Lives gridlocked by the Virus
                                                                                               - Arathi E A

It has almost been 1 year since the acronym SMS has become familiar to us

      Sanitizers, Masks and Social Distancing have been defining our health status. Many of our lives came to a sudden pause. Shut in our houses, we were setting our own boundaries of physical communication. Shifting the scene to the case of people with disabilities, they had a negative psychological effect due to the Covid-19 and the associated nation-wide lockdown. This is because they are at greater risk of contracting Covid-19 as there are barriers to implement basic hygiene measures such as hand washing. There may also be difficulty faced in practicing social distancing. There are also researches that show that pandemics worsen the mental health of people with disabilities. This makes it difficult for them to access critical medical supplies due to scarcity of resources. Some people with disabilities report higher levels of social isolation and hence, are prone to intensified feelings of loneliness in response to physical distancing measures. It is, but unsuitable to generalize that people with disabilities are more prone to contracting Covid-19.

       The current challenges and barriers are to be addressed with care and creativity. The Disability Inclusive Response designed by United Nations is appreciative. This thoughtful Strategy sketches an inclusive and accessible society which calls for placing the people with disabilities at the center for their betterment

 

        Seba Salam, a young girl from Kerala, here shares her her experience.

 

        “Symptoms started to kick in by July 3rd of 2020. I became nauseous, had fever, chills, diarrhea and breathlessness. Since I took in high dosage of antibiotics, my family thought that the diarrhea must be my body reacting to this. I used to feel shortness in breath quite often after my tracheostomy (Tracheotomy)”. The family took her to a private hospital as the breathlessness started to get worse. She underwent swab sampling followed by Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction test. The next day she received her results that says positive for Covid-19. She was then shifted to Govt. Hospital, Kalamassery. Difficulty in speech made communication with the hospital officials a laborious task for her. As she was tested positive for the covid-19 during the initial months of the outbreak of the virus in Kerala, the hospital officials like the nurses and doctors found it difficult to manage the huge number of patients.” The nurses took good care of me and they were patient enough to listen to my needs”; Seba says. Being away from home was the one thing which made Covid positive days a bit saddening for the 21 year old. The loneliness took control of her and she sometimes broke into tears.

 

        She was later shifted from the Intensive Care Unit to the hospital ward. But after a few days, shortness in breath started kicking in again.The doctors had to shift her back to ICU because of this. She recalls the days when pneumonia hit her badly in 2017 and she had to undergo tracheostomy. After the surgery, she had to stay bedridden but, her body was showing satisfactory improvement through the constant therapy sessions. Now, even after testing negative for Covid -19, she says she feels weak and that her health has been badly affected by the virus contraction. Her previous improvements of reducing her dependence on oxygen supplies reversed, and once again she had to take oxygen supply due to breathlessness.

 

        “I have to go to the hospital to change the tube for breathing, but after the reports on covid in the initial months, we were a bit confused as to whether we should go or not.” she recalls.

 

        When asked how she felt on knowing that she was tested positive for the virus, she says that she was nervous and was uncertain about how she would manage being in isolation and surrounded by unknown people.

 

        This 21 year old, born with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disease that progressively weakens the body’s muscles, did try and stay strong throughout the treatment as being away from the family becomes a difficult step to take. Seba, from Ernakulam, represents the many people with disabilities who had to put up with the nasty virus. There are many who are unfortunate in having a shoulder to lean on. Social distancing, in some cases lead to extreme loneliness and further on to anxiety and panic attacks. Therefore, it is vital to let people know that they are not alone and to rescue them from falling into the deep pit of excruciating pain. are not alone and to rescue them from falling into the

deep pit of excruciating pain.