Beating Covid: We faced stigma for more than a month

Mr Abraham Ahabwe says he and his family experienced a lot of stigma after his brother and sister-in-law died of Covid-19. PHOTO/ZADOCK AMANYISA

What you need to know:

  • In  this series ‘Beating Covid’, we trace victims who caught the virus and overcame it. Abraham Ahabwe, a a station manager at Mbarara City-based Christian Revival radio, got Covid-19 in June while taking care of his father, who succumbed to the deadly disease. He tells Daily Monitor his story. 

“I really had not felt much pain. I had only experienced fever and a sore throat. I went for testing on June 16 after my father had succumbed to Covid-19 the previous day. 

I had been with him for two weeks and so after his death, I needed to know my status. I tested at Sure Life Medical Centre, a private clinic in Rwebikoona, Mbarara City. 

I was sure I was Covid-19 positive so the results did not shake me. I had already started on Azithromycin to supress the infection.

Most likely, I got the infection from the time I was with my father while he was admitted to Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital. Even then, I was close to him before he was admitted to hospital, weeks before he died. This is because he had been sick and I had to give him medicine, food and words of encouragement. I first tried to double mask and wear gloves, which kept getting torn and I ended up abandoning them. It was an exposed environment. I kind of expected I would get the virus.

I experienced fever and body weakness. I also experienced lower back pains for a long time. It is only later that I developed mild chest pains. 

I honestly never experienced a difficult time during my sickness. It was the grief of losing my father that hurt more. After a month, I also lost my sister-in-law to Covid-19. She had been given false negative results yet she was positive.

We only discovered that she was positive and her lungs had been terribly damaged at the time when everything was getting out of hand. Yes, we believed God had planned it, but it was extremely painful.

Although I had no symptoms, I lived in fear of how the infection would develop and only be detected later when the lungs had already been damaged. Plus, our family spent a lot of money in hospital bills for the two people we lost.

My other brother recovered and was discharged from Mengo Hospital two days after we had buried my father. We spent more than Shs60m.

I used Azithromycin, Ivermectin, Vitamins C and D, and Zinc tablets. I also used Covidex, as well as Jenacoff syrups. They helped a lot. There were other concoctions with ingredients such as garlic, ginger and pepper that I used at home. What has stuck with me is eating raw onions regularly.

I never observed social distancing while with my family. I only took precautions in my interactions with my children. None of them got the infection the entire time. My wife supported me by preparing some of the concoctions. We also prayed intensely together throughout. When I tested again later, the results were negative. I later did a chest x-ray at Doctors Plaza, Mbarara City, and found that my lungs were okay. The pain, however, persisted for two weeks.

Our family experienced extreme stigma, especially where we buried our father in Kiruruma Village, Kashongi, Kiruhura District. All our family friends never showed up for over a month after the burial of our father. 

The local service providers in the area would just flee whenever we would drive into the trading centres looking for tents, chairs and public address equipment to use during the burial. 

Members of the community urged each other to desist from coming to the funeral or even visiting our home long after the burial. Others even said we had been bewitched. 

However, back at my home in Mbarara Town, the community was helpful and I got great support from my employers and neighbours.”

Advice to the public

“Those who have not yet got Covid-19 should go and get vaccinated if they have access to the jabs. Hopefully, it will reduce the chance of hospitalisation once you contract it. 

But they should never fear Covid-19. It is a disease like any other, although there is a lot of stigma around it. They should keep hydrated and where possible, test regularly when the common signs show up. 

For those who are currently ill, we pray for healing. No one should be stigmatised. Keep positive even when you see that others have died. Many have recovered and lived on. 

My lesson from all this is that, there is no pit too deep that the Lord can’t lift you out of. Even in double bereavement as was our case, and a lot of spending, as long as you have life, be positive and take your medication and boost your immunity at every opportunity. The biggest immunity is a stress-free mind.”