdom beyond their years, the children took full charge of their online classes without bothering their mother and started taking their meals all by themselves. In the meanwhile, Rizwan swept aside all fears and launched a drive to sanitise the house, cook healthy meals and place them outside the doors of the bedrooms of the isolated family members. “The saddest and toughest part for me was serving food to my dear ones at their doorstep! We always sat together for each meal, as this was our best family time. We usually chat, laugh and share the day’s happenings over a meal. But then I was alone with my children ... We had quiet meals, no giggles, no chats,” recalled Rizwan.

Being extra careful, Rizwan also took the precaution of sleeping in the living room. She had developed an infection later that could have put her children at risk. “I also made sure to put the entire household on a strict regime of zinc, vitamin C, multivitamins, regular steaming with clove infusion and a decoction of throat herbs. This was in addition to the prophylactic treatment the doctor had prescribed for them,” she added.

Testing negative was a great relief

Her hard work paid off and within a fortnight all three tested negative, bringing much relief to the Siddiqui family. “By God’s grace, the quarantine period got over and Alhamdulillah, the results of the test done after 14 days were negative. We owe our good health to the advise by DHA and the Dubai government who were ever so vigilant,” Rizwan said.

It’s been a week since the family has reclaimed its healthy status and Rizwan’s message to the community is very succinct and inspiring. “There is as yet no cure for COVID-19. If your worst fears come true and your family does have a positive case, my advice to others is not to panic. Brush aside all fears and depressing news of mortality and complications as the only way to combat this affliction is by having an unwavering belief in God and yourself,” she said.

Break the infection chain

Rizwan explained why it was important for people to opt for a test under the slightest suspicion. “If you think you might have COVID-19, it is important to take charge, be vigilant, sanitise your home and strictly observe the quarantine period. Our doctor appreciated the fact that although my family members had mild symptoms, we went in for the test. Had we continued with our life, popping some paracetamol and cough syrups, we would have spread the infection to others. We broke the chain with the quarantine and other precautions. Our doctor said that was thoughtful and responsible behaviour.

Rizwan further said: “Now that COVID-19 is past us, I can only advise others in the society to be mindful and follow all protocols strictly. One can never know where the invisible virus may be lurking, ready to strike. Be responsible, avoid crowds, practise social distancing and wear masks.”