Hey Corona! Thank you

I admit I am one of the privileged few. I have a maid, a servant, a driver and a gardener. But thanks to COVID19, I can no longer avail their services. So since March 16th, I have been planning, cooking, cleaning, de-stressing, and managing one bedridden patient on palliative care, his nurse, another senior citizen who just turned 75, my husband, my older daughter who graduates this year, my younger one who just finished high-school, and a 3-year old pug. In total, a household with 6 adults, 1 teenager and 1 dog. And all this while also working from home.

But this blog is not about how Corona helped me become superwoman (ahem!), managing family, house work, office work, and in-house counselor with elan and grace.

This blog is about my father-in-law’s death and how Corona played a key role in the way he passed away.

But first, some background:

My father-in-law (fil) was diagnosed with Parkinsons in 2003. He had just turned 67 years old. We were living in Carmel, Indiana and decided to wind up and come back to India to be with Mukund’s parents. His parents also sold their family home in Chennai in 2007 and came down to Kochi to stay near us.

My fil was in a decent state of health, relatively, until he fell and hit his skull in June of 2015. He was bed-ridden, and took nearly 9 months to get back on his legs, when he was diagnosed with Cancer (Rectum) in April of 2016. As a family, we decided not to go in for chemotherapy. The doctors also felt he would not have been able to take the radiation.

What was a reasonably decent lifestyle till then (traveling to Chennai at least 3-4 times a year, visiting friends and family, chatting on the phone, reminiscing) took a sudden downturn from 2015 onwards after his fall. He needed a full- time live-in nursing care as he was still unsteady and was in danger of hurting himself. Things came to a head in 2019 when he had to be admitted to the hospital at least three times for urinary/lungs/chest infection related reasons.

In August 2019, my fil was admitted in the hospital in such a bad condition that we had to permanently fit him up with a Ryles tube (for feeding, as his throat had constricted due to Parkinsons) and a catheter (for collecting urine). When we left the hospital after a week, the palliative care doctor, Dr. Ramkumar told us not to bring him to a hospital again.

Until August 2019, my in-laws were staying in an apartment complex close to our villa. When we left the hospital, we brought both of them straight to our villa where we already had a parallel setup with hospital bed and a room for the live-in nurse. Since then, he has been a daily reminder to me of what a disease can do to one of the kindest person I have been fortunate to have in my life.

Enter Corona

Since August of 2019, things were chugging along fine, with 2-hourly feeds, hydration (to clean his bowels) every third day, and bladder wash twice weekly until Corona hit early March 2020. My support staff vanished, I started working from home, started cooking his daily food, and soon became intimate with the kind of care it took to keep him going. Every time I popped into his room and asked him how he was doing, he did his best to grunt a fine or an okay reply.

On April 3rd, at 1:37 PM, my father-in-law breathed his last. He was surrounded by his wife, his son and daughter-in-law, his daughter and son-in-law, his three grandchildren and his nurse of nearly 8 months, Elsie. We had just fed him Holy water from the phial we keep in the puja room, and were reading shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita, when he took a huge breath and stopped breathing. The diagnosis was cardio-pulmonary arrest.

Because of Corona, we were lucky enough to be with him when he passed away. Otherwise, the typical Friday afternoon scenario would have been this – me and my husband at work, our older daughter in Pune, our niece in Bangalore, my younger daughter at Chennai (for summer camp), my mother-in-law at their apartment cleaning it with the help of her maid, my sister-in-law at her lab, and her husband, traveling or at his workplace at the other end of town.

It took a virus to bring all of us together. Not just on that day, but for days leading to it. Nothing short of a fatal virus induced us to stay together and monitor him closely. While he had 3-4 episodes of breathlessness during the previous week, we knew enough from his face and the way he was breathing to know that this was serious.

There are only two kinds of people in the world.

The first kind? You know – the kind that likes you for what you can do for them, or for the power and status that you have, or for the things you bring to the table. Or for your education, your earning capacity and the things you possess. And who will love you if and when you fulfill certain conditions. We all are surrounded by such people.

And then there those who accept you for who you are. Who totally are aware of all your faults and failings, and still love you unconditionally. Who offer advice after truly listening to you. Who laugh with their mouth, and their eyes. Who treat everyone the same, no matter what. Who truly get you and still think the world of you. It is nearly impossible to even have one person like this as part of your life.

I was lucky enough to have two of them. My mother, who passed away in March 2018, and my father-in-law. And now they are both gone. With their love and acceptance no longer around, I know I will never be complete.

But in the meantime, it is time to give credit to those who ensured that his final days were full of family, laughter, and love.

So hey Corona, thank you.

(A debt of gratitude to Dr Ramkumar, at Aster Medcity, who thus become our savior, second time around. He was my mom’s palliative doctor too. She passed away after battling dementia for close to 21/2 years. Another blog, another story.)

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