41-year-old truck driver Anil Gharmalkar thought he was too healthy to catch Covid-19.
“I had a friend who was an intensive care nurse in New York City,” he says, “and I heard what was going on there.
“I was firmly convinced that no matter how healthy I was, I wouldn’t get it, it wouldn’t affect me.”
He says he thought the pandemic was only a problem for the elderly, or people in big cities, and that it wouldn’t be a problem for him in rural Parsons, Kansas.
He admits that his attitude at the time was “ridiculous and unforgivable.”
Because now, seven months after he was first diagnosed with coronavirus, Anil is still weak, tired and short of breath. He’s dealing with the consequences of a tracheotomy and the trauma of getting so close to death.
“I didn’t think it would be in our area,” he said in a video briefing from the University of Kansas Health System, “it was a metropolitan problem. It was a problem for people who were seriously ill or the elderly.
“Even when my mom dropped me off in the emergency room – as a nurse she didn’t use PPE to drop me off for the 20 minute ride and because of that day on that ride my last thought before the ventilator was, ‘Oh my God, I killed my family. ”
Anil says the virus “didn’t care” what he believed, and that the doctors “fought terribly” and “took an inordinate amount of labor and man-hours” to keep him alive, even though he is not yet 100 percent.
“It scares me when enough people show up who will need as much care as I needed to stay alive (if) there will be enough services to keep them there or get people to recover.”
Anil is now taking much more care of his health: “Anyone who comes into contact with us, everyone is hidden,” he said.
“There has been a lot of concern since my recovery started over with our last visit to the ICU, I may not be resistant to a flu virus or anything that could be (relatively harmless) at this point.”