Coronavirus in Mumbai: Families that fight COVID-19 together, stay together

Updated: Jul 12, 2020, 22:01 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Four families that tested positive, recount how they battled it out for each other's sake

Lalbaug's Mavle family that had tested positive for COVID-19 is now back home, after spending several weeks at the hospital
Lalbaug's Mavle family that had tested positive for COVID-19 is now back home, after spending several weeks at the hospital

When Sewri resident Sunil Jadhav first heard about the Coronavirus outbreak in Mumbai, he started taking necessary precautions to keep his family from harm's way. The 36-year-old's father had undergone a kidney transplant surgery a few months earlier, and since he was still "on immunosuppressant medication," the chances of him picking up the infection were higher. Despite following sanitising protocols at home, Jadhav could not prevent the worst from happening. In April, his entire family had to be hospitalised at Global Hospital in Parel, after they tested positive for COVID-19. The next few weeks were the most traumatic for him and the rest of his family.

Jadhav first started showing symptoms on Good Friday (April 10), when he developed a fever. Gradually, he began losing his appetite. "I had to take my father to the hospital for check-ups. That's when I possibly got the infection. Back then, test reports would take around four days; I tested positive seven days after my symptoms started showing," said Jadhav. He was admitted to Global Hospital on April 17, after his condition worsened. Over the next couple of days, he remained unconscious. By then, his 65-year-old father, his wife and six-year-old son had also tested positive. Jadhav said that his employers requested the hospital to accommodate all his family members at the same hospital.

Family members of James Gonsalves, who works with Lilavati Hospital, were admitted to separate hospitals, and are now back home
Family members of James Gonsalves, who works with Lilavati Hospital, were admitted to separate hospitals, and are now back home

While Jadhav was discharged on April 26, his family remained hospitalised. "When I came back home, I was terrified of entering the house or touch anything, fearing that I would get infected again. But the BMC assured me that the house had been sanitised. I had just finished cleaning the home, when I got a call from the hospital saying that my father was having difficulty breathing and needed to be put on the ventilator," he said. His wife and son were discharged on May 1.

Given the high rate of mortality among patients on the ventilator, Jadhav had lost all hope. "But over the next couple of weeks, my father's condition started to improve; the doctors were surprised by how quickly he had recovered. He was finally discharged on May 26, after spending 37 days in the hospital." Jadhav said it was heartening to see the support from his society members, who celebrated his father's return.

Bhawarlal Jain (extreme right) along with his father Dhulchand and brothers, during a family function. He lost two of his brothers and father to COVID-19
Bhawarlal Jain (extreme right) along with his father Dhulchand and brothers, during a family function. He lost two of his brothers and father to COVID-19

Not all stories had a happy ending. Malad resident Bhawarlal Jain, 55, lost his father and two brothers to COVID-19. Jain along with 12 members of his family had tested positive for the virus, and were admitted to various hospitals. It was Jain's 88-year-old father Dhulchand Jain, who first started to show symptoms. "I have three brothers and my father was staying with my elder brother, who lives nearby. We went to visit him and one by one, we all started testing positive," he said.

With most of the family taking ill, Jain's brother-in-law, Kamlesh, took on the responsibility of arranging for hospital beds for everyone. Those whose situation had worsened, were sent to Nanavati Hospital.

Jain's father succumbed to COVID-19 on May 13. A day later, his eldest brother Bansilal passed on, followed by another brother, Kanhaiyalal, on May 21. "I was still hospitalised during that time, and couldn't breathe or speak. I was unconscious for a few days, and later learned that doctors had put me on the ventilator," he said.

While the family grieved for those who couldn't recover, they were also relieved when Jain was discharged after spending a month in the hospital. "It was like a festival; all the neighbours came to greet me. My wife and daughter were also hospitalised, but I am happy that we are all back home now," he said.

While most people avoided visiting hospitals during the pandemic, James Gonsalves, 52, didn't have the option of staying at home, as he works in the finance department of Lilavati Hospital. A resident of Nalasopara, Gonsalves started showing symptoms in the first week of May. "I had a fever, headache and body ache. More than myself, I was worried about my mother, who is 70 years old and has diabetes. I tested positive a few days later," he said.

Gonsalves's brother who lives next door suggested that everyone in the family get tested. Apart from his wife, two sons and mother, his brother's son also tested positive for COVID-19. His mother, wife and he were admitted to Lilavati Hospital, and his sons were admitted to Reliance Hospital in Kopar Khairne. "We couldn't see each other, but we were able to talk to our sons [on phone] every day. Fortunately, my wife and mum were on the same floor as I, and we were able to see each other from a distance. It was boring to be by ourselves, but we were able to see each other during lunchtime," said Gonsalves.

His sons were discharged on June 9, and the rest of the family got back home on June 11. During this time, his brother's family took care of his sons.

Lalbaug resident, Ram Mavle, 46, caught the infection, despite not stepping out of home. He tested positive days after a resident in his building was confirmed as a COVID-19 patient. After Mavle had fever on May 20, he was admitted to Global Hospital in Parel. But he had a bad feeling that the infection had spread to his family. He asked his family to get tested, and within the next couple of days, his 78-year-old mother, elder brother, wife and two teenage sons also tested positive.

Fortunately, Mavle's entire family was in the same hospital. With the help of the hospital staff, they were able to do video chats with each other and keep occupied. "The first four days in the hospital were scary. The others were recovering, but the doctor said my brother was not in good condition. He was coughing blood and the doctors had to put him on the ventilator for nearly a week. We were worried for him, but he recovered soon after," said Mavle.

His wife Reshma was the first to be discharged on May 30; Mavle and the rest of his family were discharged a week later. Speaking of the moment she came back home alone, Reshma said, "I was a little sad, but I wanted them all to recover. When they finally came back home, I made them their favourite dishes." Mavle said that his neighbours were also supportive. "They continued to give us food and supplies for several days after we returned."

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