The fever won't leave you. Just a few notches above the normal mark. Hardly crossing 100 degrees. Sometimes it stays at 101.
The doc said unless it is above 100, they don't call it fever. It is feverish. But I know it is. You feel the parchedness inside you. The dryness in your larynx. Your lips are chapped and feel like sunbaked bones lying by the roadside. You feel them like some rice paper. Like some wood shavings.
Then it would reach 101. Just that.
All day long you wait for it to come. It usually comes at night.
You nervously keep checking on your thermometer. Every half an hour. You are cocksure it will come. Just the waiting, and it is a nervous waiting. When it comes, finally, you feel relieved. A kind of relief you feel when you know you are proven right.
But you have nowhere to go.
You are not sure if the doctors are doing their chambers. A few said they don't because of the coronavirus. And it has been about 12 days that the fever is lingering. From its nightly shifts, it has now been doing day rounds too.
The pain in the neck is nagging. Not really unbearable. But you feel it all the time. And when there is pain, any pain, you tend to touch that area, prod it, press it, tap it to see how bad it goes. Maybe with the hope that it will disappear magically. And all the miseries will be behind you.
So after making some futile calls, you settle with the doctor at the Square Hospital. Deep inside you know, it is probably not going to be the best thing to do. Going to the hospital in this time of pandemic. But now you are nervous. You keep imagining things. Cancer. That is the first thing that crops up in your mind because you have also lost weight in the last two weeks. Some five kgs and that's quite a bit.
So even if you don't want it, you appear at the hospital. The lobby, the waiting room, the billing counters are all exceptionally empty. Just a few nervous looking patients sitting. Their eyes darting from one corner to the other, checking on the others. Worrying whether they are carrying the virus.
The call from the doctor comes shortly, as he has very few patients to attend to.
Not much of his face can be seen behind his surgical masks. But he seems to be a nice looking gentleman. He talks in a friendly tone. And you feel relaxed. He stands up, comes close and presses your neck, squeezes your arms.
He listens to the case history. And then starts typing on the computer.
"What do you suspect?"
"Let's check with a few things. Let's check your TB. And hormones. I am giving you the tests." And he writes down some medicines. Antibiotic included.
You thank him profusely and go for the tests. Inside the sample collection room, it is a tight situation. The technicians and two patients sitting on chairs definitely make social distancing impossible.
As the technician draws your blood, you just hope that the guys who sat on the same chair before you did not have the virus.
The X-ray is even trickier. You have to take off your shirt, standing half-naked and feeling the chill of the AC on you. You shiver.
Then the radiographer holds you against the cold surface of the X-ray machine. You just hope the guy who was there before you did not contaminate the machine.
The reports come in two days. You meet your doctor again and he takes a glance at the reports and then refers you to another doctor who is a TB specialist.
That section is across the road and a skybridge connects the two. But that is the trickiest section because Covid patients come there with their initial complaints of chest pain and breathlessness etc.
The receptionist gives you no good feelings as well. He looks like an astronaut in his PPE, N95 masks, large eye protectors and gloves. You have to wait as the doctor is in the other room doing some 'preparations'.
Then he finally meets you. He looks at the tests and summarily dismisses them as useless. The costly TB Gold test is useless as, he explains, virtually anyone in Bangladesh would come positive. He rather gives some other tests with some strange German names.
You have to visit the sample collection room again. This time, they jab you in the arms and inject some liquid. They draw a circle around the jabbing point and ask you not to wet it, or put soap on the area. You have to wait for three more days and then come and see him again.
They basically check if the injected liquid interacts with any TB germ and the area will then swell.
So you go back and call your doctor friend. He laughs it off and says this test is also useless. Go and see an endocrinologist, he suggests.
The fever has rolled into its 18th day or 21st. By this time you lose track of it.
So you don't waste time and get an appointment with the endocrinologist. It is at 5pm. The roads are empty because of the lockdown. And more so as the evening approaches.
People crowd the streets during the day. But as the evening approaches they hasten back inside homes. As if the virus will come alive and prowl the streets with the darkness falling.
The endocrinologist gives some more tests. He thinks it is your thyroid that is giving you all the troubles.
The next day you again go to a lab. It is empty too. They draw your blood and then send you to the ultrasonographer.
This doctor is very nervous and does not like you to be there. She gives a burst of lecture about why you have come out of your hole at this time of pandemic.
The next day you get your reports and visit the endocrinologist again. He said he would leave early, but actually there are a lot of patients waiting and so he stays back.
As he scrolls the reports, he nods his head and confirms it is thyroiditis. He scribbles down a prescription. But then he sits back and taps his nondescript ballpoint pen on the table and lets out the truth.
"There are many forms of the disease. There are growths on your neck. We need to do a detailed check to know why these growths have appeared. You need an isotope test," he says. "Only then the real treatment can begin. Sadly, only a few government hospitals do this test and because of the Covid situation, the tests are suspended."
So you are back to square one. You come back by the empty roads, feeling even emptier inside.
You know you have a disease that is giving you so much trouble. You had been hyperactive. Your sleep is gone. You spend your nights, night after night, awake. And you have fever and the soles of your feet feel like coarse sandpaper.
It is a strange condition. You are in a high metabolic state. Your body is kind of doing workouts round the clock. Never letting you rest. As if you are on a constant marathon. And you feel hungry all the time because your food is draining away with metabolism. And as you can't keep up with the high-pitch working of the body, you wither away, you keep losing weight.
And so you happen to meet this very high profile doctor. Everyone knows him by name. And he wants to look at the test results. Then he nods his head.
"Yes as I had guessed," he says knowingly. Then he prescribes some very low priced steroid.
"But you need to finally do the isotope test. It is a rare condition you have developed. You need to do this test. But for now you will be okay with this thing for some time. For at least a couple of months."
So you come back and start taking the medicines. Soon, the fever is gone, and the pain too. And you can sleep. But you cannot take the isotope test because the hospitals are out of ingredients for the global lockdown.
Every week you inquire at the hospital if the isotope has arrived. It has not.
So months go by. And you can feel the symptoms slowly coming back. The restlessness. But now that the pandemic is in full rage, and that the test would take long hours, you no longer feel safe to approach the hospital. You only hope you can wait out the virus.
So until you seriously fall sick again, you just hold on. You just carry on. Until.