May 11, 2021

What I realised from my hospitalisation due to Covid-19

Pankaj Gera
Founder, Gera Wealth Creators Pvt. Ltd.

Mr. Pankaj Gera kindly shared with us a very personal experience of himself and his family with Covid-19 and shared some learnings that he was able to draw to the situation and related to his practice too that has not only made him think about what truly matters in life and work, but will also make us think about that too.

Starting the 1st of April, the government extended the vaccination drive to cover the age- group 45 – 60 years. Not wishing to get caught in the first-day rush, my wife and I decided to go early the next day.

We reached Red Cross Hospital at 9 AM to find 15 people already queued up! It was nearly three hours before we finally reached our office and worked late into the day to make up for lost time. The next day, too, was a long day spent in office. By the evening of the third day, I started feeling feverish, which I attributed to the (delayed) effect of the vaccine. Even as the fever persisted, I overlooked it.

Most people’s initial reaction to adversity is denial, and I was no different. I brushed away all signs of tiredness and body ache, distracting myself with ‘more important’ things. I decided against informing my wife, to keep her from worrying over a non-issue – or so my male ego justified it! But I was clearly getting worse by the hour and didn’t need a thermometer to tell me that. Much like the proverbial pigeon that closes its eyes to shut out the cat, I plunged deeper into my work. The next day, we both went for our Covid-19 tests – I was most amused to discover that my wife had tested positive, while my report was clear!

The doctor we consulted, promptly asked the both of us to have our CT scans done, quite like a lot of investment ‘advisors’ out there; and, like many first-time investors, we blindly followed his advice and rushed to get scanned. After only a cursory glance at the report, the doctor advised us to get hospitalized. This time, however, we went in for a second opinion, and were advised home quarantine and medication – a standard, pre-printed prescription, not unlike the pre-decided schemes some intermediaries sell to almost all their clients!

This time around, the joke was on me – while my wife started recovering, my health deteriorated further. Once again, our consultant advised hospitalization. Three times we booked ourselves in different hospitals, and three times we reversed our decision, and for various (frivolous) reasons.

One of my first learning from the whole experience is that your network is your net worth. All those who have struggled to get a hospital bed for themselves or their family, will understand how truly fortunate I was in having managed admission three times, only to turn them all down! How did I get so lucky in such challenging times? The answer lies in my network of clients spread across the length and breadth of the country – and the world. When my wife and daughter reached out to these people, they were more than willing to help. Many went out of their way, reaching out to their friends and associates, even taking obligations, to ensure that we were well looked after. Most of this activity happened behind the scenes, and we were simply told who to call or meet at each hospital.

Several times I asked myself why I had suddenly become so lucky, why I had managed to get three hospital beds, when others were struggling to get even one. I realized that the answer lay in the strength of my relationships with my clients which, in turn, were based on the genuine concern I’d shown over the years towards their best interests. My own past actions were now coming back to help me in my hour of crisis.

When my fever reached alarming levels, I finally gave in and consented to hospitalization. This time around, it was another one of my clients who helped out, coordinating and following up relentlessly until I was finally admitted. This was a similar stroke of ‘luck’, the seeds of which I had inadvertently planted and nurtured for over 15 years now. I shall forever remain indebted to all my clients and well-wishers who showed such deep concern for my health and well-being.

The scene at the Emergency ward of the hospital was quite grim – it was hard to tell the patients from the attendants. A couple of them were brought in dead. The supervising doctor did not start any immediate treatment on me, even after admitting me. Late in the night, I was taken for scans, X-rays and other tests. The doctor fixed a canula on my hand, but started the IV drip only the next day, after carefully studying my reports. I could instantly relate this to my own profession, where one must refrain from selling products until one has analyzed the situation and understood the client and their requirements.

Over the next two-three days I grew weaker and hence don’t remember much of what happened. But I do remember the patient on the bed next to mine, who recovered and gifted me a chocolate before leaving. I was semi-conscious then, but that small gesture of kindness stayed with me.

Almost instantly, the bed was occupied by another patient. The third patient in the room was an 84-year-old doctor who was very weak and not completely in his senses. He had been brought in from the ICU after having spent nearly a month there! While I felt sorry for his condition, I was happy that he had a dedicated attendant who looked after him day and night. I dreaded living such a life but knew in my heart that such a situation could arise with anyone, at any time. I knew then that I was looking at a live example of someone who, despite their ill-health, was being looked after due their healthy bank balance. Right there and then I pledged to help all my clients become financially secure for their later years.

The new patient, around the same age as me, told me that he’d gotten the bed through a recommendation of the state health minister, and that his wife was also admitted in some other hospital. They were part of a joint family, and there was someone visiting him from his family. I was impressed by the strong family bonds in joint families. His daughter and nephew were present nearly every day. We both got discharged same day and, while leaving, he gave me a cheerful smile and wished me good health. It was then I was informed that his wife had died in another hospital, and his daughter & nephew did not have the courage to break the news to him. Through the night, there had been two more Covid-19 related deaths in the ICU which was just opposite our room.

This experience made me ponder about the difference between a person walking out of hospital, and another who was wheeled out. What was it that decided their individual fates, and how much of it was luck or Divine intervention? These two words are used, interchangeably, to explain occurrences that we cannot otherwise explain through logic or reasoning. Right from childhood, we’ve all experienced the ‘luck factor’ at play over and over again. Professionally, too, I see it at work on almost a daily basis – there are some investors who make a lot of money from their portfolios, while others are unable to, despite the markets giving healthy returns. While we like to use the term ‘investor behavior’ to explain this phenomenon, I am convinced that luck plays an equally important role here.

As professionals, we are accustomed to thinking and acting rationally, guiding our clients through various phases of the markets as well as their personal lives. And yet, I have found that the same advice and client behavior produces different results. This difference can be attributed only to luck. Taking a leaf out of Sam Goldwyn’s book, I’d say the longer investors remain invested, the luckier they tend to get!

There are some investors who feel that markets are manipulated, at least in the short term, by the big players. They might even be right in their belief. My response to this statement is that what others do is not in one’s control; what is in our control is our own behavior and actions, and that is what one should focus on. This is true of all aspects of our lives, not just investments. Particularly during these challenging times, it is equally import that we control our thoughts, and keep them positive, as they are the seeds that give birth to actions. Our positive thoughts influence not just ourselves, but also our environment – including friends and family.

That stay in the hospital, being surrounded by death – and coming pretty close to it myself – forced me to ask myself this question, over and over again: what am I running for in life? What is it that I am working so hard for, at times sacrificing some pleasures, even over-looking my health, that is so important to me? Is it money, success, fame, professional satisfaction, or something unknown? Money, to my mind, can only be a means to an end, and never an end in itself. Money is important only if it is used to create value – both for oneself, and for others – greater than its own intrinsic worth. Used properly, money can be a wonderful medicine, a healer; else, it becomes a disease. The best use of money, to my mind, is to spread happiness.

I am aware that over time, as I recover fully and get involved in my work, I will forget most of these learnings. Hence, I have decided to read this note regularly, as a way of keeping myself on the path to the more important things in life.

I hope that my journey from home to hospital & back is able to provoke some thought and help you draw your lesson which help you in spreading happiness among the society at large.

My special thanks to Sharad C Mohan, CFP who took out time to go through and edited the article.


8 Thoughts to “What I realised from my hospitalisation due to Covid-19”

  1. Avatar D V Suresh says:

    Very well written Pankaj ji.
    Appreciate your thoughts written from your heart after almost knocking at the death door.
    We pray for your speedy recovery. As our profession needs more positive people like you to make a difference to the society.

  2. Avatar Trupti Muralidhar says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s these real life experiences which teach life lessons much more than anything else for sure. Money is not everything in life after all !!!!!!

  3. Avatar Neeraj Chauhan says:

    Very well articulated Pankaj. We all are running in the daily grind without realising the compromise on other aspects of life. Such episodes in life gives important reminder and opportunity to rebalance life.

  4. Avatar Mukesh Gupta says:

    Very well articulated Pankaj ji, I have lost couple of friends and clients who dedicated their lives in accumulating wealth. These are great life long learnings. our many clients have changed (may be temporarily).

  5. Avatar Roshni Nayak says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience Pankaj Sir, really appreciate.

  6. Avatar Jyotsna Bhatnagar says:

    True happiness is in relationships nurtured ! True and meaningful help and support! Money matters but as an end to its means., Not a disease! Do not ignore your health! HEALTH tHE BIGGEST Wealth!
    Thank you Gera ji! Lessons of life! Our wishes for happiness & health ! despite Covid. God has been kind,! We thank him for his kindness.

  7. Avatar eMKay says:

    Quite an experience!
    And I like the way you have presented it – intermingling the occurrence with expertise from your line of business, and finally managing to have converted it into learnings…

    Do take very good care of yourself and Get Well Soon!

    eMKay

  8. Avatar N K GUPTA says:

    You are a strong person. You have power to express and that is why you are able to express it. My mother had gone through two operations along with a Covid fever in last 3 months- went through pain and agony. But she had become silent. Only bitter, pain and suffering. Became quite incoherent. One close death had shaken her. But still God is very kind, benign and forgiving. I agree with you, bonding in family and social network are the real asset. Thanks and Regards

Share Your Thoughts