Mr Ivan Amalai is a 48-year-old who works as a businessman within Pallisa Town Council in Pallisa District. Mr Amalai says he knew his job put him at the risk of contracting Covid-19. He, therefore, complied with all the standard operating procedures (SOPs) put in place by authorities. However, he was not spared.
“On a Wednesday morning, May 23, I was at work and my body didn’t feel right. So, I went back home. I had lost appetite for everything. Later that night, my temperature would rise and fall. I would feel cold in one minute and then get extremely hot. I knew that was fever. So the next day, I was taken to Pallisa main hospital where my samples were taken to test for Covid-19,” he says.
Looking back, Mr Amalai says opting to go for a Covid-19 test could be one of the hardest things he has had to do in his life as he knew what to expect but was still in denial. His worry was mostly about his family (his wife Betty Takalai Amalai and their five children).
“This was a disease that had already killed many Ugandans and millions globally. I got scared. The queue of those testing made me more anxious and also the test itself is very uncomfortable,” Mr Amalai recalls.
Two days later, at 4pm, the results came back positive for Covid-19 from Tororo,” Mr Amalai narrates.
He had been growing weaker by the day, but when he received the results, he felt his life was coming to an end. His wife broke down and he had to start counselling her immediately. Soon, a doctor, Dr Florence Akello arrived and said I would be taken to Mbale Regional Referral Hospital, but without an attendant. He did not want that though.
“I had to convince the doctor that I could be treated from home since my compound was extremely large. The health team from the district came and inspected my home and allowed me to start getting treatment from there,” Mr Amalai shares.
“Later, the doctors advised me to go into self–isolation while at home. I did so. I urged business colleagues to distance themselves from me by not visiting my home. As the days went by, I started to feel even weaker, but I had to encourage myself.
“On Thursday May 27, health workers who could occasionally visit me advised me to continue taking lots of fruits to relieve the pain. At around this time, I started to have a severe cough and also developed a flu. This worried me, I had been advised to take oranges, lemon, tangawuzi [ginger] and hot water, which I frequently did,” he says. But it felt like he was not getting any better.
“As the night wore on, I got worse and started to cough severely and my body just kept weakening. I called a friend, Mr Moses Okurut, who came and began to provide counselling, telling me that I would recover and that I would be okay. He advised to me to remain strong and encouraged me to observe and implement what the health workers had instructed me to do. So I kept doing that,” he narrates.
Mr Amalai said while in isolation, several people came up with different explanations and solutions on what to do, but he stuck to what the health workers had instructed him to do.
“If I had deviated from the health workers’ advice, I would be dead by now. It’s by the grace of God that I am still around and give hope to those who are in a similar situation that they can recover so long as they observe the instructions carefully,” he says.
Along with the medication he got from the hospital, Mr Amalai steamed using pawpaw, mango, cassava, pumpkin, avocado and lemon leaves.
Isolation was difficult
Dealing with the disease in isolation was extremely challenging for him but he had to endure in order to survive. Despite being alone and frightened, health authorities constantly reached out to him for support and counselling. Initially, Mr Amalai says he switched off his phones because he feared to tell his loved ones, customers and neighbours that he has tested positive. He felt if he alerted them, it would throw them into panic. But that could not last forever.
“At a later stage, I had to inform my friends in Tororo, who often called on me to find out how I was progressing. Even then, I felt abandoned, but I don’t regret this, it was done to avoid the further spread of the disease,” Mr Amalai stresses.
Getting items was also difficult as he was not moving out of home.
“I couldn’t get groceries or anything that I wanted. I had to opt for online deliveries which would take a long time to reach me. I resorted to ordering for foodstuffs in bulk so that I didn’t have to do it every day,” he says.
Being in the room alone worried him a lot, especially at night when his temperature would get so high and he had no one to ask for help since he was in a separate room from his wife.
“I was so lonely. Even though people wanted to be there, they couldn’t. I face-timed with my friends more than usual. My lifestyle changed. I spent my days sleeping and watching TV,” he shares of his time spent in the bedroom.
Finally, Mr Amalai started getting better. The symptoms reduced, and he had energy to move around the compound, but he didn’t do so because of the stigma around him.
“Every time I would move out, I would hear someone “talking” and this forced me to stay indoors until I was sure that I had recovered,” he says, and he finally got completely well.
Mr Amalai now advises: “If you test positive, first, stay home, drink a lot of ginger, lemon and electrolytes. Rest, give the body what it wants at all times, and don’t force it. Drink a lot of water and wear a facemask when you cannot avoid being around people.”
He says those seeking to visit hospital need to move with a family member who can always be around the sick person to help them. “At times, health workers become too busy to perform the simplest tasks due to the various assignments or engagements they could be having .The relatives of the patients should also boil herbs from different tree leaves,” he says.
According to Dr Godfrey Mulekwa the District Health Officer for Pallisa District, as of June 23, the statistics for the district stand as follows: Deaths are six, those receiving home-based care are 160, cumulative total is 204 and those who had recovered are 56. Among them are 17 health workers.
Dr Grace Nambatya Kyeyune, director of research, Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Laboratory, last week told Daily Monitor that there is need to orient ourselves on dealing with Covid-19 cases at home.
One of the plausible ways to beat the virus is through steaming. “Even without any drugs or herbs, the steam will disorganise the organism,” she said.
According to Dr Mohammed Kizza of Tawam Clinic, Kawempe steaming reduces inflammation in the respiratory tract, increases air flow and enhances the immune system.
“Covid-19 causes inflammation of blood vessels in the nasal passages as well as irritation. With steaming, this reduces thus less discomfort for the patient,” Dr Kizza said.