How recovery looks like for many Covid survivors

Self-isolation can present varying levels of worry and panic depending on ones’ support systems and social networks. Some patients take more time than others to get back to their normal lives. Daily Monitor’s Irene Abalo speaks to some people who contracted the disease. 

Esther Nabwire,  medical doctor

For Ms Esther Nabwire, a medical doctor, when she lost the sense of smell after contracting Covid-19, she drank a lot of fluids including oral rehydration salts (ORS), which she would mix herself in her isolation room at home.

“But I was lucky I could taste. And for someone without sense of smell, my appetite was ridiculously high. I wanted to eat whatever I set my eyes on. Luckily enough, I could access whatever I craved for,” Ms Nabwire tweeted on Monday. 

After taking all manner of concoctions plus prescribed medication by the doctors, she regained her sense of smell. 

“Day 11 is when I started to see hope; when I cut an onion and picked the smell of it,” Ms Nabwire added.
As a medical doctor, she advises that whereas the mental health burden for one suffering from Covid-19 can be overwhelming, care should be taken to ensure that they eat well, stay active by taking a walk, sunbathe for Vitamin D, hydrate and pray. 

She also advises that Covid-19 patients who are dealing with the stress and anxiety should be open about their diagnosis, saying isolation can be dangerous. 

Michael Wakabi, media consultant

When Mr Michael Wakabi, a media consultant, tested positive for coronavirus last year, he stayed at home while on treatment. He says he is lucky to have a big house where a section of it was left to him to avoid spreading the infection to other family members.
To stay strong, Mr Wakabi says, he had to remain in good spirits. 

From November 29, 2020 to December 22, 2020, two days to Christmas, Mr Wakabi found solace in friends and family that offered him all the necessary moral support. This, he says, stopped him from worrying about his health condition.

In the same vein, Mr Wakabi remained active on social media, posting on Facebook and tweeting, and joining in WhatsApp group discussions.

Side effects
His family members encouraged him to feed well to overcome the severe weight loss he suffered. 

“The weight loss was so severe that even the gums could no longer fit around my teeth. If I tried to drink water, it went straight into the nerve endings of the teeth. I also had to look for quick solutions to that. Lucky enough, somebody advised me to use Sensodyne; then later I got Oral B, which worked for me,” Mr Wakabi recounts.

He adds that the journey to recovery has been a long one and he is yet to get back to normal. 
“In my case, I have not fully recovered. My memory is still very poor. For instance, I can find people whose faces I recognise but it is strange to admit that I cannot recall their names,” Mr Wakabi says. 

“Sometimes it is just strange looking for something that you are holding in your hand; that kind of poor coordination. As a writer, I used to write a lot. It now takes me several hours just to write 500 words. But I am encouraged because they tell me recovery is gradual,” he adds.

Mr Wakabi also says he is equally on a good diet and values every meal time. Before he contracted Covid-19, he would eat once a day. “Had I been eating well, maybe I would not have collapsed,” he says. His neighbours  only got to know he had Covid when he returned to work. 

“The neighbours only learnt that I was sick when I came out of my gate and began cautioning them about the disease because the way we live in these gated communities in your wall fence, what goes on in there is pretty much private,” he says.

Mr Wakabi adds that some Covid-19 patients worry too much, which then reduces their immune system. He says from his experience, people are affected differently by the disease and they recover at varying levels.

“I have seen patients, especially men who are worried about their manhood, that they may not be able to function. Maybe if one had erectile dysfunction, it could be more pronounced than others but if they were functioning, I do not think there is any permanent damage to manhood due to Covid-19,” Mr Wakabi says.

He adds that he does not blame the people who socially discriminate him.
“They are seeing other people dying, including very rich ones. They usually do not want to take the risk. So patients also need to be careful not to take offence from the way others react to them. It is a natural reaction that others want to preserve themselves from danger. When you talk about stigma yes, but it is understandable,” Mr Wakabi says.

Patience Ahimbisibwe,  journalist

Ms Patience Ahimbisibwe, a journalist, always exercised caution during her work to avoid contracting the virus.
But when she felt some symptoms, she went into self-isolation even before test results came. This, she says, was to keep her family from possible infection.

Four days later, her test results confirmed that she was positive. 

Ms Ahimbisibwe commends her husband for standing with her throughout what she describes as a trying moment.
But six months since recovering from the virus, she says she still gets asthma-like attacks, especially during extreme cold weather.

But Ms Ahimbisibwe says she has been able to manage it by taking a mixture of concoctions and prescribed medication. She says she hopes to attain full recovery. 

In her quest to save her children and three other household members, she always wears two masks and maintains a clean home.
“Now, I put on two masks. My colleagues make fun of me when they see me putting on two masks but for me, I know why. What if I had not taken precaution at first, I could have been worst or even infected my family,” Ms Ahimbisibwe says.

Her family has also allocated a big part of their budget towards buying fruits and good feeding. This to her will ensue that they have a balanced diet and boost their immunity.

Experts speak

Dr Moses Muwanga, the director of Entebbe Grade B Hospital, said yesterday that those who recover from Covid-19 can only get better if they are supported by the social networks and systems around them. Dr Muwanga said whereas recoveries are gradual among patients, care after recovery is an emerging issue that most families did not prepare for. 
He added that at a time when the health sector is stretched due to the high cases, mental health should be jointly addressed by stakeholders so that patients who recover do not suffer from low self-esteem due to stigma.

Dr Rosemary Byanyima, the deputy director of Mulago National Referral Hospital, in an earlier interview said the Covid-19 after-effects are caused by psychological issues or actual damages to the body that may take time to wane. “If the lungs get inflamed, it may heal but leave scars and that may leave a long term effect,” she said.

A study published in MedRxiv, a preprint medical journal, in January by Sandra Lopez-Leon from the United States of America, said “more than 50 long-term effects of Covid-19” have been reported globally.

The study which assessed data of 47,910, “the five most common symptoms were fatigue (58 per cent), headache (44 per cent), attention disorder (27 per cent), hair loss (25 per cent), and dyspnea (24 per cent).”

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