“Did you finish your breakfast Asha?” asked Avantika, her mother, as she was about to leave for the hospital.
Watching her favourite cartoon series, nine-year-old Asha whispered, “I am getting bored, staying all day at home Mamma. Santa bai is not playing with me at all. Can I go to Anita’s house to play for some time?”
“No, beta. Why don’t you understand the present situation outside? Are we not watching the news, insisting everybody stay behind doors? It is time to be careful and you know that Mamma is working hard to save sick people.
“I’ll try to come home early today and we can play together. Till then do some colouring and be a good girl. Santa bai will be here with you” said Avantika, as she walked towards the garage to her car.
Avantika was a general physician at a government hospital in Noida. And she had been working round the clock, since the Novel Coronavirus outbreak. She took care of the COVID-19 patients despite her own fears and insecurities. Being a single parent had been tough for her, especially when she was the only one to take care of her daughter.
“Avantika ma’am, we have two more new cases today. Both of them are above 60 years and have been moved to our medical ICU,” said sister Pragya as she entered Avantika’s room holding a bottle of saline.
Avantika covered herself in her protective gear from head to toe and rushed to the ICU. She diagnosed both of them had critical pneumonia, and directed the ICU staff to put them on ventilator. And if they were unable to breathe on their own, she asked them to give fluids when needed.
As she came out of the ICU, she checked some other patients and sent their samples to the lab. The hospital was so flooded with patients that she didn’t even notice it was eight pm.
Immediately, she informed senior doctor Awasthi and left. She knew that Asha would be waiting for her all alone. Hearing the car horn Asha ran outside towards her Mom. “Wait, don’t touch me. Let me have a bath first,” said Avantika entered the house.
“Mamma, I asked Santa bai to prepare pasta for dinner today. Come soon. I am hungry,” said Asha taking her seat at the dining table. Post-dinner, Avantika realised, she was tired and felt a little different than usual but she thought it was because of her hectic day.
After dinner she read out a story to Asha from her favourite grandma tales book. Once Asha was asleep, she called Sheetal, the doctor on duty to check if there were any emergencies and almost immediately fell asleep.
Next morning when Avantika got up, she felt flu like symptoms and immediately called Dr Awasthi. She told him the symptoms and asked whether she might have the virus.
“Do not worry Avantika. Could you drop in here?” he asked her.
Avantika was helpless. She did not know what to tell her daughter.
“What’s wrong mamma. What are you worried about? “, asked Asha in a confused tone.
“Nothing serious Asha. Mamma is slightly not well. Keep yourself away from me”, said Avantika.
“Are you infected with Corona Mamma?”, asked Asha in a trembling voice. She cried out loudly.
“Asha dear, I don’t know and I don’t think so. You should not cry. You are my brave little girl. Can I count on you?” asked Avantika holding tears behind her eyes. Asha sat quietly in a corner staring at her mom.
Anxiety and fear grabbed Avantika by her tongue and dried her mouth as she looked at Asha. She immediately called Mrs. Sadhana Awasthi, Dr. Awasthi’s wife and also Asha’s teacher and explained the situation. Mrs. Sadhana was associated with Avantika for many years and was a personal friend too. She has seen all the ups and downs in Avantika’s life from the time Asha was born and Avantika’s divorce too. Sadhana comforted Avantika over phone and said that she can be called whenever necessary.
Avantika rushed to the hospital along with Asha. The staff at her primary care practice, took her concerns seriously. Her samples were sent to the lab. Asha too was under observation as she was closely associated with her mother. Avantika sat there in the room waiting for, praying for, some kind of top-down change. She said to herself, “I don’t panic anymore. I have seen bitter situations in life than this and fought stronger battles than this before. I know it’s the feeling that makes it scarier than the reality. I need to lessen the negative chaos within. This is not going to let me down. Everything will be alright.”
Her reports came negative but since it was recommended Avantika and Asha stayed in isolation for two weeks. “It was a normal flu. You can go home”, said Dr Awasthi.
She thanked the doctor and thanked god and thought, “Fear can only hold me back, stop me from reaching my dreams. I can’t say it never comes again, but each victory gets a little easier without fear”. Avantika and Asha got into the car and drove home happily.
Image is a still from the series Hostages
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