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OP-ED: A Covid-19 diary

  • Published at 03:20 am April 23rd, 2021
Book pen diary page journal white

Mistakes were made, lessons were learned

March 8, 2020 

First case reported in Bangladesh.

March 18, 2020 

First death reported in Bangladesh.

My elder sister in Australia made a strong appeal to me: “Please be especially careful. Need to remember that you had bronchial pneumonia when you were a few months old and spent a month in an 'oxygen tent.' 

“That means you have a pre-existing condition so you have to be extra careful,” she added, to which I stupidly retorted: “Despite Dhaka’s poor air quality, I am fine.”

My sister’s warning reminded me that when growing up in London in the 1950s before the Clean Air Act of 1956, every winter I was bedridden as a result of lung problems due to the famous London smog, a toxic mixture of smoke and fog.

March 26, 2020 

Forty-ninth Independence Day of Bangladesh, and the first day of the 10-day lockdown in Bangladesh.

Late March 

My son, a cardiologist in London, and his wife, both caught a mild infection of the virus. He continues to make videos about Covid-19, trying to cut through the misinformation. See Medlifecrisis on YouTube.

May 24, 2020

Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury was reported to have Covid-19. Late May, friends phone me and the conversation goes like this, “Julian bhai, you are only 3 or 4 years younger than Zafar bhai and he has been very sick, so we beg you to stay at home and be sensible.” 

September 7, 2020

My friend, Tariq Ali, a trustee of the Liberation War Museum passed away. Mofidul Hoque, also a Trustee of the Museum, wrote: “I remember the deep understanding Tariq Ali developed with Julian Francis, an aid organizer during 1971 and now a citizen of Bangladesh, a person still haunted by the tragedies he witnessed in the refugee camps. Julian had kept his painful memories hidden and had not spoken or written about them for long, until he met Tariq Ali and visited the Liberation War Museum in 2006. They established a rapport of their own. Julian Francis noted in an obituary that Tariq Ali phoned him two months before he passed away to inquire about his health during the pandemic and to encourage him once again to write down his memoirs. Tariq Ali was known for his wit as well -- he once told Julian: ‘We are both connected to two wars, the Bangladesh Liberation War and because both of us were born in early 1945, Hitler realized that he had no hope as far as the Second World War was concerned.’”

February 9, 2021 

Slight sore throat, doctor told me: “It is mandatory at this hospital that if you come with a temperature or sore throat you must have a Covid test. However, we have found that sometimes the Covid test is not accurate so please have an X-ray first and then we will decide what to do.” Knowing that an X-ray costs about Tk1,000, I went to pay and was asked for Tk14,500 and found that a CT scan of the lungs had been ordered. 

I told the doctor that I did not have enough money with me and would come back again. However, the doctor told me that I could take the same test at a nearby hospital for Tk4,500 and at another for Tk8,000. I contacted my son in the UK with all the details of my condition and he said that I did not have any Covid symptoms and that a CT scan of the lungs would not say if I had the Covid infection or not. 

February 11, 2021

Took the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine. Efficiently organized on line and at the Combined Military Hospital.

February 20, 2021 

Having recovered quickly from the sore throat, I woke up this day unable to hear with one ear. Went to an ENT specialist who used a piece of sophisticated equipment to suck wax out of both ears. He confirmed that it had no connection with Covid.

March 15, 2021

Noticed suddenly that something like a dark brown birthmark had appeared on my left forearm. I thought that it must be some sort of side effect of the vaccine.

March 25, 2021

Slight cough with mucus started. I did not think much of it because I have lived with this all my life.

March 28, 2021

Cough worse, slight fever, decided I need to get checked for Covid. Obtained appointment for March 30.

March 30, 2021 

Very thorough examination. Doctor agreed with what I felt, that there was an infection on the left side of my chest. Low grade fever 100-101F, but no other symptoms and oxygen level OK. Later Covid confirmed.

March 31 to April 6, 2021

Cough got much worse but by April 6, no fever. Desperately tired. Kept airways open and spirits up by doing a lot of singing with YouTube music

April 7 to April 15 

Still very tired, no fever and cough less severe.

April 15, 2021 

Should have had second dose of AstraZeneca vaccine, but doctor advised me to take it one month after receiving a negative test.

April 16, 2021 

Tested Negative. Hooray. Extraordinary nightmares in which I imagined I was dying and regretting having lost contact with old friends. Also remembered special incidents over the last 60 years. Would wake, and to my surprise find that I was still alive. 

April 17 to today

Taking it day by day. Energy fluctuating hugely. Still gargling warm salt water, steam inhalation, breathing exercises. Fresh lemon and orange juices, kala jeera, and honey, enough turmeric and garlic in my diet. Very alarmed at disorganized and confusing government announcements. 

Furious by the “don’t care attitude” of the public. Also, very much angered by an acquaintance phoning me to tell me that the reason I caught the virus was because I had not embraced Islam. He told me that if I had been praying five times a day I would not have caught the virus and would not need to wear a mask. “Believers do not need to wear masks,” I was told. 

I need to realize the mistakes I have made. I should have been tested much earlier than I was. I was guilty of not being alert and of thinking that I was doing enough to make sure that I could not get infected.

Not sure how to convince people to continue to follow the guidelines, and follow the guidelines even if you have received the full dose of any of the vaccines: Wear a mask whenever you are outside your home, keep physical distance, as far as possible, of at least two metres whenever outside of your home, and wash your hands and use hand sanitizer as much as possible.

Julian Francis has been associated with relief and development activities of Bangladesh since the War of Liberation. In 2012, the government of Bangladesh awarded him the ‘Friends of Liberation War Honour’ in recognition of his work among the refugees in India in 1971 and in 2018 honoured him with full Bangladesh citizenship.