A 102-year-old great-grandmother who contracted Covid-19 in India’s deadly second wave spreads a message of hope after she recovered from the virus.
Susheela Pathak, India’s oldest living author, is described by her family as a 'phoenix' because of the inspirational way she recovered from Covid-19.
Mrs Pathak believes inoculation is the best way to stop the virus, despite testing positive a few days after she received her first dose of Covaxin.
"Get vaccinated. I recovered and so will you," Mrs Pathak told The National.
“God will protect you and keep you healthy.”
Mrs Pathak, who lives in Mumbai with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, took all precautions and stayed at home, but is thought to have caught the virus in early April from an asymptomatic caregiver.
Her grandson, Dr Sujit Bopardikar, a dentist in Mumbai, isolated with his grandmother so he could take care of her.
Her symptoms included fatigue and fever, but things took a turn for the worse when she developed breathing difficulties and lost her appetite.
The family was unable to get an ambulance, so drove her to the hospital.
Mrs Pathak was in intensive care for more than two weeks and needed medication and plasma therapy.
Ten days into her stay, Mrs Pathak was on her way to recovery and celebrated her birthday at the hospital with staff who brought her a cake.
“My grandmother was in the hospital for 15 days, but now she has defeated the virus and is back home," said Dr Sujit Bopardikar.
“She is weak but will be strong again soon. The doctors treated her and we never gave up hope.
“We never thought that she would not recover. Our hope and her will to live are the reasons she recovered.
“Do not be afraid of this virus. Listen to doctors and defeat this virus,” he said.
Dr Abhijit Bopardikar, Mrs Pathak’s younger grandson said: “If a 102-year-old woman can recover, anyone can.”
The urgent need for medical help
India is in the midst of a deadly second wave, as more than 392,000 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours.
In some areas, including Mumbai, hospitals are full and experiencing chronic oxygen shortages.
Mrs Pathak's family, which includes three grandchildren and their spouses, as well as five great-grandchildren, urged people in India to take the virus seriously and spoke about the importance of getting help fast.
“Timely medical help is crucial,” said Dr Vijaya Bopardikar, Mrs Pathak’s granddaughter-in-law who has lived with her for 20 years.
“The doctors immediately started her on medications and once she was stable, her parameters started getting better.
“People have been careless and the elections have not helped."
She said people were delaying seeking help and it was difficult to recover lost time.
“People think getting Covid-19 is a stigma," Dr Vijaya Bopardikar said.
“They have symptoms but they say it's nothing. They need to understand that the initial days are crucial.
“My husband and I were saved by the vaccine."
Dr Vijaya Bopardikar said Mrs Pathak was a stickler for discipline, routine and enjoyed healthy vegetarian food, which helped in her healing.
“We call our Aaji (grandmother) the 'phoenix' in our family and she is quite an inspiration for us and many who know her resilience and willpower," she said.
“She has a zeal for life, and storytelling and cooking are her passion.
“She loves to read and write and never gives up."
Dr Vijaya Bopardikar believes her grandmother-in-law's love for writing and reading keeps her alert and her dementia at bay.
Mrs Pathak has authored books in Marathi on food, faith and folklore, and has also written stories for children.
She penned her fourth book, Great Grandma's Kitchen Secrets, at the age of 96 and is currently working on her fifth.
Every night she sits with her family and tells stories.
She has many tales to tell, including stories about India's independence struggle against the British Empire.
Mrs Pathak supported the 'Quit India Movement' back in 1942, which demanded an end to British rule in the country.