Covid-19 strikes down family man

VENGADESHWARAN SUBRAMANIAM

It's now clear that Covid-19 can infect anybody. Even a man who did not smoke, drink alcohol or have any health condition.

Mr K. Ramaswami, a track and field athlete during his younger days, was active even at the age of 82. He would walk daily and work - on weekdays up to 12 hours - at Ramakohila convenience store, which he owned with his wife Solosana, 73, at Singapore Shopping Centre on Clemenceau Avenue.

But the routine suddenly changed on April 5 when he developed a fever. He felt tired and unwell and consulted a doctor who prescribed medicines.

The fever, however, did not subside even after two days and, when the temperature reached 39.6 deg C, his worried wife took him to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).

"He didn't have other symptoms like cold or sore throat," said Mrs Solosana. "But his body was boiling hot."

On April 7, Mr Ramaswami was tested for Covid-19. After he tested positive the next day, he was moved to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID). Over the next few days, his condition worsened and his oxygen levels dropped. He was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit. Soon after, he could not even muster the energy to speak to the family on the phone.

His son Mr K.R. Chandramohan, 53, said: "My father told me 'I could die, it's very difficult, I can't take it'."

On April 27, Mr Ramaswami died from complications due to Covid-19.

"He was not a sickly person. He just had leg pains because of old age," said Solosana.

"We never visited hospitals much as he did not have any medical problems. When he got the fever, it never occurred to me that he could have caught the virus. Even when it was confirmed, I thought it would pass."

Mr Chandramohan said they were constantly motivating him at NCID: "We were telling him to stay strong and that he would recover soon. The doctors, nurses and counsellors provided excellent service. But despite the world-class treatment that my father received in his final days, he could not survive."

Since Mr Ramaswami's daughter Kohilavani Lambourne, 50, lives in Perth, Australia, where coronavirus control measures are strict, she could not fly to Singapore for the funeral.

However, Singapore Casket arranged a live video streaming service. This provided some comfort to her. She had earlier seen her father via a video call at the NCID. The family was allowed to see Mr Ramaswami's face for the last time at the NCID.

"My father's body was placed in two bags and then in the coffin," said Mr Chandramohan. "We dressed him in light-blue pants and a white shirt. He liked light-coloured clothing."

The hearse, on the way to Mandai crematorium, stopped at Mr Ramaswami's shop, which he had owned for 39 years.

Since Mr Ramaswami lived in a flat at Kallang Bahru with his wife, Mrs Solosana had to observe a 14-day quarantine at home till April 21.

"During my quarantine period, my children hid many things from me because they didn't want me to worry," said Mrs Solosana.

"But I kept thinking about my husband. It was a very trying period."

Mr Chandramohan said: "It was a blessing that my father held on to his life for that long. If he had passed on while my mother was in quarantine, it would have been very difficult to involve her in the last rites."

In accordance with the National Environment Agency guidelines, only nine people took part in the final rites at Mandai crematorium.

"We couldn't observe Hindu traditions such as offering rice and bathing the body for safety reasons," said Mr Chandramohan.

"It was sad but only close family and friends could be involved. I could only send the link to the live stream to others.

"We plan to do a proper memorial involving everyone who knew my dad once the situation allows for it."

svenga@sph.com.sg`

"The doctors, nurses and counsellors provided excellent service. But despite the world-class treatment that my father received in his final days, he could not survive."

- Mr K.R. Chandramohan

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