Many of us have been counting the days till a vaccine is developed that conclusively quells the coronavirus. But with endless weeks leading on to months, we all now know that this elusive cure may only surface after a long, long time. The virus continues to rage through the world and all that we can do is mask up, sanitize and try to go on with life in the safest way possible.
Several months down the line, that’s what most of us are trying to do. Stepping out, going about our work, even risking social gatherings and vacations. But life is far from normal. The chance that we may contract the virus is always there. Fortunately, the panic around Covid-19 has now subsided and we are able to sensibly look at how we can deal with the virus, should we be unfortunate enough to get infected.
There was a time when social media was plagued with horrific stories of fatalities due to Covid-19. Now, instead, stories of survivors have been coming up. It is now evident that it is important to avoid depression when infected with the virus.
Here’s what some celebrities, who have successfully combatted the virus, recall:
Actress and director Rubina Ashraf’s Covid-19 experience is certainly the scariest that I have heard so far. There was a point when doctors suggested that she be placed on a ventilator but Rubina’s family opted to monitor her oxygen intake and follow a strict regimen of medicines until she got better.
Rubina Ashraf’s daughter, actress Minna Tariq, shared an emotional post on Instagram when her mother returned home after recovering from the coronavirus
In an interview with me for Icon, Dawn, Rubina said, ““I have to emphasize that depression and the coronavirus are particularly a lethal combination. I was completely paranoid. While in hospital, my oxygen levels kept dropping and there was a time when I couldn’t even lie on my side without fearing that I would lose my breath completely. I remember sitting on the hospital bed, trying to cut my nails, and it took me five minutes to cut the nail of a single finger. My hands kept shaking and just didn’t any energy. That’s how important oxygen is for us.”
Recalling her initial days of infection, she said, “The initial months of lockdown were very tough for me. I was depressed because I had been holed indoors for so long and by Eid, I really wanted to go meet a few select relatives. I think I just got overconfident that I would stay well and then, a few days later, I had contracted the virus. I went into isolation immediately, staying inside my room, telling my family to leave my food outside my door.”
“For three days, I was fine. And then, the depression hit me. I get nauseous very easily and I started vomiting. I think I randomly called every doctor I knew, asking them what to do. The isolation was killing me and I was forgetting what I was saying. My son tells me that at one point he had come into my room, wearing a protective suit, and I had asked him why he wasn’t wearing his spectacles. He had reminded me that we had gotten his eyesight treated with laser therapy three years ago and realizing that I was dazed, I had replied that I wouldn’t wish this disease even on my enemies.”
Rubina’s family refused to put her on ventilator because they feared that she would not be able to revive. “Instead, they kept bringing me medicines and apparatus that would be able to maximize my oxygen intake. My brother drove down from Lahore three times to see me. I was taking heavy doses of antibiotics and blood thinners. The nursing staff at the hospital were a blessing. I was initially in the Covid ward and my family could only communicate with me from the doorway. At that time, I could only talk to the nurses and I will always be indebted to them for the way they tried to cheer me up and talked to me. Most of them were young girls – some from far-flung areas of Pakistan – and they were working hard, day and night, to combat this pandemic. There were two times when I thought that I would just die but then, slowly, I began to get better.”
More problems arose on the day when she was about to finally get released from the hospital. “I started feeling pain in another part of my body and it turned out that a vein had gotten ruptured because of the blood thinners that I had been taking. I had to be operated on immediately and I stayed in the hospital for another four to five days. Then, I finally returned home, all stitched up!”
Her family and friends gave her the strength to battle the coronavirus and the depression that it can induce, says Rubina Ashraf
She continued to feel weak after returning home. Talking to me at the time, she said, “There are oxygen cylinders everywhere in my home; near my bed, in the washroom. I get exhausted very quickly. I had never thought that I would contract such a terrible case of the virus. I have generally always been very healthy. The only time that I had been to the hospital before this had been for the birth of my children.”
Actress Yashma Gill’s encounter with the coronavirus itself was less severe, although she experienced weakness for several days after having recovered.
Yashma says, “I got myself tested for the virus after I started feeling very lethargic at work. I was feeling weak, my stomach was upset and I was experiencing body aches. I remember attending a morning show and complaining of a sore throat. I took a bath at night and fell asleep and by the next day, I was feverish. I wondered if it was because I had caught a cold but then, I got myself tested and it turned out that I was Covid positive.”
Yashma Gill, Twitter
“I did have a fever and headache during the first two days. I had to take migraine medications. But by the third day, my symptoms had started to fade out. There was only one time that I felt that I couldn’t breathe properly.”
After spending the requisite days in isolation, Yashma tested negative and was resuming her normal routine when she unexpectedly experienced weakness. “I couldn’t lie down straight without losing my breath, was facing memory issues and felt feverish and irritable. I asked my doctor and he told me that sometimes, patients may suffer from these post-corona symptoms. It took time for me to regain my strength.”
Sheheryar Munawar was on a road trip with his brother when he felt feverish. “We decided not to go home because our parents were elderly. Instead, we rented out a room and got ourselves tested,” says the actor and producer.
Aren’t we all praying the same? (image via Sheheryar Munawar, Instagram)
When both their tests came out positive, Sheheryar and his brother immediately isolated themselves. “It was tough,” says Sheheryar. “I did experience weakness. There was a point when even climbing stairs would make me go out of breath. But we consulted doctors and started taking medicines that would strengthen our immunity and help us overcome some of the more severe symptoms.”
A few weeks into isolation, Sheheryar and his brother both tested negative. This is when they returned home.
Nida Yasir and Yasir Nawaz
Nida Yasir and Yasir Nawaz contracted the coronavirus at a time when panic around the virus was particularly high. “Yasir, our daughter and I tested positive for the virus and suddenly, everyone around us panicked,” recalls Nida. “It was as if we had been deemed untouchable. The society that was lived in was sealed, our house was cordoned off and even our groceries were being delivered outside our home. Once the delivery man was gone, we would come outside to collect it. This was just a time when there was a lot of fear and confusion regarding the coronavirus.”
According to Nida, her husband, producer, actor and director Yasir Nawaz, was experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 which lead to the whole family going in for tests. “This was towards the end of Ramzan,” she says. “Yasir had been dieting for four months and exercising. Our movie’s shoot was about to begin and Yasir had to lose weight for a role that he was playing in it. I think this weakened his immune system.”
“He was also following a very hectic schedule at the time. He would be working on his film in the morning, then going off to the shoot of his TV drama and then, visit his newly opened restaurant in the evening. When he complained of a high fever, we initially thought that it was just heat stroke. But then, actor Naveed Raza, who Yasir had been working with daily, called him up and told him that he had tested positive for Covid-19. That’s when Yasir got worried and took me and our three children to get tested.”
“Till then, I wasn’t worried. I wasn’t experiencing any symptoms at all. I was shooting the last two editions of my morning show prior to Ramzan. On the last day of work, I was returning home when Yasir called me and told me that three of us had tested positive for Covid-19. Our sons had tested negative. I immediately got my domestic help tested and they were all negative as well.”
“We went into isolation immediately. Our Eid was spent with the three of us restricted to the upper floor and our boys downstairs!”
The family’s Eid-ul-Fitr was very different this year
“Yasir was experiencing severe symptoms, my daughter was mildly affected while I was completely asymptomatic. Yasir did everything he could. He ate raw ginger and onions constantly, drank herbal tea and nebulized himself regularly. While conducting my morning show, I had come into contact with a lot of doctors who were helping coronavirus patients and had some knowledge about how to deal with the virus. This helped. We were also calling up doctors regularly.”
“I was basically just running around taking care of everyone because I wasn’t ill at all. I think maybe I got the virus simply so that I could be with my husband and daughter and make sure they got better,” Nida laughs.
She continues, “It was depressing, being completely isolated from everyone for weeks. I tested negative after about 16 days. 25 days later, Yasir’s test came negative. But my daughter stayed positive for much longer. We consulted our doctor and he told us that sometimes, coronavirus patients remain positive for a long time but they become asymptomatic and can no longer infect others.”
What did they do while isolated? Like many of us living in isolation, Nida binge-watched Ertugrul Ghazi!
“Sometimes, while in isolation, Yasir would say that now that we had gotten infected and were at a lower risk of contracting the virus, we would go on vacation once all this was over.” The family did go on vacation just recently, to Dubai. They had to get tested for the coronavirus prior to flying out. They all tested negative.
The flipside, according to Nida: “We ate a lot while in isolation, because we were feeling down and we wanted to improve our immunity. I ate more mangoes than I had in years and ended up gaining 6 kilos. After recovering from the virus, I went on a cabbage soup diet for two weeks in order to lose weight. It drained me out severely. I felt like I couldn’t even get up. This is when I realized that the virus weakens us and it takes some time to become completely healthy again.”