The techie speaks to TNM about his initial symptoms, psychological pressure and how his wife came under target.

Image for representation | Courtesy: Picxy/ayushmansinghthakur88
Coronavirus Coronavirus Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 11:44

Karan*, known as the ‘Google techie’ in the media, returned home on March 19 after a week at Bengaluru’s Jayanagar General Hospital, where he was in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19. He has now recovered, but the 10 days prior to that were a rollercoaster ride for him — he returned from his honeymoon, got diagnosed with COVID-19 and his wife was threatened for allegedly “running away” from the city.

Karan and his wife went on their honeymoon to Greece, Switzerland and France, and returned to Mumbai on March 6 to spend the weekend with his parents. The travel advisory issued by the Indian government at that point did not mention anything about passengers from these countries requiring quarantine. From Mumbai, the couple came back to Bengaluru on March 8, and his wife headed to Agra to be with her parents for Holi. 

However, their special trip turned into an ordeal for both of them.

Karan returned to work as usual but what started as a headache escalated to fever and sore throat soon.

“Two days in, cough, headache and body ache started. If I had to explain the body ache, I’d say it feels as if the blood pressure has increased at random points in your body. Medicines helped me cope with the symptoms,” Karan tells TNM. 

On the first day, Karan put his symptoms down to existing conditions, but 2-3 days in, he says the symptoms were quite distinct, and he realised that this was not a seasonal flu. But, he acknowledges that the early assessment was not easy. 

“The fever was quite high (102.5 degrees). I attributed it to my tonsillitis issue, I get the same symptoms when seasons change. However, I was advised at the airport to go for screening in case I observed any symptom, so I went. Luckily, the infection was caught at an early stage,” he says. 

After going in for a test on March 10, he was informed on March 11 that his test reports seemed ‘doubtful’, and that he needed to be admitted to a hospital. An ambulance arrived and took him to the testing site, and another one later took him to the hospital where he was kept in an isolation ward. 

The very next day — March 12 —  Karan was confirmed to be positive for COVID-19.

“The registration at the Jayanagar Hospital did not take long as the doctor had already completed most of the formalities. I was taken to the isolation ward within 10 minutes. The days in isolation, the only people who were allowed to come in contact with me were the hospital staff.  For non-essential things, we used to communicate over the phone,” he says.

Karan says that he started showing more symptoms with the passage of time.

“Before admission to hospital, I had a fever and a sore throat. After I was admitted, I started to cough a lot and I had a headache and body pain. The doctor used to ask me what I felt everyday and they would prescribe medicines according to my symptoms. I had diarrhea one day and the doctor changed medication for me. The symptoms were treated individually,” he says.

Hospital staff were also helpful and cooperative, and some even went out of their way to make patients feel better, he says.

“Hygiene was not an issue at the Jayanagar General Hospital. The isolation wards were clean. Cleaning used to happen every day. I was provided with hand wash, hand sanitiser and face masks. There were dustbins in the ward. So the hygiene was overall good,” he says.

Contrary to the perception that hospital food is bland, Karan says that the food he was served was quite good and the portion size was also adequate. The menu was as follows:

7 am: Milk and bread

10 am: Dosa/idli with coffee

1 pm:  Rice and dal/gravy, eggs, milk, banana

5 pm: Tea and bread/biscuit

8pm: Rice and dal/gravy, eggs

Karan’s only access to the outside world was the hospital staff and his phone, which he says was a lifesaver thanks to social media.

“I spent a lot of time sleeping or contemplating different aspects of my life. Other times, I would video call family members. Also, I got a lot of calls from friends, colleagues and relatives inquiring about my health and wishing me a speedy recovery. At the same time, I tried to lift the morale of my wife who was a little disturbed because of all that was happening,” he says.

Karan admits that there was a lot of psychological pressure, firstly because of all the unknown things related to this virus. “I hadn't fallen that sick earlier and wasn't sure how long it would take to recover,” he says.

But, there were other things as well.

On the day he tested positive, his wife (who was in Agra) and her family were also tested for coronavirus. A false media report which went viral stated that she had “fled” from Bengaluru, leading to an online witch hunt.

The Karnataka government later confirmed that she didn’t flee over the fear of coronavirus, she had gone to Agra much before her husband tested positive. The hospital she was taken to in Agra on March 12 was unhygienic, and the family said that they took the doctor’s permission to leave the hospital after giving an assurance that they would remain in home isolation. On March 13, the wife was moved to an isolation ward as a precautionary measure. However, the Agra police have filed an FIR against the woman’s father for allegedly hiding her details.

“When my wife showed me the pictures of the Agra isolation ward (12th March - her samples were collected and reports were awaited), I got worried that she would fall sick by staying there. However, after the initial report came and she was suspected to be positive, she was shifted to a different hospital which was better,” he says.

Comments that the family, and Karan’s wife in particular, started receiving after the viral false report only made things worse. That, he says, had an impact psychologically. “Thankfully, friends and Google came to the rescue. Later on, the Karnataka government also issued a clarification. It got better post that,” he says.

On March 15, his wife also tested positive for COVID-19.

Karan is one of the two people who have recovered from COVID-19 in Karnataka, a state which has so far had 37 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. He must remain in home quarantine for 28 days, and is currently working from home. 

*name changed to protect identity

Read: ‘Very stressed, not what we need at this time’: Brother of Google techie who has COVID-19 to TNM