Image Credit: Bloomberg

Stay home, stay safe. That’s been the refrain around the world. I’ve been doing just that. Yet after seven weeks of my new homebound lifestyle, I had a shock. A huge shock. I came down with a high fever and body pain.

I just couldn’t believe it. How could it happen to me? I’ve been very careful. This is certainly a bug. Is it THE bug? SARS-CoV-2?

I quickly ran through the checklist of symptoms. Fever: Yes. Body pain: Yes. Sore throat: No. Cough: No. Nasal congestion: No. Breathing difficulty: No. Diarrhoea: No. And I can smell too. Two out of eight. So it can’t be.

It’s definitely flu; I’ve caught it so many times. But is it COVID-19? I don’t know. Over the last several weeks, I’ve been reading and writing so much about coronavirus that I’m familiar with most scenarios. My first corona blog was titled, “Why coronavirus doesn’t scare me”.

Recalling what my blog professed, I tell myself that COVID-19 is not lethal if your immunity is good. How good is my immunity? I don’t know. No point sitting here sweating over it. A COVID-19 test would be the thing to do.

What the doctor said

After an hour’s wait in a socially distanced queue at a hospital in Al Garhoud, Dubai, I was in triage. “You have a slight fever,” the nurse said.

The doctor was very reassuring. “Your chest is clear. With your symptoms, it doesn’t look like coronavirus. Have paracetamol and stay at home for three days. By then, the COVID results will be back. Till then, there’s no point in taking a chest X-ray.”

Driving home, I kept wondering where I had gone wrong. Over the last three weeks, my trips outside the home have been only to the supermarket. That too, once a week. And I have had protection: face mask and gloves. I couldn’t have caught it there, although social distancing hasn’t been ideal among shoppers. It’s difficult to maintain distance in a shop, but all of them wore masks, and most had gloves on.

What about the delivery boys? No, it can’t be them. They wear masks and gloves and keep a safe distance. Lift? No, I use my car key to punch the buttons.

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Hygiene at home has been ramped up since the virus outbreak. Hands are washed often, especially after a grocery run, even if I was wearing gloves. Hand washing before meals has always been mandatory.

Water bottles get the sanitiser treatment. Everything that comes into the house gets a coat of sanitiser before it is set down. Fruits and vegetables have to go through a vinegar and salt bath before they are stored away.

So where did it go wrong? Well, you just need a droplet, a minute one. It could be from anywhere, I surmised.

Let me not jump to conclusions. “Just wait for the results Shyam,” I said to myself. But it’s been a long wait.

I took the day off. Fever forced me to pop a couple of paracetamol tablets before I dozed off. The rest helped. My body still ached. But that wasn’t enough to keep me away from social media. While scrolling through WhatsApp, I saw an SMS notification drop in. My heart skipped a beat. It was from the hospital.

“We would like to inform you that your Covid-19 test result is negative,” it read

RELIEF. That’s not the word. It was much more than that. A sense of elation. There were goosebumps.

Maybe some more rest would help, I thought. So I asked for another day off but was given the week off.

Sleep and paracetamols worked wonders

Three days of sleep and paracetamols worked wonders. My body pain vanished. The temperature dipped below 37C. I resumed duty, and that was a major mistake. Since I am working from home, I thought it would be fine to restart working.

By evening the fever raged again. It was no fun. It was like being in a sauna. My arms were heavy, and I felt wasted.

Five days on, my body pain never returned but the fever did not subside. Paracetamol offered temporary respite. I hydrated myself well, took a daily dose of Vitamin C. And lots of sleep. Kanji (gruel or rice porridge) never tasted better.

But then. What if the test result is a “false negative”? I hope not.