When the virus attacks the warrior

Malavika Barman, assistant professor of biochemistry at GMCH had a freewheeling chat with Fit Northeast about her recovery process and matters related to COVID

When did you start experiencing symptoms of the infection and decide to go in for a test? Your family members too were affected. Tell us about your recovery process?
My journey of being a COVID-19 positive patient started on 27th June. On 25th June, Ranjit Kalita, our main house help had tested positive. I had taken him for the testing after he experienced fever and headache. At that time, I was posted as lab-in-charge of Central Clinical Lab, Biochemistry in Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital (MMCH)-an annexe hospital of GMCH. Though, I was on self isolation at home after duty hours since March, Kalita used to run errands for me. After he was shifted to MMCH, our entire family went for tests as we were primary contacts. On 27th June, at around 8.30 PM I learnt that our entire family along with our next door neighbour had tested positive.
My father Dr. Dangshi Barman is 83 years old and mother Dr. Malaya Barman is 70. Both are diabetic and hypertensive. My father is also a kidney patient surviving on one kidney. My daughter Shaivi is only 10 years old. Frankly speaking, when I got the phone call from our Principal Dr. Achyut Baishya I was numb for a while. I was very worried about my parents and daughter as they were in the vulnerable group with co-morbidities. However, the overwhelming support I got from my seniors and colleagues allayed a lot of fears. Dr. Achyut Baishya, Dr. Abhijeet Sarma, Dr. Basanta Hazarika, Dr. Anupal Sarma, Dr. Monjuri Kotoki and Dr. Sthapana Sarma deserve special mention. I was immensely touched and got a huge boost in confidence when our state health minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma whatsapped me at 2 AM asking me to stay strong and assuring us not to worry about our treatment. I must mention that the way in which he is tirelessly leading from the front inspires all doctors to give their 100% always.
After nine days at GMCH, we all tested negative and finally were discharged on the night of 6th July. I had started having mild symptoms while in hospital like headache, sore throat, diarrhea, itchiness and mild rise in temperature and was treated accordingly. Shaivi developed tachycardia (increased heart beat). But, the immediate attention that all departments lent was very reassuring.  At present after my mandatory home quarantine post recovery, I have joined my duties again.
As a doctor what are your specific observations /views on the disease? What is your message to other patients who are recovering from the disease and to people like us who are taking precautions to avoid the disease?
For most people in Assam the disease is symptomless or mild
COVID 19 is a highly contagious viral illness without any specific medicines. Till vaccines are available in the market, prevention is the only key. If we wear masks, keep washing/sanitizing our hands and maintain social distancing we can easily break the chain of transmission.
Dr Malavika Barman
Image: Dr Malavika Barman
However, I have observed that though there are so many awareness drives and programmes the general public is not observing these simple guidelines. There is ofcourse a fear of the unknown in most people. Viral unverified social media posts and messages are creating many unnecessary fears among people. My advice is not to believe everything that is posted on social media platforms and rely only on verified news and advisories given by the health department.
Thankfully for most people in Assam the disease is symptomless or mild. I strongly feel that the people should cooperate with the health department in terms of abiding by all the precautionary measures and also proactively come forward for testing. Healthy diet, exercise and a positive frame of mind helps in increasing our immunity. I also appeal to all symptomatic recovered people to come forward for plasma donation. One person can save the lives of two others.
Lastly tell us something about your work (involvement as a doctor) in terms of Assam's fight against COVID 19.
As, a Biochemist my role is to test all the biochemical parameters like sugar, renal function, liver function and COVID inflammatory markers in COVID positive patients. The biochemistry department also checks the antibody titres of prospective plasma donors. I feel privileged that I have been able to be a part of this huge humanitarian fight against the pandemic.

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