What you need to know:
In the new series ‘Beating Covid,’ we trace victims who caught the virus and overcame it. Zadock Amanyisa shares the story of Ms Bonnie Tukundane, who at first did not consider the discomfort in her body to be symptoms of Covid-19 until things got worse on the third day.
“I am Bonnie Tukundane and I work in the qualifications standards department at the Directorate of Industrial Training, which is under the Ministry of Education and Sports.
It was on Martyrs Day 2021 when I felt so fatigued and I lost all my energy. I happened to be in Jinja where I was stationed for work. Shortly after, I got severe diarrhoea, a mild headache, flu, and a congested chest.
On the second day, I developed a cough and my eyes hurt. I also lost my appetite and finally lost senses of taste and smell completely. On Saturday, June 5, I went to Grace Laboratories to test for Covid-19, and the results came out positive. But I wanted to be very sure, so on Monday, I went to Jinja Regional Referral Hospital. The results were also positive. Once I was sure, I had to leave to isolate and get treatment and to recover, so I went home to Kampala.
Not surprised by results
I was not surprised by the results at all really because I already suspected it was Covid-19. Going for testing was intended to get a confirmation. I had previously carried out different tests in which infections, malaria and typhoid were ruled out. This time, the symptoms I was experiencing confirmed to me that this was Covid-19.
In all honesty, I could pinpoint the source of the infection. I had been living my life as usual. Maybe I met someone I didn’t usually come across. I really had no idea how this virus got into my body.
Not being able to breathe well was the most challenging experience. The chest was heavy and I felt like my ribs were pressing in and suffocating me. The nose was blocked and breathing through the mouth irritated me even more. So I had to cough from the depth of my stomach and it wasn’t easy because sometimes I would cough and I would cry due to much pain. I would also find it hard to turn in bed.
As all this happened, I kept thinking about how to get through and see the next day. I vividly remember day three when I had the worst diarrhoea; I also had my period around this time. All this came with a painful and running stomach, bad cramps, and a heavy flow, yet I had no energy. I remember bursting into tears and the only thing that kept coming out of my mouth in whispers was “Mama”. It was such a painful day.
During this time, I would hear of people passing on due to Covid and I would get a bit afraid, but I would at the same time get courage to win the war.
So I dealt with the disease using all kinds of help. I practiced a lot of steaming, which I found more helpful in relieving the pain. I combined the leaves of guava, mango, orange, mint, marijuana and the Jamaican blue vervain herb. I boiled them, put them in a basin, and covered myself in for about 10 minutes. I did this twice a day without fail. I also made a concoction of garlic, ginger, salt, lemon and honey, but because I have ulcers, I took them for only two days to avoid making the ulcers worse.
I made sure that I rested enough and took a lot of warm water. I also avoided any processed food and sugars. I would have an egg meal a day and take my medicine religiously. The medicines included azithromycin, Vitamin C, prednisone, Zinc and ibuprofen.
On a daily basis, I would steam, take some breakfast and medicine, rest, do exercises, take warm water and have some fruits, steam again, take medicine and rest. This was done for 14 days. I would also take marijuana and mint tea. Every endeavour worked for me.
Support meant a lot
My brother provided all the herbs and required daily updates as a must, so I had to deliver improvement reports every day. I had isolated myself in some part of the house and my sister took a close watch on my life during that time. She would come to my room wearing a mask. She sanitised everything to the extent of almost sanitising the food. She has been an angel during this whole time.
Also during this time, I was with my phone all day and night so as to keep in touch with my friends. They were with me online, encouraging me, praying with me, sending memes, calling and texting. They sent financial and psychological support. Knowing and believing that these human beings were interceding for me meant a lot. My whole family led by my mother was there for me, telling me that I would be victorious and get back on my feet again soon.
I am thankful that I did not experience a lot of stigma because when I got the illness, I went straight away into isolation. I noticed that some people still think Covid-19 is a joke. Others did not believe I was sick yet I had been telling them that I was going through the treatment process. They kept asking if it was real. Some would send those funny WhatsApp stickers. I don’t know if they didn’t believe or just did not care. It is after I had shared my experience on social media that most friends realised I was serious and they made comments such as: “Oh my God, you were serious all along?” I was amazed that they had not believed it all this time.
If you have not got Covid-19 yet, take care because it is not easy. Mask up or triple mask, if you have to. Sanitise regularly and follow all the SOPs because your life actually depends on it. If you are battling the disease, my prayers and hugs go out to you. You are a hero. Steam, take that medication and don’t give up. I know how that fever and flu can mean to be irritating but fight, pray and you will get through this. All will be well. I made it, you will make it too.
The biggest lesson I want to share is that just because it has not happened to you does not mean it is not real. Losing a loved one is the hardest thing anyone can go through and I must apologise to my family and friends for putting them through the constant fear and worry about my health. I also believed this would be my testimony. Nowadays, I put on my face mask, and carry my sanitiser with pride. If anyone is still doubting, trust me, you don’t want to encounter that virus.”
What experts say
Experts say steaming does very little to ease congestion in the upper pathway but not the lungs, and cannot kill the virus.
Dr Misaki Wayengera, a virologist and the head of the Ministerial Scientific Advisory Committee on Covid-19, had earlier told this newspaper the main benefit of steam inhalation in managing the virus is in clearing congestion in the airway, a common symptom, but added that with no scientific backing, they don’t recommend the practice.
Dr Potiano Kaleebu, the director of Uganda Virus Reseaerch Institute, said: “Scientifically, it is very difficult to steam out the virus. If it is outside, using very high temperature, that can kill a virus but you cannot use that steam in a person, you would kill all the cells. This normal steam has no effect on the virus.
Dr Jane Nakibuuka, a consultant physician at Mulago National Referral Hospital, warns that the dangers far outweigh the perceived benefits. When you steam, you inhale the vapourised water, it will reach all the areas along the pathway, it may injure all the other exposed areas in the nose, the mouth, the mucus membranes, the throat, depending on how close one is to the source of the steam,” Dr Nakibuuka says.