“Super Granny” worked all her life-until COVID-19 killed her

Sushma Mane worked almost while she was still alive.

At the age of 8, she assisted her family with wedding decorations. In her twenties, she found a job as a junior librarian in Mumbai, where she was born. Before retiring, she worked in the public library for 32 years. Then she became an insurance agent, called and visited clients for 15 years. Along the way, she raised three children separated from her husband, raised a daughter whose marriage broke up, and became the second mother of her grandson.

On August 30, 2020, she died of COVID-19 in Mumbai Hospital. She was 76 years old.

“When you think of grandmother, something comes to mind-rocking chairs, knitting needles and books,” said Viraj Pradhan, Mane’s 28-year-old grandson. “She is not that kind of person. She is a super grandma.”

Pradhan grew up on the outskirts of Mumbai and was obsessed with the middle-class childhood. The family was busy putting food on the table. His parents divorced when he was 12 years old, and it was Mane who brought him and his mother under her wings.

When Mane’s daughter worked 12 hours a day in the school library, she put on her shoes, sent Pradhan to school, participated in PTA meetings, served on the school committee, supervised homework and cooking-except for full-time work.

“Basically it’s me and her,” Pradan said with a vague smile. “When I’m not at school, I often tag with her on sales calls. We are inseparable.”

Mane is the oldest employee in the insurance company where she works. It doesn’t matter that she wanders around the city, preferring to take public transportation instead of taking an expensive taxi to visit customers. She would lift a heavy bag full of documents from each shoulder, and often refused to provide help to carry their documents.

“At this age, they helped me balance my body,” she once said to manager Swati Mittal.

Mittal told BuzzFeed News: “I don’t think I will ever see someone like her again.” “She always says that she can work as long as she is still alive.”

The first crack in the armor of Super Granny was in 2017. Routine medical examination revealed an abnormal electrocardiogram. Soon after, Mane started bleeding internally and her hemoglobin level plummeted. The doctor has never been able to diagnose her underlying condition. “Every few months, when her hemoglobin level drops, she becomes weak and finds it difficult to breathe,” Pradhan said. “She is too tired to even walk around in the apartment.”

In the end, Mane must be hospitalized every few months. The hospital staff took blood samples, so her skin often became as thin as paper. She often needs an oxygen machine to breathe. Pradhan said: “Due to COVID-19, we had a pulse oximeter very early,” and oxygen masks are normal for us. The results of her blood report are used to determine our condition in the next few weeks. Anxiety has become an indispensable part of our lives. “

Nevertheless, the crisis strengthened the bond between them. Mane spent her few days on the balcony of her small apartment, she was chatting with her plants, she called her child a child, listened to old Bollywood songs, and posed for Pradhan to take pictures with her mobile phone. Like most Indians, she is obsessed with WhatsApp and often forwards jokes, funny videos and “good morning” messages to her grandson. She often texted him, and long messages were tapped like old-fashioned letters:

Dear Villaj,

did you eat?

Did you arrive on time?

How about your meeting

Stay calm and positive.

Take medicine.

I’m very good.

do not worry

When will you come back?

Have a nice day, boy.

-Aaji (“grandmother” in Marathi)

At the end of 2019, Pradhan quit his full-time job at a digital media company and became a freelancer, so he will have enough time to take care of his grandmother. Their roles have been reversed. He said: “She used to be the one that people depend on, but now she is dependent on me. She is not ready for it.”

Due to the grandmother’s condition, COVID-19 appeared on Pradhan’s radar a long time ago, and most people in the world did not notice it. He has read reports about a strange disease in China and then in Italy, and his fear is getting worse. He said: “Although we often go to the hospital to see a doctor, I am used to controlling everything, but I think that if this virus had ever come, I would not be under control. I am afraid of what will happen to my grandmother.”

In March, India implemented a strict Nationwide blockade Without warning, Pradhan prayed that his grandmother would pass. Within a few days, her hemoglobin level dropped again.

In the first three months of confinement in the country, Mane had to be hospitalized 3 times, which proved to be more challenging in the pandemic. Her symptoms-cough, low blood oxygen content and fatigue-were so similar to those of COVID-19 that doctors often refused to check her without a COVID test, which was difficult at the time. Later, as the city’s hospitals were flooded with COVID-19 patients, it was difficult to enter the hospital. Not enough beds.

On August 25, Pradhan arranged a COVID-19 test for his grandmother. The result will take 24 hours. That night, she had no appetite, she was so tired, she needed help, walking a few steps from bed to bathroom. Pradhan slept for a while, then called Uber in the middle of the night to take her to the nearest hospital. It refused to admit her until she got COVID-19 results. He went to different medical centers frantically all night, until the next day, Mane was sent to a government hospital, where the treatment costs were heavily subsidized, and a private clinic.

This good news was followed by two bad news: her hemoglobin level still plummeted, and later that day, she tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Crying is not easy for me, but when they put her on the ventilator for the first time, I broke down,” Pradhan said. When he and his mother were tested immediately thereafter, they also tested positive for COVID-19. They have no symptoms.

He said: “I try not to think about where we are, how we were infected and whether I was infected with my grandmother.” “Thinking like this might make me think I can stop it somehow.”

Before Mane put on the ventilator, their final conversation over the phone lasted 45 seconds. Pradhan’s uncle managed to send a call to Mane in the intensive care unit through a nurse. Pradhan told her not to worry about the hospital bills, get well, eat and go home as soon as possible. She told him not to worry about herself and to eat on time (“When she was lying on that creepy hospital bed!” Pradhan said).

He said that when the call ended, he “somehow felt[he’d] It may be the last time I spoke to her. “

Mane never wanted a big funeral, and the pandemic secured her wish. Only three of her people participated in the cremation-Pradhan, one of her sons, and a close family friend, just like her son. Mane’s daughter was unable to attend; she is in hospital isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.

Like all other people who died in the hospital from the coronavirus, Mane’s body was sealed in a bag. It is handled by the staff, who wear personal protective equipment from head to toe, and no one can touch her. Pradan said he could not bring himself to see her. He asked the uncle, the son of Mane, to put a letter on her feet, thanking her for everything, flowers and saree.

He said: “The thing that always bothers me is that she leaves the hospital alone.” “She has always wanted to go to her bed.”

Mittal, the manager of Mane, said she was surprised to receive the call. “My breathing has stopped,” she said. “She has been in the hospital many times, but we are used to her coming back every time. We never thought that she would not come back this time. No matter where she is now, she is spreading happiness. I’m sure.”

A few months later, Pradhan’s cell phone kept showing the pictures and videos of Mane he had taken. He said he couldn’t see them because it was too painful.

His grandmother put an unread message in his WhatsApp. This is the last time she texted him. It has been there for a few months, and he has not opened it yet.

He said: “This may be a universal thing, such as forward’good morning’.” “I haven’t checked. I have no courage.”

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