How Gharmalkar LLC survived owner Anil’s bout with COVID-19

June 12, 2020

Wendy Parker


Anil Gharmalkar and his wife, before he was stricken with COVID-19
Anil Gharmalkar, here with his wife, before he had to taken by LifeFlight from home base in Oswego, Kan., to the University of Kansas Medical Center to be treated for COVID-19.

When Anil Gharmalkar first started feeling sick, it didn’t seem like COVID-19.

Gharmalkar, 41, owns and operates a small fleet of eight trucks out of Oswego, Kan., with most of their routes dedicated to Cargill Meat Logistics. Gharmalkar himself runs a regional route for Cargill delivering meat products.

On April 19, Anil started feeling ill. Gharmalkar told Land Line he felt the illness was very similar to pneumonia, which he had experienced before.

“I had just finished a load to Indiana,” he said. “It was everything I could do to make it home to southeast Kansas on April 21st.”

In a telehealth visit from home, Gharmalkar was diagnosed with allergies and pneumonia. He was given steroids and allergy medication and told to stay home and rest. Even after the diagnosis and medication, his wife worried about the way he was breathing. She called his mother (a nurse), who came to check his oxygen levels, which were in the 80 percentile – critical without intervention – so his mother loaded him up and took him to the local emergency room.

Because of COVID-19 pandemic precautions, Gharmalkar’s mother was unable to enter the hospital with him.

“She had to drop me at the door, and that was the last time I saw anyone I knew for over two weeks,” he said.

Three days later Gharmalkar was being prepared for LifeFlight take him to University of Kansas Medical Center. He had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

His wife was told he was going to have to be ventilated at a hospital with better resources to give him a chance of survival.

After almost a month of being intensely ill, Gharmalkar stabilized enough to begin the process of learning to walk again. His physicians at KU Med suggested a nursing home for rehab, but he skipped that part of the process through sheer determination.

“I don’t think they realized how motivated I was to get up and use the bathroom by myself,” he said.

Sent home to recuperate, he began the long process of recovery from COVID-19. He says he’s had relapses to the point of having his throat close, rendering him unable to breathe. Months of medications, rest and care later, Anil is finally beginning to make slight progress. He is still testing positive for COVID-19.

“It’s kind of a Catch-22 right now,” Gharmalkar said, “I’ve been referred back to an ear, nose and throat doctor, but they can’t see me until I test negative.”

Meanwhile, he credits his drivers and wife, along with help and understanding from Cargill, for keeping their trucking company running.

“Everyone came together and worked as a team to keep things moving,” he said. “Cargill was very helpful, and they continue to be.”

Gharmalkar said he looks forward to returning to the road but knows it might be a while. He has confidence that his company will remain productive.

“We were very pro-active when the pandemic began,” he said.

Preparations with his bank allowed for his payroll funding to be available before he ever got sick. Getting ahead of the game secured financial business safety, and he credits having good health insurance for being able to cover more than $500,000 in medical bills without going bankrupt.

So far, he’s the only driver in his small fleet to become ill with COVID-19, and for that he is thankful.

“Cargill was way ahead of everyone else with their precautionary measures,” he said. “They were doing no-touch/no-contact early on.” He credits this as one of the reasons his drivers and employees at the Cargill locations for their low rates of infection.

Although his memories of being intubated are fuzzy, Gharmalkar says he has no feelings about being sick other than this: “I’m just happy to be alive.”


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