A suspected Coronavirus patient, who wishes to keep his identity a secret, shares his traumatic experience in the Delhi medical system, in particularly at LNJP Hospital, when he showed symptoms of the disease
On 8 April, I experienced severe shortness of breath and was coughing. The breathlessness increased when I lay down, and with all the Coronavirus news going around, I was petrified and decided to go to a hospital to get myself tested.
When three private hospitals shut their doors on my face, I went to Ambedkar Hospital, Rohini. On examining me, they said that since I was a smoker, I may be suffering from anxiety…You are just facing regular shortness of breath…No need to test…
I went there the second time again suffering from shortness of breath and finally got tested, that too after disclosing that I work for an NGO, went out for some relief work and by mistake rubbed my nose with gloved hands after touching a lot things at a central Covid store facility in Gurgaon.
I was advised to stay home quarantined till the reports come.
I came back home and again faced breathlessness. So we called an ambulance. To our surprise, 102 — the official ambulance helpline number — was busy for 30 minutes while I thought I was dying. The other helpline numbers advised us to keep trying 102 as they didn’t have any other solution to offer.
My wife and I rushed on our scooter to Ambedkar Hospital again.
They said, “We can’t give you emergency treatment because now you are a suspect”. They also started calling 102 for an ambulance, despite an ambulance parked right there whose driver said I will only drive you if I get order from the 102 facility HQ.
We were not provided with help and rushed back home to take my car and ditch our scooter. I myself drove the car and reached LNJP Hospital.
By this time it was dusk and I was panting heavily. The doctors and staff made me wait in this condition for another 40 minutes, and during this time I was not even allowed to step out of my car to take a breather.
After this I was asked to walk to the place where I could take an elevator to the sixth floor…and you won’t believe, the elevator was not functional! Another 45 minutes to just get the lift running… and all this while I’m lying on the floor in front of the elevator door ..
Then after reaching the sixth floor, which they call Covid isolation floor, again I am not given any treatment and made to sit for 30-plus minutes while they prepare a bed. Finally, I was given an oxygen mask.
My wife went home and came back at 1 in the night with some daily essentials. Thanks to this trip, she brought me a nasal blockage clearing medicine which the hospital did not have. I could again breathe from my nose. Breathing through my mouth was making my throat and insides very dry.
Finally, I slept. No medication was given except oxygen and my own nasal drop.
Breakfast arrived and I woke up to breathlessness again. I asked for oxygen and the technician who fixes the cylinder by my side came after 30 minutes. I could have died in that time.
Anyway, I had been provided with a plastic sheet as a bed cover, half a Lifebuoy soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste the night when I got admitted.
So I went to the toilet for the first time, only to realise that every Covid suspect and perhaps positive ones too are using the same facility for bathing, brushing and even washing clothes. They even spit and cough in the same washroom, obviously without masks.
I got scared and again felt breathless. A doctor who attended on me back in Ambedkar Hospital was worried for me, so he called. I explained everything to him .
Meanwhile, they took my swab test and sent the samples for testing. He advised me for a chest x-ray at around 12 midnight. He also said he called the attending doctor here to give me one as soon as possible. The X-ray was conducted at 3 am.
That too happened because after I got fed up with their responses, threw a big tantrum and sat on the floor in front of the doctor’s chamber in protest, while shouting that I would die due to their negligence.
The police also came up to pacify me and then started harassing my parents and wife, threatening to file a FIR.
They did a really painful blood extraction for inspection of oxygen in my blood. At 3 am, they took me to a dark dingy empty corridor where they brought the x-ray machine out from its place. And with zero contact with me, to any wall or machine, they did to my chest x-ray.
All this while, my wife and my cousin called and complained to multiple senior divisions but there was no response. My wife then somehow managed to get my name registered at Max Saket and an ambulance was to be sent to pick me. However, LNJP Hospital refused to allow this.
They were waiting for my reports. They said it’s a protocol .
After all the tantrums, I overslept and woke up at 12. There is a new face receiving me, .a new doctor, Dr Gaurang (the only person who told me his name).
So this Dr. Gaurang enquired about the drama the previous night. He politely spoke to me and agreed to shift me to a separate ward.
All this, while my cousin and my wife were already putting pressure from multiple sources to get a discharge. Earlier they were doing it for a separate room…In fact, my wife was downstairs sitting outside the CMO office.
So Dr Gaurang after another two hours managed to get me packed and sent me to another building altogether.
I was happy. But another unbelievable thing happened. I walked all the way with my bag to some other place called WARD 26 only to find the doors shut on my face. They simply said they couldn’t take me without any proper explanation.
We had lost hope of getting the lab report of the sample taken at Ambedkar Hospital. We tried our level best to track the second sample which was taken by LNJP and I was just told that the reports will be out soon and you will be informed.
In the evening, however, the sample report finally came and thankfully I tested negative. Without a moment’s hesitation, I got out of the hospital.
Here are the things that I want to say regarding the treatment at the LNJP hospital.
- Why are all suspects and positives staying together? Okay maybe not in the same cubicle but the same floor. And no one is stopping anybody from moving around and visiting other cubicles, sitting on others’ beds, etc.
- We all use the same toilet and the empty path which leads to the toilet is like a socialising spot for all the patients here. They linger, they chat, they cough and what-not without masks on the way to the toilet.
- Now to calm me down, the staff were saying that I was sharing the room with negative patients, but till the time I was there, I did not know for sure if there was any positive case in the group — and I myself might have been one.
- I understand it is difficult to keep a mask on 24 hours a day, but in my cubicle a patient coughs chronically and 80% times without covering his face.
This was a horrific experience, and I pray to God no one goes through this ever. It’s high time authorities treat patients with due diligence and respect.
— As told to Shaunak Ghosh