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A Tale of Survival: A COVID-19 Story

| This is the 541st story of Our Life Logs® |

You can have all your plans laid out on a map, prepared for how to achieve them, but still miss the danger awaiting you around the corner. This is the best way to describe what happened to me and my family when COVID-19 hit. It was like a movie where all the scenes were full of grief, panic, and struggles. 

Before proceeding further, let me introduce myself and my family. I’m Kashif, I’m 46, and I work as an entrepreneur. I live in Lahore, Pakistan, with my wife and three kids. My father, Saeed (age 77, a retired civil servant), and my mother Kauser (age 69, a retired senior school teacher) live with my elder brother Amir (age 48, an on-duty public servant) in the same city. This is all to say that we are a very tight-knit family. In fact, before the virus was on anyone’s radar, we were planning our annual trip for January 2020 to “Murree Hills,” a famous hill station in Northern Pakistan. Everyone was very enthusiastic about the upcoming adventure to go into snowfall and spend some quality time together. 

Me, my wife, and two of my children, 2019.

Then, right before the trip, headlines of a virus called COVID-19 began spreading throughout the country. As it began to affect our neighboring country, Iran, a huge wave of fear swept the country. We knew that it was only a matter of time until the virus came to Pakistan. And came it did. The first positive case was reported on February 26, 2020. Needless to say, we had no choice but to cancel our family trip. That’s when we knew that life would not go on as normal.

As cases rose, they set a nationwide lockdown by March, getting worse with each month that passed. It was said that the virus was dangerous for people age 65 and perilous for people with serious health issues like a weak heart or weak lungs. With my mother being a cardiac patient and my father taking regular medicines for hypertension and diabetes, we were all concerned for them. To keep them safe, I asked them to stay home and let us go out to run errands for them. 

As Pakistan was fighting this virus, the holy month of Ramadan (fasting month for Muslims, where they observe fasting for the whole month before dawn till sunset) arrived in April. It’s tradition for Muslims all over the world to offer special prayers in Mosques (a common public prayer place for Muslims), especially during the nights of Ramadan. One element of it is Tarawih—a long prayer lasting more than an hour where Muslims listen to a recitation of their holy book Quran. It’s an extremely tough exercise, especially for old folks. My father always performed these religious traditions, but with COVID-19, the mosques were allowing fewer people in. I encouraged my father to practice from home, but a religious and devoted man, he kept going.  

I wish that my father had listened.

My father, 2019.

Around midnight on April 30th, I received a call from my elder brother, Amir. I could hear the panic in his voice as he said our father has a high-temperature fever and dry cough. I tried to remain calm. I told my brother to give our father medicine to help bring down the fever. Before hanging up, I urged him to keep an eye on his conditions. 

Early the next morning, Amir called again, almost in tears. Father has gotten worse. With my heart beating rapidly, I rushed over. I found my father quite depressed and weak, coughing, and miserable. My mother was weeping nearby, and it pained me to see them so distraught. I assured my mom that Father will get well soon, but I didn’t completely believe in my heart. 

I took my father to the nearby general physician for the easiest possible remedy. To our surprise, the doctor ruled out the possibility of it being COVID-19 and gave him a normal treatment of fever and dry cough, allowing us to go home. But the doctor had been wrong not to check for the virus because Father’s temperature continued to rise, and his coughing fits happened more and more as the day went on. We tried homemade remedies, but it was all in vain. Nothing helped.

My mother, 2019.

I spent the night with my father. At midnight, he looked toward me with fearful eyes, telling me he was having trouble breathing. His cough became more dry and severe, and I could see he was in immense pain. I watched him shiver, feeling utterly helpless. There was no doubt in my mind then. My father had contracted COVID-19. Accepting that fact was incredibly alarming and devastating.

When I called the doctor and told him of the developments, he advised me to rush to the Corona Care Center without wasting any time. They conducted a test on my father immediately. When he got the positive result, I felt my knees give. Even though I knew it in my heart, hearing it by a professional was a great shock. 

The Corona Care Center admitted him straight away. I hated the idea of leaving him alone. I squeezed his hand reassuringly before slinking out the door feeling awful. That whole night I couldn’t sleep.

Since my father was infected, the Corona Care Center also advised that our whole family test for COVID-19 to see if any of us caught it from him. The next morning, we all went sorrowfully to get tested with frightened hearts. Every one of us was found positive. This was devastating news because, not only had it affected my mother, another high-risk person, but now none of us were healthy enough to take care of the rest. 

We were quarantined for the next 15 days, all sick and miserable as we tried to fight this wretched virus. Thankfully, my mother’s symptoms were mild, as were the rest of ours. Meanwhile, while we were stuck at home, my father was getting worse by the day. I wanted so badly to go to the center to care for him, but I couldn’t go anywhere, especially now that I could put him at more risk. 

We spoke with my father on the phone right before he was put on a ventilator. My heart broke as I apologized to him that I couldn’t take care of him or anyone. 

“Don’t worry my son. I will fight until the last breath and don’t forget that life or death is in God’s hand. You take care of your mother.” For the first time in weeks, he sounded confident.

After I hung up, I start weeping like a child, loud and choked sobs. Was this it?

As the tears dried on my face, I realized that nothing would change through crying. We were going to have to face this as a family if we wanted to get through this. 

As my father fought on a ventilator, and we quarantined at home, we sent our strength and hopes to Father. As we recovered from chest congestion and a slight fever, we spent most of our time praying to God Almighty to save our family and humanity. We watched movies and cricket matches, played cards and Ludo (a local game), and encouraged each other at every moment. We willed in ourselves the spirit to survive, and as time passed, we became healthy once more. 

In time, we got better. We kept up with Father’s health, staying positive that he will overcome too. At first, the doctors seemed quite hopeless of him improving. We prayed and prayed, willing our father to get better, to come back home to us. Our prayers were answered when days later, my father started improving. By the seventh day, he had shifted back to oxygen on his own. Of course, we were thrilled! We were so close to losing our father, but he had beaten the virus and come out on top! I don’t have the words to express my gratitude that God had spared my father.        

It was the happiest moment of my life to pick up my father from the hospital and hug him tight. Tears of joy ran down my face as I embraced him. By the grace of almighty and our faith in family, we all survived successfully from this evil disease. Finally, after 20 days of hardship, we joined a family celebration at the “Eid” procession (Muslim celebration after the fasting month of Ramadan). It was matchless happiness everywhere. We were incredibly thankful and lucky that we had not lost anyone and that we could all celebrate together, as one unit once more.

So many humans all over the world have lost because of this pandemic. I can feel that pain and see the damage it’s caused. I know that pain, that fear. I was one of the lucky ones. Not everyone is so lucky. If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s how important family is. We have always been very close, but this virus showed me just how important having love and support can be. If you have a supportive family, you can make it through anything. Humans can exist on their own, but it is through their relationships with others that they thrive. For a tree to grow big and tall, it must have strong roots. I’m glad my roots are so supportive and strong.

This is the story of Kashif Siddiqui

Kashif and his family are recovering from the near loss of the patriarch of their family. He has discovered that life is precious, and life is nothing without a relationship. His go-to “quarantine snacks” are cutlets, samosas (a traditional snack), spring rolls, etc. His go-to quarantine outfits are usually smooth, loose, and easygoing dresses because of the extremely hot season in Pakistan. He will miss the quality time spent with my family as in daily normal life. He will hug all of his friends when this social distancing is over. He would like to visit South Africa when it’s safe to travel again.

This story first touched our hearts on September 18, 2020.

| Writer: Kashif Siddiqui | Editor: Kristen Petronio |

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