Beating Covid: I used hospital isolation to reflect on my life - Lyomoki

Wednesday July 28 2021
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Workers MP Sam Lyomoki. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY

By Taaka Wandera

In the series dubbed ‘Beating Covid,’ we trace victims who caught the virus and overcame it. Former Workers MP Sam Lyomoki, who is currently the secretary general of the Central Organisation of Free Trade Unions in Uganda, was diagnosed with Covid-19 on May 22. 

“To this day, I cannot tell how I contracted the virus. I was following and observing all the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to the dot, especially given that I am medical doctor. 

That is why it was such a shock to me. Also, two weeks before I was diagnosed with the virus, I had tested negative during the mandatory testing before going to State House to represent the workers on Labour Day. 

But two weeks later, I started experiencing what I thought were malaria symptoms. I had a headache, severe body pain, nausea and loss of appetite. I then asked my wife to get me some malaria medication. But by the second day, I could hardly move out of my bed. 

My symptoms did not reduce. I was getting worse each passing day. After about four days, I also developed a severe cough along with chest pain. At this point, the possibility of it being Covid-19 crept through my mind. But my wife reassured me and told me it could not be malaria. 

Admitted to HDU
However, a day later, I collapsed in the night. My family frantically rushed me to a private hospital, where they did the test and it was positive. This was around 4am in the morning of May 22. The doctors also carried out a CT scan, which indicated that my lungs were damaged. 

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By this time, I was experiencing difficulty in breathing. We were then advised to go to Mulago hospital, so that I could be put on oxygen in the high dependency unit (HDU).  

The first day in IDU, isolated from my family, was quite frightening for me. It was tough because I had never reached that level in my life. We were about 16 people in HDU, and I could see that patients were on different levels of oxygen. 
Some people were coughing while others were groaning in pain. The doctors and nurses attending to us were all in full suits. I was afraid but I had to compose myself and face the reality.  

What encouraged me the most at this point was my faith in God. Also being a medical doctor, I knew exactly what the doctors were doing, and I could see that they were doing a very good job. So I put my condition in God’s hands. My family was praying for me too. I was confident that I would pull out of it, but if I didn’t pull out of it, I was also confident, that it would be God’s will. 

Besides being put on oxygen, the doctors prescribed some painkillers, antibiotics, anti-quadrants, vitamin c and zinc supplements, and steroids. All the treatment was free at Mulago; we only paid in instances where some of the medication had run out. I did not pay for accommodation either.  Within two days, I had, gained some strength and was feeling way better. I was even able to speak on the phone. 

However, when I decided to respond to a few messages via WhatsApp, I was very discouraged. A government official, who had also been checked into Mulago, had succumbed to Covid-19, and the story was everywhere on WhatsApp. 
Stories of those succumbing to Covid-19 were all over social media. That is when I took a personal decision to go off WhatsApp. 

As if that was not enough, two days later, one of the nurses came in and asked me if I had heard about the attempted assassination of Gen Katumba Wamala. 

This really hit me because he is a good friend of mine. What came to my mind then was how challenging life is, because while I was there battling with Covid-19 thinking it is the biggest problem, bad people were trying to hunt down my friend. 

It became clear to me that life is by the grace of God and he is the one that determines how long we live. I decided then that I was going to use this period to connect with God in isolation. 

Five days later, no longer in need of oxygen, I was transferred to another facility within Mulago, where I received treatment in isolation. 

Creating a positive environment
I actually remember encouraging and preaching to my fellow patients every morning, when I was still in HDU, because I could see some were really panicking. 

I prayed for those who wanted to be prayed for as well. I told them that God was in control, and that from a medical doctor’s perspective, our doctors and nurses were doing their best. I even told them that the government was also doing its level best in terms of providing drugs and food for us. When you are in HDU, you have those that have just come in and are in critical condition, and those that are in the process of recovering. 

So I felt that it was our responsibility to encourage those that had come in weak and scared, to give them hope.  

I decided to look at that time positively, so instead of saying that I was sick, on treatment, I looked at it as a retreat for prayer, an opportunity God had given me to reflect upon my life. By the time I left, I had really fellowshipped with God. You know with Covid-19, if one does not make it, it is really so unfortunate. However if you recover, you obtain an additional immunity.

My family also played a very big role. Initially, my wife would bring me food, but I realised it was not necessary as I didn’t want to put her at risk. 

Also, the food we were given was good; it was a balanced diet, at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The medical personnel in Mulago treated me with so much compassion and I was really humbled by their passion and humanity. For the time I was there, I was able to disprove the prejudice that people have against Mulago hospital. 

It was like I was home, and I thank them for that because I do not think I would have got that kind of treatment anywhere else.  

After about 14 days, I was discharged, having tested negative for Covid-19. 

Advice
We should all try to handle Covid-19 with a positive mindset. This goes for both the patients and their families. Have faith in God, for instance, if you are in isolation, do not despair; stress can make the situation worse. 

You can use the time to pray, or reflect upon your life.  It is important to have some time to yourself, moments of productive solitude. In whatever situation we engage in, it is always important to look at it from a positive point of view. During that period, I got a chance to plan and reflect on so many things that I  had put on hold due to life’s busy schedule.

Secondly, have faith in the health system. I have seen people who decide to administer self-treatment, because they fear hospitals, and that’s where the problem comes in.  If you suspect that you have Covid-19, go for a test and then seek guidance from a medical professional. Even if you are isolating from home, you need supervision from medical personnel. 
Lastly, Covid-19 is a disease that anyone can catch; it is not a condition that calls for stigma. 

Even when I  thought I was safe, I still contracted the virus. The best thing you can do for someone sick is to encourage them. To protect yourself, observe all the SOPs and get vaccinated.  

Common symptoms of Covid
According to Ministry of Health, the commonest symptoms of Covid-19 range from fever, dry cough, tiredness to flu, aches and pains, sore throat, headache, loss of taste or smell, difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath and chest pain.

Drop in cases
Over the past five weeks since President Museveni announced a lockdown to contain the surging Covid-19 cases, the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 has been dropping.

Ministry of Health officials have attributed this drop in figures to a number of initiatives that have been put in place, including the public vigilance to report cases to authorities.

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