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Asthma..Dr Prabodh Garg (MD Respiratory Medicine)

The l factor

It was a simple thing.

They would come home.

Take our swabs.

And email my report..

What happened was a nightmare.

I didn’t want the whole complex going hyper in PPE kits.

No worries, they said..we have a solution. The guy landed before time and I frantically got my entire family to sport masks.

In the meantime, I noticed the chap hadn’t come in. When I went back to the passage, I thought I had been transported to Mars or another galaxy with aliens in it.

I have never seen a real human in a PPE kit before.

My son, who had been warned to stay in his room, scooted out to see this strange masked creature wearing a plastic jumper and even stranger spectacles.

I avoid lying as much as I can but in these circumstances, I had no choice. After assuring him that I’ll buy him the same goggles, I finally managed to get him back to his room.

By then the alien had plonked himself on my sofa, and my daughter reluctantly sat on the other one.

She was probably expecting a needle, but he pulled out an innocuous looking piece of transparent plastic.

I was unfazed, but my daughter was hitting the panic button. “He will just put that on my tongue and take your saliva swab ” I assured her.

My daughter is medically challenged and I’m the wise one.

So the poor thing poked her tongue out and opened her mouth as wide as she could.

The alien plunged that harmless looking plastic right down her mouth and her face turned a funny shade of purple. She was choking and I thought it prudent to keep a safe distance. I moved as far from her as possible on the other sofa.

I was having visions of the entire contents of her stomach being spewed on myself, but thankfully she held on.

I got a very dirty look saying I had betrayed her, but she had no more time to react. The alien’s had dived into his bag again and was out with an identical plastic.

Now my poor girl’s one eye was livid with anger and the other eye was wide with fear. I know it takes two eyes to be wide with fear, but this is really what I saw.

Anyways the plastic went right up her nostril. She kept quiet with the first jab, so I thought this must not be as painful as it looked.

But when the object tried approached the other one, she stood up and screamed, “Noooo”.

I was confident she was going to bolt so I was all ready to restrain her physically, but to my admiration, she settled down,

I knew what was coming and I sat with a stoic expression for my turn. I wasn’t going to chicken out in front of my daughter.

So although the alien was killing me, I pretended that there was nothing to it.

Finally the alien packed up and took down my phone number and email ID and our name and age.

“What about the report” I asked.

Considering my daughter and I had self quarantined in two different rooms after developing a fever, and my husband was left to fend for my two other kids in what was left of the house, I would give my life to figure out what would come of the report.

Don’t you worry, he said, the report would be sent to you by email as soon as it’s ready. It may take 22-48 hours.

That seemed like eternity and there was nothing to do but get back in our respective rooms.

Fortunately for us, my daughter’s fever flared up. The good doctor, who had seen the insides of her throat in the picture I sent him, insisted on hospitalisation.

Well, in COVID times, no one wants to go within a mile of a hospital. So, I connived with the doctor saying I’ll get my husband to bring her to the clinic. But once the horse comes to the water, it’s your job to make it drink.

Anyways the doctor diagnosed that my daughter has acute asymptomatic (not COVID) tonsillitis. And I thought only COVID was asymptomatic.

I’m sure no parent will be happy on hearing their daughter needs hospitalisation, but I was literally jumping with joy.

I bounded out of our room and started packing. After all our kid was going to the hospital! Seeing my enthusiasm , my other daughter scooted off to my room and appeared with a big bag.

I wondered what she was upto till realisation dawned.

“We’re going to the hospital!” she bobbed up and down. ( other part of this story may be made up, but this is one hundred per cent accurate).

I don’t blame her. After spending four months housebound, the opportunity to spend five days away from my prying eyes must have sounded more attractive than her student exchange trip to France that was torpedoed by Covid.

“There are two beds” , she insisted, and unnie can’t stay alone!”.

Now my daughters speak more Korean and it’s rubbing on my son too. Although I empathised with her, I put on my sternest face and explained to her in the choicest language I could muster that a hospital is not a resort.

That she still managed to go there after faking a throat infection and getting me paranoid again is another matter.

Anyways unnie was ceremonially despatched to the hospital, with asymptomatic (no, not COVID ) and I was left to face reality. My maid had been packed off the moment we were covid suspects, my husband was busy making trips up and down, and I was left with packing tiffins full of bland stuff for my daughter and feeding the rest of the ravenous family.

My son has a problem with his stomach. Everything that goes in disappears in a couple of hours. In fact I’m grateful if he goes a couple of hours without, “Mamma I’m hungry!”.

I was busy making provisions to keep that stomach well looked after in my quarantine phase as I know it would be a nightmare for my husband. He didn’t value my efforts and confidently said he would manage everything.

He can not clue what being a maid less mom entails, let alone a maid less and wife less dad, and now his overconfidence was costing me dear.

No junk on the house when you are short on time can be harrowing.

But this actually turned out to be a good thing because I had no time to think, and forgot COVID.

Now no one in their right mind will forget about a COVID report, but that was the state I was in…..no time to think….except for how to fill my son’s tummy.

You must have wondered why this story is named “The I factor”, but for those who have reached this sentence, I’d like to say, “Thank you for your patience, sorry for keeping you on hold”.

Now what reminded me of the tests was a phone call. My parents and the rest of my family were stressed out an my maid wanted to know if she could come back, and my sister in law wanted to know if she could call the tutor she shared with us.

But it was my maid’s call that hit me like a rock. That report stood between life and despair.

That negative report would bring my maid back and I could put my feet on the teapoy once again. They badly needed that.

So now for the l.

I called up the call center. The guy at the other end sounded extra nice. He confirmed the email ID, and assure me he will send it immediately.

I kept watching my gmail, and I got weird mails from headlines with ‘COVID reports’ to “Corona kills 149999” and was wondering if I would me the next.

Anyways I was super-confident that the reports would be negative…because I had super-confidence in my super-confident doctor. So there was no need to worry but the report was critical…I needed my maid back.

After staring in vain for what seemed like an hour,I made another call and another call and another.

On the fifth call I was told there was something wrong on my side. They had sent the e-mail four times, and it wasn’t their fault if they weren’t reaching me. I reasoned with them saying I definitely hadn’t deleted any mails, let alone a COVID mail.

All other unwanted garbage was reaching me, but the COVID was killing my mails. After they as good as declared me a moron, I pleaded with them to add my husband’s ID, they declined saying it was against their SOP.

I asked for an escalation but they used their best defence and quoted, “We are working from home during lockdown”.You just can’t get around that one.

I am not the one to give up.

I remembered the guy who had arranged the pickup and called me up. He offered to give me the call center number which I had been calling for the last three hours.

He gave me a lot of advice about how to deal with call centres and that my polite way of handling things wouldn’t cut ice.

Anyways I had a brainwave and whatsapped my good doctor. I had his email ID in a second and called up the seventh time. They could always email it to the doctor….not done, they said.

Now my husband started with the next time you give my email thing…and that really got my goat.

I’m quite a docile character, but once I get in the mood, I can roast those guys. That is an understatement, but I’ll do anything for my maid.

So I didn’t wait for the guy to start his “Thank you for calling us….” stuff again and reverify my E-mail ID for the eighth time, and blasted the hell out of him. I was maid-less, daughter-less (in hospital )and husband less. (on hospital duty) and I wasn’t going to let these incompetent nincompooms ( courtesy Tin-Tin) come between me and my maid. Something must have worked because the guy said “Ma’am there is an extra l”.

I was feeling guilty about scaring the hell out of this guy….. he was taking talking alphabets.

“gmaill!”

Realisation dawned. He said he’ll correct it and send the report pronto.

I had to get the bland pasta with lots of cheese and salami packed for my daughter. The doctors orders were homemade bland stuff only and she thinks I’m running a restaurant….(she called me terrified later that the doctor had caught her red handed hobbling the stuff)

I carried my phone to the kitchen with one eye on the gas and the other on the phone.

No email. My husband took over. “Next time… give my ID. Our bank severs are faster” I wanted to tell him that nothing comes and goes without going through Uncle Google’s hands but I let it go.

Plonking the report to him I said”Now you try getting it”, and barged into the kitchen.

He came with a smug smile on its face and declared, “They’re negative !”. He had managed to do what I couldn’t. They replaced my email ID with his and promptly emailed the report.

I called my maid. She said “ Atta yevu Kai?” meaning “Should I come now?”..,, they bought tears to my ears (yes, it’s supposed to be eyes, but this rhymes).

Im positive it wasn’t the onions. I’m going to learn a few expletives #^}\~>##%}%^+%~\#