Beating Covid: Neighbours, friends helped me recover

Friday July 30 2021
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Ms Scovia Taaka. PHOTO/ COURTESY.

By Irene Abalo Otto

In  this series ‘Beating Covid’, we trace victims who caught the virus and overcame it. Daily Monitor talked to Scovia Taaka, who confesses that had it not been for the love and care her neigbours and friends offered her, she would not have easily recovered from the deadly virus.

“I feel okay now after a month and some days. 
I started feeling unwell sometime in May, with a headache, coldness and pain all over my body. I do not know where I got the virus from. At that time, I was doing my internship in Tororo District in order to complete my Certificate in Records and Information Management course.

I did not believe Covid-19 existed so it did not bother me when I saw the signs. I thought it was malaria or something else. After my internship, I requested the CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) to allow me volunteer at the district and he did. But I was not feeling well.

I would come back home at around 5pm feeling very cold. One day, I became so weak all of a sudden. I mixed ginger and garlic and took because I was told the concoction helps. I was scared because I felt some of the Covid symptoms people always talked about, were beginning to show.

I went for a Covid test on June 13. I had become so weak and had difficulty breathing.
I contacted a friend, a laboratory technician at Tororo hospital, who advised me to take hot water and also steam. I did not question him. I just did it. Immediately I steamed myself and took some hot water, I felt some relief and I slept better that night. 

When I was going for the test, I had told my colleagues and they encouraged me to go for it because they had already suspected I could be having the virus.

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I thought they were lying and confidently walked to Tororo hospital. The test was free of charge. The first result was negative but the doctor said they would send another sample to Kampala and I would be given the results after a day.

The results were supposed to come back on a Friday. On Thursday evening, I felt so hot. The headache increased and I became weaker. On Friday evening my lab technician friend called and told me I had Covid-19. I froze. I felt like I was dying. I was lying on my bed. I was alone. The way he told me my results shocked me. He said: ‘Scovia, do you know what, you are positive.’ 

I started arguing with him. I said it could not be. But he told me it was not a matter of arguing and crying.
‘You have to believe you are positive then you can be helped.’ When I heard that, I started crying harder on the phone. He told me to stop crying and asked if I had ginger and garlic in the house. 
‘Tomorrow you start on your medication. Do you have anyone around you?’ he asked. 

I told him I did not have anyone. He asked if I was going to get the medicine, then ended the call. I tried calling him back but he did not answer. His call tortured me and I cried all night. I wondered why he called to tell me I had Covid but then ended the call abruptly. 

I called one of my friends who works with Plan International, Uganda. I told her to find a way to test her child because I had carried and played with her baby the day before. I called my father and told him: ‘Daddy, I’m positive.’ He replied: ‘No, you are not going to die, you are going to live.’ I did not call my mother because I knew my father would tell her.

Early in the morning, I told one of my two neighbours that I had tested positive for Covid-19. She started praying for me and she said: ‘Scovia, you are not going to die.’ We prayed in the compound.

After prayers, she asked: ‘Now what can we do?’  I told her I did not have anything in my house, not even money. She then left and went to town. She came back with erythromycin only. But another friend, Joy, came with ginger, garlic, lemon and many other fruits. She then collected different leaves from avocado, orange, and jack fruit trees and boiled them.

She poured the mixture in a bucket and told me to cover myself over it with a blanket. I felt it was too hot. But after steaming, I felt a little bit relieved. She had already mixed the ginger and garlic with hot water.  She gave it to me three times a day. We then moved around the house doing physical exercises. 

I tried to walk around but I was very weak. She said if I kept lying down and sleeping, the disease would overpower my body. I walked around with a neighbour, Veronica and my friend Joy. When I entered the house, they went back to their homes.

I felt loved and cared for throughout the sickness. People visited me and talked to me from a distance. Even at night, someone would come at around 10pm or 2am and ask: ‘Scovia, are you there? Are you still breathing?’ Of course we would laugh it off whenever I replied: ‘Yes, I am alive.’ They would come to clean my house and cook for me food.

Two days after I received my results, I called the doctor who had prescribed the medication for me to see if I could have someone come home and assess my situation. He told me a health team from the district Covid monitoring team would come to me. I wanted to hear from a health worker because I was treating myself and did not know whether what I was using was safe or not. However, no one came.

I later called my lab technician friend and he told me the health workers were too busy to come and assess me. I continued treating myself, taking erythromycin, Vitamin C and Zinc. 

One day, I felt my body was so hot. I was in the house alone. I was sweating profusely. I walked out of the house to where someone could see me because my voice was faint and no one had heard my call for help.

One of my neighbours, Veronica, was not home. But my other neighbour saw me and came. She did not fear to talk to me or be around me. With this disease, people around you can either make you die or live, depending on how they treat you. If my neighbours and friends had abandoned me, I think I would die. Whenever I saw someone coming to help me but he or she was not wearing a face mask, I would remind them to wear one.

At some point, I became so weak and could no longer talk. I only cried for my baby, who lives away from me.

Luckily for me, my landlady has a car. They put me into her car to the hospital. When we reached the hospital, the doctor said: ‘I know this girl.’  But I could not talk. He immediately gave me an injection. This was at around 11am. I was later told it was a pain killer. That injection brought back my life after a short time. 

Later, the doctor advised me to continue with my treatment from home, given that the hospital was overwhelmed. He prescribed medicine for me but it was the same medication I was already taking from home.
I continued steaming myself as well, at least three times a day.
After the third week, I regained my voice and felt much stronger. I am now fine.

The father of my child had denied me the day I told him I have Covid because he thought that I may infect him. My father said I should forget him and live my life.
I would cry to God for Covid not to kill me because I have a mission to accomplish.

Appeal to government
Government should have a team of mobile counsellors that can visit survivors at their homes and counsel them and reassure them that they are now okay. I called the doctor later to ask whether I could go back for a confirmatory test but he told me that they had been told by the Health ministry that was not necessary. He told me: ‘We believe you are now okay and we don’t want to waste our kits testing you again.’  This leaves one worried because you are not sure of your status.

I still feel some headache occasionally. Some people say a survivor can still have on and off symptoms for more than six months after recovery.  

Lessons learnt 

I learnt that when you are in a community, you should relate well with other people, especially your neighbours. If it were not for my neighbours, I think I would have died. I live in Tororo but I come from Busia. All my relatives are in Busia. I lived with no one else in the house. If I was not friendly to the neighbours, I do not think I would have survived. I thank my neighbours and friends for helping me recover under their care.

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