We are living in unprecedented times. I, for one, cannot recall any incident in my lifetime that has caused such global turbulence. The COVID-19 outbreak is set to completely change the world as we know it. In a short span of just four months, Novel Coronavirus has spread to every corner of the world, causing immense disruptions and huge loss of lives and livelihood. Terms like ‘social distancing’ have suddenly become a way of life for all of us.
Even as I write this, India is in the middle of the biggest lockdown in the world. There are repeated advisories over different media on how best to keep ourselves safe. The fact that I am a kidney recipient makes me and my ilk even more vulnerable. As news of the first few cases broke in India, this was the biggest concern that my family and I faced. While transplant recipients practice hygiene as part of their daily routine, present circumstances called for more stringent steps.
As a first step, I called up my treating physician to know what extra precautions I needed to take during these trying times. In my case, I was asked to continue the same medicine regimen. I was advised to religiously practice social distancing as the primary precaution. It was also suggested that unless in discomfort or experiencing any kind of symptoms, I must avoid visiting the hospital for regular follow-ups. This was to ensure avoiding contact with anyone who might potentially be a carrier of infections.
In addition to this, there are certain precautions I am following diligently. I am outlining those for reference for anyone who is a recipient and immunocompromised as a result.
- I am strictly adhering to guidelines issued by our government, namely staying at home, washing hands regularly with soap, not touching my eyes, nose and mouth, as well as social distancing. Following these are a must in order to stay healthy.
- These same rules apply to my family members as well, even more so. I am not going out but they might at times need to do so. It is important for them to follow social distancing while they are outside, and upon coming back home to immediately disinfect themselves as best as possible. Washing hands and changing into fresh clothes will help in this regard.
- I am also painstakingly wiping down exposed surfaces like doorknobs and handles that might have been touched by strangers.
- I have kept a month’s supply of my immunosuppressant drugs at hand. I know that the administration is aware of medicine requirements and is ensuring a smooth uninterrupted supply and there is no reason to panic. Still, I am making sure I renew my prescriptions while there are still some medicines left with me. Every time I receive fresh supplies which are delivered at home, I am wiping down each strip followed by washing hands thoroughly to avoid any infections.
- I am cooking all meals at home and consuming freshly cooked food at all times. In case of pressing circumstances, delivery of food from outside might be considered. However, this is best avoided for transplant recipients at the best of times. I am keeping my diet very simple, balanced and nutritious. I am taking special care to wash all fruits and vegetables very well and soaking them in water for a long time. Adding a pinch of potassium permanganate crystals to this water is my way of ensuring they get well disinfected.
- I have started reading e-papers as opposed to handling actual newspapers. Although newspaper publications are doing their best to ensure fully automated printing and packing methods, delivery might be compromised at various points. You never know how many hands the paper goes through. I for one have chosen to move to e-paper versions for the time being. It is better to be safe than sorry.
- Most of us are having to do daily chores ourselves without any help from support staff and it’s exhausting. I don’t want to over-exert myself. This can become overwhelming especially since we do not know how long the current situation will continue and how things will unfold in the coming weeks. I have divided tasks and responsibilities among my family members so that it is easier for everyone to cope.
- Morning and/or evening walks have been part of my daily routine for years now. Transplant recipients need to remain physically active as a rule. Since going out is not acceptable, I have modified my routine to fit in as best as possible inside the house. Walking within the confines of the house, dodging furniture and people can be a fun challenge. Regular practice of yoga is helping me to keep mind and body together in these tough times.
- Not only all the constant coronavirus news on TV, but also constant WhatsApp forwards, were adding to my stress in a big way. Initially when Corona virus news broke, I remember being glued to the television for hours. It was a morbid fascination, seeing how this crisis was unfolding across the world in real time. Soon, however, it became overwhelming. I have now made it a rule to watch the news only a couple of times in a day. Stressing myself out is not going to help anyone, me least of all.
- I will only make changes to my diet or medication if advised by my physician, and no one else. There are hundreds of messages floating around that advise on the right kind of foods to take or lifestyles to follow in order to build immunity and hence fight Corona virus. These DO NOT apply to people like me who are transplant recipients. Fact is that we are much more vulnerable to infections because we need to keep our immunity levels down for the outside organ to remain in good working condition. I do not pay heed to such messages at all. I hope all my fellow recipients are adhering to this strictly.
- As a transplant recipient, I am already a veteran at this. The months of strict isolation and self-discipline immediately following transplant are helping me now. Many people are cribbing at being home-bound for so many days. I am finally catching up on watching movies and TV series on streaming portals, reading books I always wanted but did not have time for, and listening to music. Not only are these different activities helping keep my mind off worry, but they are also helping me develop new interests.
Like I said at the very outset, these are extraordinary times. I am responsible for my own health along with my family’s. We have not seen anything like this before and hopefully will not have to again in our lifetime. Staying calm and following all guidelines and taking extra precautions will help us tide over this crisis with the least amount of damage.
Stay home. Stay safe.