“I HAD A RETHINK OF MY LIFE WHILE IN ISOLATION AT ABH” – EX-COVID PATIENT
It is no longer new to you how cases of COVID infections daily hit the headlines almost with metronomic regularity and how infected folks are closeted at isolation centres. But what you might not know and might have always wondered is what exactly happens at those centres, how life for the quarantined patients is and how some were able to wade through every moment spent struggling against the disease.
Last week, a COVID patient was discharged from the isolation centre in ABH (The Carta Building). And on condition of anonymity, she recounted the chronicle of her experiences while in isolation. So take a pew, relax and peruse as you might have some of your questions answered. Enjoy!
You came out of the isolation centre this week after being quarantined on account of COVID-19 infection. How do you feel today, being out of the place?
I feel good. I’m glad to be back. I’m happy I’m able to get back to my daily activities and practically back to life
Wow! That’s really serious.
Don’t mind me. It just feels like you’re not part of the world. The days keep changing, people keep going about their activities but you’re there feeling stuck kind of.
How long did you spend there?
I was there for a total of 17days
Really? So how did the journey begin? What brought you there in the first place?
Well, I was having this unexplainable tiredness, chest pain, diarrhea and shortness of breath. I didn’t relate it to COVID at first. But then, my roommate just encouraged me to call COVID Team to get tested just to be sure.
You called them and you had the test done that day?
Yeah. But I was told I would have to be isolated first before I did the test and then I would have to repeat the test 5days after.
So does this mean that you were isolated the same day you reported yourself to the COVID-19 Team?
How long from then did you receive the result?
After about 2 days.
How did you feel when the result turned out to be positive?
I had a feeling I was positive already. So, it didn’t come to me as a shock as I was pretty sick the day before the result came out.
Did you inform anyone about it after testing positive?
I informed some of my friends.
Do you have an idea about how you contracted the virus?
I am not so sure. I have no idea because I met a lot of people, both positive and negative. I had contacts with some people who were positive but I don’t think it was from them I got it.
How did you know they were positive?
I later got to know they were positive.
So it’s possible it was from one of them you got it.
Yes, it is.
After you were told that you would have to go into isolation, what preparations did you make before going there?
I wasn’t prepared. I was only expecting to be tested. But then, I was told I had to be there before doing the test. All I took was some clothes, my pillow, my bucket and some other basic things. And that same day, I made it to the isolation centre.
Can you tell us about what exactly happens at the isolation centre?
The people in charge of our care— the health minister and the people working with him— always came morning and night to check our vital signs. At times, doctors came to check us, but it was not all the time. The Hall Warden came to check us sometimes too.
What of in terms of treatment?
We were given some drugs. They gave us vitamins C and D, anti parasitic drugs like ivermectin, zinc for diarrhea and azithromycin. But in some cases, antimalarial drugs could be added. I was given antimalarial drugs towards the end of my stay there. It was after then that I began to feel better.
What about feeding?
I had to get my friends to help me with food, because we weren’t being fed there.
Was any form of interaction allowed among patients at the isolation centre?
I don’t think so. Or maybe only when necessary. It’s just one person per room.
What about visitations from outsiders?
Visitations are not allowed basically, unless they need to come give you something like food or drink, for instance. But anything apart from something like that is not allowed. It’s an isolation centre.
What happens to anyone who gets there by virtue of contact tracing?
A test would be conducted for him on arrival. If negative, another test would be conducted 5 days after. He would be released if he’s negative for both tests. But if he tests positive on arrival, he’s isolated until he appears to have recovered, after which another test would be performed to know whether he’s fit to be discharged.
How was your experience at the place?
It was, at a point, scary. You’re alone. You’re sick. You’re at your worst. And at that point, you’ll always need people around you to care for you, to hold you close, to say you’ll be fine, to touch your hairs, to mop your body when you’re having fever etc. But nobody can. It was scary but then, the people who took care of us did their best trying to make us feel better. They encouraged us and were really supportive. With them, we were able to get through it. At least, I was able to get through it.
What specific things did they do?
When I was unable to stand up and eat, they encouraged me to eat. They made sure I ate my food and took my drugs. There was even a time when I was vomiting. And you know someone who’s vomiting can’t clean up himself. They were the ones who did all that. They did all you would do for someone who’s really sick.
What was a typical day for you like? What things were you engaged in during that period?
For the first 5 days, the symptoms weren’t serious enough to prevent me from doing my normal activities. So initially, I would do a bit of reading, eating, watching movies and sleeping. But when the symptoms became worse, I would wake up thinking of how I would get through the day. Getting up from bed was difficult. I would get up from bed taking great care. If I stood up suddenly, I would fall back to bed. I was unable to stand on my own. Also, I constantly had an unusual kind of headache. I don’t know what to call it. Maybe I’ll call it “head pin” or “brain pin” (laughs). I don’t know how to qualify it. It wasn’t a normal headache. I also had a very strong body pain. You can imagine waking up with all of that. At times, I had to wake up to go to the toilet and you can imagine being the only one there with all these. I would struggle to find my way to the bathroom. There was a time I lost my balance and hit my head on the wall. So from there, I would go back to bed because I wouldn’t want to move around to do anything. Then, my friends would bring food for me. I would eat a bit and try to use my drugs. But if I was unable to do that, those taking care of us would try to make me eat and then I would use my drugs. I would then go back to sleep. But then, I was always afraid of going back to sleep because I would think of waking up to the problems again.
So this mean that during the period of being terribly ill, you were not involved in any other thing apart from dealing with the illness, right?
Yes. I was attending classes online initially. But later, I could not do anything. I could not even chat with my friends on my phone.
Apart from these, what other challenge did you face during the period?
Getting food was a challenge for me, because it was not all the time that my friends were available to get me food. Another challenge was taking my bath, especially with cold water. I would feel extreme cold in my extremities. It was as if my limbs were put in a freezer. At a point, I was afraid of my legs freezing.
How did you feel psychologically during the period?
I had a rethink of my life. It made me think about life, friends and family. I also thought about my career. I got to decide on what I would eventually do with my life. Before then, I was considering going into surgery but I thought, surgery is going to take so much of my life. You will basically live life within the 4 walls of the hospital. But I didn’t wanted that. I wanted something that would make me live life and enjoy my family. It also made me appreciate some things we take for granted like hugging your friends, going to get something for yourself and being able to choose what you want to get by yourself. I really missed being able to go out, see people and see things go on.
Did you at any point fear death?
Not really. But I thought about it. I thought about the possibility.
Compared to how long other patients spent in isolation, how would you say yours was?
I was one of the people who spent longest time there. The person who stayed there the longest spent about 24 days. But I spent 17 days. It was more than the average length of time patients spend there, which is about one week.
Are there things you plan to put back in place, now that you’re back?
Yes, I missed postings in 2 units in surgery. I have to do those postings. When I wasn’t around, letters were sent to inform them about my having to be absent.
Were there people who also missed postings in your unit due to COVID infection?
I don’t think so.
As one who has experienced the reality of this disease, COVID-19, what words do you have for people out there?
Firstly, COVID is real. Secondly, don’t say it cannot catch me. Mask up. Stay safe. Follow the protocols, although it might not protect you totally, but follow the protocols. It will protect you to an extent. If you get it even after following the protocols, just know that it’s just a bump. It’s a break that might throw off the road. But it won’t if you don’t let it.
Thanks for your time. It was indeed an interesting session with you.
It’s my pleasure.