The Weekly Dose: The great Corona cover-up
People are dying across India during the lockdown, and not from COVID-19. Mrigank Warrier reminds us to think about people who need medicines and medical assistance for serious conditions, and those who are living precarious uncertain lives.
On a shifting riverine island in the Brahmaputra lives a 17-year-old girl, pregnant with her first child. She has not felt the baby move in weeks. The bhutbutis which ferry locals from one char to another have been at anchor for too long. She knows not what to do, or where to go.
After years of trying, a Gurgaon couple finally conceived with IVF. But the injections needed to protect the pregnancy are hard to come by. And even if they are available, who will come home to administer them?
A few days before the lockdown began, a pale, haggard 45-year-old mother of a child with congenital disabilities in Bulandshahr suspected she was pregnant again. Now, she is sure. What she’s unsure about is whether her unborn child and she will have to go without iron tablets this time around and if she will ever have a sonogram to detect if all is indeed well.
Trapped within the confines of her home, a woman is raped by her husband. She misses her period. The family planning clinic is not too far away, but the lockdown - and her husband - are closer to home.
A twenty-something college student in Bhavnagar lies curled up on her bed. She too has missed her period. Her partner is trapped in the hostel, with her. The gates are shut.
In February, they told a diabetic mother-to-be that her twins have grown too large to expect a normal delivery. She was asked to admit herself for observation by her eighth month. In April, they turned her away until she went into labour.
Her father - also diabetic - requires insulin every day. Their locality is a COVID hotspot, and the police are allowing no one in or out. This morning, he didn’t wake up.
His wife has high blood pressure. The government dispensary - the only one she can afford - issues medicines for only a fortnight at a time. When the lockdown started, she started taking half a pill a day. Now, that’s down to a quarter. She isn't sure if it’s this, or stress, that is causing her heart to pound throughout the day.
When PM Modi addressed the nation, a transgender man was packing to admit himself into his state’s most specialised hospital for the second in a series of gender reassignment surgeries. When he tries to enter the campus the next day, he is informed that the surgery he has dreamed of all his life, is ‘non-essential’.
When the brother of the head priest at Kedarnath lost all feeling and power in his lower limbs, the family understood they had to get him to a speciality hospital within an hour. Four police barricades and seven hours later, the clot-busting drugs are useless.
Logging off after her last Zoom class for the day, the school teacher stretched, and became aware once more of the lump in her breast, which seemed to have swelled since lockdown began. But she does not own a vehicle of her own. Maybe the lump would go away.
The three school-going children of a daily wage worker in Warangal were never well-nourished, to begin with. Now, it has been weeks since they have had a free, mid-day meal. Without work or wages, the prospect of any meal is diminishing. They have all lost weight, and one child is too weak to stand up.
On the 19th floor of a tower in a Bengaluru gated community, a techie from Bhilai is pacing his room like a caged animal. Mania is waning, depression is on the rise, and he is out of pills.
At 3 am this morning, someone - and it could have been anyone - was woken up by a searing pain in the flank. On a normal day, a single intravenous injection would have relieved the spasms caused by a moving kidney stone. But not today.
The youngest child of a family of slum-dwellers in Mumbai’s largest slum was diagnosed with scabies. Now, they’re expected to practice social distancing for two different reasons.
The son is stranded in Spain. The father is back home in Calcutta - with dementia. His caregiver has been denied a travel pass.
After 12 years of immaculate nursing care, the bed-ridden matriarch of a prosperous family has developed bedsores for the first time. Her loved ones are doing their best, but they do not possess the training that their long-standing home nurse does. She and her skills are locked down elsewhere in the same city.
The fever clinics are overfull of patients with symptoms of corona. But in their homes, more people are dying of TB every day.
Last night, a one-year-old developed a fever and had a fit. His parents are terrified. A simple visit to a doctor would have reassured them that seizures are not uncommon in feverish children of his age group. Instead, they spent a night in terror.
Millions of children have missed their scheduled vaccinations. Perhaps corona won’t claim them, but diphtheria might.
A few score babies of a few thousand babies born today didn’t cry at birth. Or breathe. Some of them were not born in hospitals.
With alcohol shops shut, a few addicts pooled their money together to procure some spurious country liquor. They are now at risk of losing their vision.
Tomorrow, someone with an accurately diagnosed, entirely treatable form of cancer will die. Not of corona attacking their immunocompromised systems, but of cancer itself. Chemotherapy is so near, yet so far.
A truck driver who recently found out he is HIV-positive will probably progress to full-blown AIDS shortly. The anti-retroviral course that is critical to arresting this disease course is nowhere near the highway on which he is stranded.
The thalassemics are all dying, if not already dead. Blood transfusions keep them alive, but few healthy people want to or can venture to a hospital to donate blood.
The organ transplant list is indefinitely frozen. After lockdown, we will discover that some hopeful recipients’ names are no longer on the list.
So many people will die. And since - in these terrifying times - forensic medical personnel are being advised to restrict contact with patients dead or alive, their loved ones will never know why.