Beating Covid: Beinomugisha feared to reveal his status to friends

Monday July 26 2021
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Frederick Beinomugisha, data officer at Mildmay Uganda. PHOTO/COURTESY

By Felix Ainebyoona

In  this series  dubbed ‘Beating Covid,’ we trace victims who caught the virus and overcame it. Felix Ainebyoona shares the story of Fredrick Beinomugisha, a data officer, who only told his friends after his condition deteriorated.

“I am Frederick Beinomugisha,  from Bunyaruguru in Rubirizi District. I am a health management information system (HMIS) data officer at Mildmay Uganda, a non-governmental organisation, in Wakiso District.

My workmate, whom I am most exposed to, got ill and first sought medical care from private clinics, probably treating something that he did not know. This has been another loophole in the process of treating Covid-19. Most people are busy treating other assumed illnesses and later realise that they need to test for Covid-19 when it is already late. My workmate later tested and got positive results and notified me.

I remember I had already had some signs of flu and cough, which were not severe, but I did not think they were related to Covid-19. After my workmate revealed about his status, I approached a health worker, who is my friend, and we did a Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) late in May. Unsurprisingly I also returned positive Covid-19 results.

I was already psychologically prepared and I did not fear that much in the beginning since I had been notified early by my friend.

Like most people, I decided to keep my status a secret - though I now want to construe and dissuade this habit. The society is growing in dread because people are not revealing their Covid-19 status subsequent to testing with positive results, and it is only when things get bad and they are admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) that people get to know. 

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However, the numbers of mild and home manageable cases are so many. This should be give us hope rather than the stories we hear from ICU.

After getting my results and medication, I isolated myself at home, but I was reluctant to start the treatment (Azithromycin, Zinc, Dexamethasone and Vitamin C) that was recommended to me by the health worker. I was steaming, drinking hot water, avoiding cold food, minding my diet and using herbal concoctions until severe signs showed up.

I then suddenly felt general body weakness, with pain in every joint. I got the most intense headache and my body temperature rose so high that it felt as though I was about to boil. I got pain in my eyes and felt too tired to open them. At that point is when I consciously came to the fact that I had tested positive for Covid-19.

Opening up
I lost appetite and sleep. During the night, it would feel like the whole house was congested. The air seemed used up. I did not want to touch myself anywhere because when I touched any body part, it felt like it was burning.

I forced myself up and ordered for Azithromycin, Zinc, Dexamethasone and Vitamin C as earlier prescribed. Every other day I felt weaker and more signs developed. This is the period I believed that death was close. My fear multiplied and I started to think that maybe the medication was not working. 

So I opened up to some friends. I ended up listening to them and trying whatever they told me. In the end I am not sure what really worked.

Family in the dark
At this intense stage, I did not inform my family since I was staying alone and I feared scaring them. I also wanted to avoid the stress from numerous phone calls of people checking on me.

However, I encourage opening up and sharing because it is the beginning stage of healing, it minimises fear and reduces stress. For example, there was a time when I had completely lost taste. I would chew fresh ginger and not feel anything.

I tried frying an egg and when I tasted it, it was no better than chewing a piece of paper. I felt dead until I called my friend who assured me that she passed through the same stage and I was on the path to healing. Sharing comforts you because when I later informed my grandmother, she checked on me almost hourly over the phone. I felt relieved and loved and got a reason to fight on.

Whenever I put a chair outside to bask in the morning sun while coughing and sneezing, I would hear my neighbours whisper, “Corona Corona.” I felt rejected and isolated. Sometimes neighbours’ children came wanting to hug me. They were eventually closed indoors. This caused me trauma though I am happy that I did not become a source of infection for other people.

After three and a half weeks of painfully fighting Covid-19, I went to Namulonge Health Centre III in Nansana Municipality ,Wakiso District, where I tested negative. I regained my taste and appetite, returned to normal breathing and became lively again.

Protection is key
The most important message and advice I can give to people is that coronavirus heals. We just need mental strength to deal with the fear and despair, and to monitor and manage ourselves. For those who have not yet contacted the virus, the most important remedy is to protect yourself, and keep a positive attitude that will prepare your mind to defeat this virus in case you get infected. 

For those currently ill, most especially those who are monitoring themselves at home, I encourage you to open up and share what you are going through with those also treating the virus and those who have defeated Covid-19. Amidst this pandemic, fear and despondency have been the most severe effects of Covid-19. This fear has dismantled our mental preparedness to monitor and manage this scourge. 

There is, therefore, an urgent need to open up and share among ourselves about the disease, especially those who have managed to defeat it. By doing so, we shall show the society that Covid-19 heals, though painfully. But remember, it also kills.

I have learnt that life can end in a second. Humanity costs nothing and the last hours of life are filled with regrets as to why you did not do enough good things. And the job before us now is to continue sensitising our people, especially in the rural communities, share experiences of treating and recovering and spread information while we demystify wrong beliefs and correct false information. And we should continue to pray.

What experts say
Scientists have advised members of the public to go for Covid-19 testing as soon as they start experiencing symptoms so as to enable early diagnosis. Dr Mukuzi Muhereza, the secretary general of Uganda Medical Association (UMA), said early testing enables early treatment and better outcomes.

According to the Ministry of Health, late presentation to hospitals for treatment is linked to the rising Covid-19 death toll. However, there have been cases where Covid-19 patients may falsely test negative. In his last Covid-19 update to the country, President Museveni said: “For example, the individual may have taken the test and the virus is no longer in the nose or throat, but the virus is in other parts of the body or it has already started the “body panic crisis,” which in some cases may lead to death.”

According to Dr Misaki Wayengera, the head of the government scientific advisory committee on Covid-19, such cases are referred to as presumptive or probable Covid-19. Dr Wayengera said many presumptive cases have been registered in the country but the person will present symptoms that the doctor can use to still make a diagnosis of Covid-19. The best time for one to go for the Covid-19 test is between the sixth and the eighth day, according to Dr Wayengera.

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