Life lesson from the pandemic

Last year was too unpleasant to remember, yet too hard to forget. I was expecting something totally normal. Nothing dangerous, nothing out of the blue. Just another ordinary year. However, 2020 turned out to be anything but ordinary.

In December of 2019, as Covid-19 first appeared, starting to infect people in China, I was already disheartened. I had a premonition that things would not be the same for a very long time. 

By March, everything was locked down in Kathmandu, but I did believe that there was light at the end of the tunnel. This was just another pandemic. We have seen worse in Nepal, or so I thought. 

The lockdown was quite normal for me and life moved on as it did before. School was just different, and continued remotely since there was not much else anyone could do. Learning to play the piano months before the lockdown helped me pass the time. 

I spent my time writing some articles for The STEM Club at our school, and occasionally for my own blog. I was becoming quite accustomed to the fact that I was using my devices for a considerable amount of time, mainly for schoolwork. Otherwise, it was off-limits in our house prior to the lockdown.

In December 2020, just when there was a glimmer of hope in Kathmandu that everything would be fine, I fell terribly sick. There was very little cough, I was breathing quite fine, but my temperature soared. This was not normal. We did multiple PCR tests, and all of them came back negative. I did not have Covid-19 after all. 

There was already this conviction in the general public that Covid-19 was a disease that afflicted the elderly, and the feeble. Those with pre-existing health conditions were supposed to be at higher risk, but young, healthier individuals usually fought back the virus. Nothing could go wrong, I assumed. I was dead wrong.

Things did get worse. Over a few nights, my symptoms amplified. I was covered in rashes and a persistent abdominal pain. I was grey with fatigue on the day I reached hospital, but worse was yet to come. I stayed for a few check-ups which concluded that there was nothing life-threatening.

However, in a matter of a few hours, my liver, heart and lungs were struggling to keep functioning. I had to be shifted to intensive care.

In the next few days, I was spewing blood and gradually becoming weaker. It was not long until I was diagnosed with respiratory failure and myocarditis, a swelling of the heart muscle. Before I was put into the ventilator, I told my parents that I would be back soon, uncertain if I would ever see them again. 

Over the next few days, there was little hope of my survival. But at the nick of time, with the right treatment, I made it back to life after what seemed like eternity.

I woke up after being asleep for four days, and was confused and baffled. I was bewildered when I found out that I had been lying there for days in a row with a pipe shoved down my throat and another, advanced to my heart. 

For the next few days, expressing myself became difficult, and when I tried to speak my voice oddly resembled that of Batman. I also had to learn to walk again, and I suddenly became detached and unhooked from reality. I still didn’t know what had happened to me. What was this odd disease?

Later on, I found out that I had been diagnosed with Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (PMIS), an extremely rare and dangerous disease discovered only in April 2020. However, my diagnosis came full circle, back to Covid-19, and my affliction was associated with the coronavirus. I seem to have been infected by the virus without any discernible symptoms at all, but it was my body’s response to Covid-19 that was more life-threatening than the virus itself. 

My immune response was the damaging factor, and once the doctors reversed this through other drugs, my condition finally improved. The odds of me getting this disease was highly unlikely, but apparently it can happen to anyone. 

The ordeal increased my respect and gratitude towards doctors, nurses and all other individuals working at the frontlines during the pandemic. It is indeed a daunting task to be a part of the fight against the global pandemic, and the work done by frontline workers and doctors are absolutely heroic. 

I am all right now, as I can walk and talk like before. But this experience also taught me about how uncertain things can be in life. Covid-19 has reminded me and many others how to cope with misfortune with courage, fortitude and perseverance. We always need to be grateful for what we have and make the best out of each memory. 

It has also taught me and many others about how the most unpredictable things can happen at any point in time. With this struggle, I have come to realise how precious life is, and the hurdles we need to overcome at its every step -- like water, dancing in the eddies and trickling down a stream no matter what comes in its way.

Nirav Pandey is a 15-year-old student at Rato Bangala School in Kathmandu. A version of this essay was published in Time Magazine under the title ‘A Year Full of Emotions.' What Kids Learned From the COVID-19 Pandemic

Read also: Had Covid? Beware of Long Covid., Sajana Baral

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