After successfully passing the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE) — the screening test for foreign medical graduates conducted by the National Board of Education in Medical Examination — India’s first Covid patient is now entering a new phase in life.
She can now practise medicine anywhere in the country.
Hailing from Kodungallur in central Kerala’s Thrissur district, the woman who made headlines across the country three years ago and now prefers to remain anonymous, told South First that she will do house surgency for a year and hopes to later become a professional medical practitioner focussing on pandemics.
Last year, the first Covid patient from India completed her MBBS degree at the University of Wuhan in China. However, the post-Covid academic sessions were confined to online classes. The examinations were also held online, with the university permitting her to appear for them using web cameras.
Then she appeared for FMGE held last December.
India’s first Covid patient heads back to Wuhan
She will be making her first post-pandemic trip to Wuhan next week to collect her qualifying degree certificate.
The first Covid patient from India said she completed her course under extreme mental pressure as Covid-19 infected her twice.
There were many apprehensions in the initial phase about Indian students continuing their medical education at Wuhan University. Wuhan is where large-scale Covid 19 cases were reported initially, and there was a lack of clarity on resuming classes online.
On its part, India had remained sceptical initially about holding FMGE for those who completed their medical courses online.
But the situation changed, and the Covid survivor said many of her classmates and contemporaries benefitted from the relaxed norms.
“Becoming a medical practitioner has been my dream since childhood. I felt my world was ending when the pandemic struck me three years ago. The news from Wuhan at that time was mainly discouraging, and I feared my dream would not succeed,” she said.
“Now the world is recovering from the effects of the pandemic, and people are regaining whatever they lost in the process. In my case, things finally turned out in my favour. Whatever exposure I failed to obtain in the recent months due to the lack of direct classes and direct practical sessions, will be compensated during the house surgency days,” she said.
She also said she would reveal her identity after finishing the house surgency and getting fully engrossed in the world of treatments.
Three years back… a TV scroll
According to her, she left Wuhan on 24 January, 2020, after learning about the spreading of the mysterious virus.
The semester holidays had just begun, and she found it an opportunity to return home to avoid the risk of getting exposed to the pandemic.
Two days after reaching home, she developed a dry cough. Then her family took her to Thrissur’s government medical college hospital. Doctors there advised immediate hospitalisation, and the swab sample was collected immediately.
“In my hospital room, there was a television. On 30 January, I saw the breaking news scrolling on the screen informing that the first coronavirus case was reported from my native Thrissur. It was around 4 pm. Other than the dry cough, I was asymptomatic. So I had no clue that the news scroll related to me. My whole family became frightened when they heard that I was positive,” she recalled.
As soon as the case was confirmed, other patients in the hospital vacated it, fearing the spread of the virus.
“Around 14 people who came in close contact with me, including my father, were also quarantined and tested for the virus. But they all were negative,” she recalled.
Praise for healthcare system
“Now, three years since I found a place in Covid history, I remember with gratitude how the then Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja and Thrissur District Collector S Shanavas helped me by providing all facilities. They ensured the availability of quality medicines, good food and enough clothing at the special Covid care centre of the medical college. The facilities at the care centre were excellent and matched global standards. The doctors, nurses and hospital staff had also cared for me well,” she said.
“As my classes were essential and I loved the privacy, I preferred to avoid any media exposure. The same is the situation of other medical students who returned to Kerala from Wuhan after the advent of the epidemic,” she said.
“When I had confirmed positive, I contacted all my friends who travelled with me over the phone and asked them to contact health officials. I also handed over their numbers to health officials for follow-up action. I was physically doing fine and lacking any body strain,” she said when asked about the days in quarantine.
“The then health minister called my mother repeatedly and consoled her. On 20 February, 2020, I was discharged from the hospital. It was difficult to remain isolated for an extended period, even after returning home. But some counsellors regularly called and spoke to me, paying attention to my mental health. That helped me a lot,” India’s first Covid patient said.
When India’s first Covid-19 patient tested positive again
The first Covid-19 patient from India tested positive again on July 9, 2021. Doctors told her she was reinfected with the same virus.
“I was again asymptomatic, but the RT-PCR test was positive. As I was facing no difficulty, I preferred home quarantine. I took the RT-PCR test to visit New Delhi on some family matter. As the test was positive, I dropped the plan to visit Delhi,” she remembered.
“When the epidemic started spreading worldwide, I never thought I would be the first patient in India. I wish to give credit to the robust healthcare system in Kerala for my complete recovery from the pandemic.
“The reinfection was a shock for me. I never thought that it would return to haunt me. In the second round, too, authorities told me not to worry. They advised me to remain in home isolation with normal medicines. It was then I took the Covishield vaccine and now hope the virus will not affect me another time,” said the survivor.
Upon completing the house surgency, she wishes to work in Kerala and focus on virus-related care for the needy.