Isolation is the worst part of swine flu: Survivor

Hansaben Bhanushali, who was quarantined for six days at Fortis Hospital, Mulund, says almost zero contact with family members and relatives was the worst part of the recovery process from the disease

For 42-year-old Hansaben Bhanushali, six days of quarantine was the biggest challenge on her road to recovery from swine flu. “I missed my people and home so dearly that it made me forget about H1N1. I wanted to be back on my farm as soon as possible,” said Hansaben.

Hansaben and Laljibhai Bhanushali
Hansaben and Laljibhai Bhanushali

A native of Ustiya village, 100 kilometres from Bhuj, Gujarat, Hansaben’s memories are filled with masked faces and beloved relatives peeping through a glass window. She was admitted to the Fortis Hospital on January 20. Commenting on her health, Hansaben’s husband Laljibhai said, “She always suffers from cold and cough whenever seasons change.

However, this time, her fever refused to subside. Upon realising that it was something different, we took her to Bhuj for a check-up.” After performing a couple of tests on Hansaben, doctors at Bhuj asked her family to immediately shift her to Mumbai for better treatment. Laljibhai, a farmer by profession, admitted Hansaben to Fortis with the help of his brother, Karsan Bhanushali, who is a resident of Mulund.

It was here that Hansaben was diagnosed with swine flu and was immediately moved to an isolation ward. “It was certainly a tough period for the family, as none of us were allowed to meet her. We understand the importance of following medical protocols and the risk involved in meeting a person suffering from swine flu.

But zero contact between the patient and its family takes an emotional toll on everyone,” said Karsan. During her six days in the isolation ward, Hansaben and her family could ‘meet’ each other only through a tiny glass window on the ward’s door.

“Though we were advised against visiting her, I visited her at least once a day wearing the protective mask. She is my wife; how can I not be around her?” asked Laljibhai. Hansaben was finally discharged on January 28. She spent a couple of days at Karsan’s residence before leaving for Ustiya with Laljibhai.

Doc speak
Elaborating on the kind of treatment given to swine flu patients at the hospital, Dr Pradip Shah, consultant physician, Fortis Hospital, said, “We try to cheer up the patients by saying that ‘just one more day to go’, but in reality nobody knows how much time a particular patient will take to beat the killer disease.” Hansaben was being treated under Shah’s supervision.

Expert speak
Commenting on how being placed in quarantine affects a swine flu patient emotionally, Dr Om Shrivastava, from Jaslok Hospital, said, “While a few (patients) are able to cope with the isolation and beat the disease, others succumb to it. It’s a combination of numerous factors, including duration of the isolation. It has been observed that if the quarantine period goes beyond 20 days, a patient feels dejected and becomes a pessimist. But again, it varies from person to person.”

Quite effective
A few medical experts have claimed that influenza vaccine can help people falling in the high-risk category and health workers treating swine flu patients, from contracting the H1N1 virus to a certain extent. Commenting on the issue, Shrivastava said, “The vaccine reduces the risk of contracting the virus by 40 per cent to 60 per cent. Pregnant woman, children, senior citizens and those with poor or weak immunity systems will benefit from the vaccine.”

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