Updated: August 22, 2020 2:23:51 pm
When Asiad gold medallist boxer Dingko Singh tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to Imphal from Delhi, where he was undergoing treatment for liver cancer, his wife Ngangom had a tough decision to make. She hadn’t tested positive but wasn’t willing to let her ailing husband stay alone in an isolation ward.
“His condition was so frail. He was recovering from cancer-induced jaundice and then on the third day of quarantine, he fell very sick. He was already exhausted after the treatment in Delhi and the long road journey. How could I leave him alone?” asks Ngangom.
On special request, she was allowed to stay in Dingko’s ward and their worst fears came true. “I tested positive in a couple of days but recovered faster than him. But he needed me. When we got to know he was positive, I broke down. His condition was such that we didn’t know if he would survive,” she recalls.
After five positive test results, Dingko finally overcame the virus last month and was allowed to go back home. Although the virus has subsided, Dingko is yet to fully recover from the jaundice that hampered his treatment while he was in the capital.
Ngangom Dingko Singh, the most feared pugilist as most termed him won Gold medal in the 54kg category of the 1998 Asian Games; thereby ending India’s 16 year wait for an Asian Games boxing podium finish. #FlashbackFriday #PunchMeinHaiDum #FBF pic.twitter.com/nyJwr9CeDo
— Boxing Federation (@BFI_official) May 4, 2018
“There was a recurrence of cancer so he came here. We had planned to give him chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but he had arrived here with jaundice. We had to drain out the fluid and wait for him to recover. It was taking time and the virus cases were rising so he wanted to go back home,” said a doctor at Delhi’s Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS), where Dingko was admitted.
The last four years have been the most testing period for Dingko and his family. In August 2016, he suffered a bout of jaundice, just a sign of the storm that was about to hit them. In the first week of January 2017, Dingko underwent a life-saving procedure at ILBS where two-thirds of his liver was removed. “He recovered really well. But there are always chances of a relapse, so we can’t say anything for certain,” a doctor had said back then.
The relapse happened during the lockdown period and the former boxer and his wife were airlifted to the capital for treatment as the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Imphal wasn’t operating its radiotherapy department as it had been converted into a
COVID-19 ward. The return journey by road, during a nation-wide lockdown, was an ordeal they will never forget.
“It took us four days to reach our village. Due to the lockdown, there were no hotels, no food. We managed with some snacks we were carrying,” Ngangom said.
On reaching their hometown, the couple wasn’t allowed to enter their village and were sent for a two-week institutionalised quarantine where Dingko tested positive. They still are not sure where he could have contracted the virus.
“The day we left Delhi, we had a test and both of us came negative. On the third day of isolation, he fell very sick. Out doctor messaged us some medicines, which we gave him and after that he felt some relief. We have no idea how he got infected,” Ngangom said.
Despite all the hardship Dingko, who is normally a very reserved person, didn’t flinch. “He always kept saying, ‘we will get through’. He’s a fighter and strong but I get emotional.”
The facilities at the isolation ward were something Devi doesn’t want to talk much about. “If you see the toilets over there, even a healthy person would fall sick using them,” she said. Dingko’s local doctor has given the nod to resume his chemotherapy cycle but the family is in two minds. “We are scared to go out again and even more to a risky place like a hospital,” his wife said.
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