Monday 13 April 2020 1:29 AM UTC
By Balagopal Kent
Brian and Jane from Norwich in the UK were all prepared to leave after their tour of Kerala on 15th March, and just when they were about to board the flight from Kochi to Dubai the health officials in Kerala broke the news to them that Brian has been tested positive for Covid-19.
Brian, who hasn’t been to any hospitals for some years, couldn’t come to terms at first when the doctors shared the findings with him. Brian then just saw things unfolding in front of him.
Soon he was shifted to Ernakulam Medical College and from Triage he was moved into isolation immediately and gets separated from wife who was luckily tested negative for the virus.
With no drugs yet identified to fight the Coronavirus, doctors at the Ernakulam Medical College had to make some serious decisions as Brian was severely ill and therefore any time delayed would have had adverse effects.
The doctors at Ernakulam Medical College decided that they should risk HIV antiretroviral drugs on him to contain the infection and they consulted with Brian and Jane and obtained their permission before they started the anti HIV drugs which later paved way for Brian’s recovery.
The team lead by Dr Jacob and Dr Fathahudeen infused in Brian the confidence and kept his wife informed and updated during the whole time they were isolated.
Finally after seventeen days Brian reunited with his wife, which he terms as the most touching moment as all happiness was turned sour when he ended up in hospital separated from his wife, away from home and finally it was all an emotional moment for him.
Brian and Jane spoke to Kerala Calling in an exclusive interview from where they are recuperating from the whole episode awaiting a departure to their home to look after their aged parents.
Excerpts from the interview with Balagopal Kent
Q: How do you feel now? Are you all set to fly back to United Kingdom? Or would prefer to stay a bit longer and return only once all the issues with the Covid pandemic has subsided?
I feel much stronger now, but need to follow up with my own doctor on my return. My wife and I are hoping to fly home on one of the flights being arranged by the UK government next week. We need to return to help our aged parents although we feel safe here with the lockdown seeming to be working.
Q: Can you please share how the illness affected you i.e. what was it like for someone who is suffering from this illness? What were the first symptoms? Were you conscious throughout the whole period of your treatment? What were the ups and downs?
Initially, I had a fever and a cough. Knowing these were symptoms, I immediately went to the Tata hospital in Munnar who told me I had pneumonia and should get tested for Covid19. When in GMC and my condition worsened, I was conscious throughout but struggling to breathe.
I was put on a ventilator to help keep oxygen levels high enough in my body. One of the downs was when I had to be moved to ICU which meant I was no longer next door to my wife, so lost her support and had to battle it on my own.
We kept in touch by phone. Having to ask for my mask to be removed in order to eat and go the bathroom was also inconvenient. However, I knew that the more I had the mask on, the my chances of recovery.
The ups were the encouragement and sense of humour of the nurses and doctors that helped keep my spirits up.
Q: How has Kerala been to you?
The Keralites we have had contact with have been wonderful. Kochi should be proud to have a local hospital with staff of such high professionalism as GMC Ernakulam. Also Kerala Tourism and Kochi City police have been looking after us really well.
Everyone has had our best interests at heart and the staff at the facility we are quarantined in have been excellent.
Q: Would you recommend Kerala to your friends back home when you return?
Yes, we would definitely recommend God’s Own Country as a vacation destination, as the scenery and people are lovely.
Q: As a tourist were you able to accomplish the aims of travelling all over where you wanted to and what will be your feedback on the place Kerala as a tourist destination to the world?
Unfortunately, I became ill on the 5th day of our holiday, so had only got to see Kochi, Thrissur and Munnar before we were isolated. My wife and I would love to return in order to complete our tour including the national parks, backwaters and beach.
Q: Has there been any incidents which you can remember struck you as interesting while in Kerala prior to Covid or after Covid while under treatment which you can share with the public?
Before I was ill, we managed to attend a temple festival which was captivating. Under treatment, I would say I was struck by the care and humanity of the doctors and nurses in the ICU at the hospital, and keeping their sense of humour under such stress. This helped keep my spirits up.
Q: Can you please let me know if you are aware that several nurses and doctors from Kerala work for the NHS in the UK. They are all in the forefront today within NHS fighting the pandemic?
Have you come across any of Kerala or Indian NHS staff while in the UK at your local hospital and anything you remember about them?
I am not aware of any Keralites in our local hospital as we have not had need to visit it for some years. However, we have been made aware recently that it is to become the Covid-19 centre for ours and the neighbouring state, so wish them all to be safe.
In the UK, each Thursday at 8pm everyone stands at the doorstep of their house and applauds the NHS and the courageous work they are doing, so hopefully they will feel they are loved in the UK.
Q: Hope you are following news about the situation in the UK. Do you think NHS would have provided such a service if you fell ill if you were in the UK?
It is hard to compare my care with the NHS as I don’t know what the treatment is like at home. However, all I can say is that I received world class care here in Kerala and Dr Fathahudeen and Dr Jacob’s team should be celebrated for the fantastic work they are doing.
Q: Please let us know where you are from the United Kingdom and tell us if your town, village is more beautiful than Kerala?
We are from Norwich (a premier league football team, for a little longer!) which is in quite a rural county in the east of the UK. So we too have lovely beaches and national parks, plus 2 cathedrals and a castle in the city.
Like Kerala, we also have a lot of tourism particularly to our own version of the backwaters, the Norfolk Broads. We also have quite a few people from India working in Norwich for some of our bigger employers. My wife has had the privilege of working with some Keralites in IT.
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