“On June 9, I travelled from Lira to Kampala. On the trip, I sensed that the person on the seat in front of me on the bus was coughing quite a lot. Sitting next to someone who is coughing that much throughout a five to six-hour trip means there is a possibility of you contracting an airborne disease. So I believe I got the infection from him.
A few days later, I started experiencing symptoms that prompted me to go and test for Covid-19. I started coughing that same evening. The cough was persistent the next day and I also got a running nose. I also began to develop a high fever. By day two, I believe I had lost some weight.
I was in the doctor’s room when I was given the test results. When I was told I had Covid, I could not get up from the chair. I lost all the energy and yet I had walked into the room by myself. I had to lie down to rest for some time before I could move outside to a waiting car.
At first, I was put on azithromycin and zinc. There was panadol for the fever, Ibuprofen for the pain and prednisolone to deal with the blockage in the nose and the chest.
I was also given Dexa. I took these doses for five days but I wasn’t getting any better. However, on day five, things got really bad. I started struggling to breathe. That was the moment I sensed death coming so close. They opened the doors and the windows of the room I was in but I still could not breathe well. I remember calling my father in the village and telling him, ‘Please, organise the home; I don’t think I will make it.’
We tried to call different hospitals that we thought could have oxygen but could not find one. I felt depressed, thinking I was going to die from home.
Later, someone called my brother and told him to get me Covidex [herbal drug used as a supportive treatment for Covid-19]. We had not heard about this drug. We didn’t even know what it looked like. So he ran fast to a pharmacy and got it and instructed me to administer six drops into my throat directly. I was desperate and was willing to use anything that I was given to relieve the pain.
I, therefore, did as instructed. However, I vomited immediately after. I started to worry. Why vomit immediately? I was told to repeat the process. I did so and after about 30 minutes, I started feeling like the cough that had made my chest heavy was now less. My chest also felt a bit lighter. Even my breathing improved.
Feeling some relief, I decided to monitor how the medicine worked until the next day. The following day, I administered another dose and that night, I slept peacefully.
The next day, I felt better. I still had the cough, but it was not as irritating as before. So I believe it was Covidex that worked well for me. I am not saying the other medicines didn’t work, but Covidex worked because I saw its impact immediately.
I got a lot of support, including financially. But the support that I think worked best was the emotional support. My family accepted that I had Covid-19, and immediately embarked on how best to help me cope with the illness.
In many families, people do not even want to get anywhere close to a Covid-19 patient, regardless of the social distancing guideline. But my family devised means on how to safely enter my room. Every time anyone entered my room, they had to put on two face masks. We also had a sanitiser at the door of my isolation room. So those who entered my room had to sanitise on their way in and out, and remove the mask and dispose of it immediately they went out. For me, this was a compassionate way of dealing with the problem because they didn’t stay away. They were there for me.
I did not face that much stigma, but it was there. For example, the children had to be told that their mummy was sick so they were not supposed to come to my room. But sometimes when they played football near my room and the ball hit my window or wall, I would hear them say, ‘There is corona in this ball.” I would feel bad whenever I heard them say the ball has coronavirus even when it did not enter my room.
Then there was a boda boda man, whom we often sent to the market to get us items. One time, he was sent to the market to bring me food. He found me seated at the door. I was sunbathing. He asked me, ‘I do not see you every day, but they are always sending me to bring for you things. Do you have corona?’
With that question, I felt depressed. I kind of broke down. I felt tears rolling down my face and he left.
But generally, the stigma was not that much. My neighbours did not get to know that I was sick because we live in fenced off houses with gates.
It took me 12 days to recover fully. I did not do any test to confirm if I was negative, but my doctor asked whether I was feeling well. He told me a confirmatory test did not matter as long as I felt well. Besides, I didn’t have any means of transport to get to the hospital for another test.
To those who have not got the virus, please protect yourself, Covid-19 is real and it is very painful. Wear your face mask, and sanitise. If there is nothing important you’re going to do in a public place, please stay home. I got infected on a bus, I wished I had even stayed home.
To those who are suffering from the disease, you can fight it, especially if you do not have underlying diseases. You have to be positive that you are going to get better. The moment you start thinking you are going to die, you’re calling for depression, and psychological torture to a body that is already fighting.
So don’t give your body too much of a burden, give it positive energy to fight. Take your recommended drugs. Don’t refuse to eat. I lost energy because I wasn’t eating well.
Very importantly, if you know you are sick, please protect others. Covid-19 is something that is airborne. I have heard of Covid-19 patients who leave home as long as they have a little energy and go to town. When you do this, you are exposing others to the risk of infection. Stay home, let whatever you want be brought to you in your isolation room.
Let the people around you know that you’re infected so that they know how to protect themselves. When you don’t tell them, they will be moving around you freely and at the end of the day, we will not be fighting to bring down the cases. We will instead be increasing them.
The biggest lesson I learnt is that we can’t rely on our health system. When you are struggling to breathe, you are at a critical point and could easily die. When I was struggling to breathe, we called about seven hospitals but they didn’t have oxygen. I then asked myself, ‘What has happened to our taxes? Covid-19 did not come yesterday. It came last year in February, but the government has not yet concentrated on finding a solution?’ I am not saying they have not done anything but I think they have not concentrated on refurbishing our hospitals to meet the overwhelming cases that are coming up.
I also realised that most government facilities had begun to charge for oxygen cylinders and most people were dying because they couldn’t afford to pay for them.
I learnt that at some point, you have to be on your own, you can’t over-rely on people.
Another lesson I learnt was that there are those foods that we are always advised not to consume and yet we defy and eat them. There are those things that the doctor will tell you, you shouldn’t eat too much of, such as oily foods, very sweet things unless they are natural juices, and others. I am always defiant when it comes to certain types of food because I love them.
But when I got sick, I saw the consequences of eating them because my body had a lot of fats and it was challenging for me to fight the virus.