“My name is Fred Kasozi and I am the executive director at Responsive Approaches for Community Advancement (RACA), a non-governmental organisation. I am also the education and sports minister in the Kooki cultural institution, Rakai District.
It was a Monday morning on November 30, 2020, as I drove from The Aids Support Organisation (TASO) offices in Kampala to Rakai, that I started feeling body weakness; it felt like I had developed malaria. I did not worry as I thought it was fatigue due to the long journey.
I became weaker when I reached Lweera on Kampala-Masaka road and so I decided to make a stopover at Lukaya Town. This time round, instead of grabbing a piece of roasted chicken like I used to do, I simply bought some painkillers, Panadol, in particular and swallowed some to relieve the pain and weakness in my body.
I had to rest for about 10 minutes as I took some water so that the medicine could work before I drove off again. At around 5pm while in Masaka, I called some health workers at Rakai General Hospital and explained to them my situation. The doctors advised me to quickly go to the hospital for testing before going home.
I had previously tested twice and the doctors took the samples from my nose; the results were negative. This time round, after I got to Rakai and went to Rakai General Hospital for another test, I opted for a sample from the mouth and it was taken to Entebbe.
The doctors advised me to go into self-isolation while at home and my place of work as I waited for the results.
As time went by, I felt weaker but had to encourage myself and get to my work place. I urged my workmates to distance themselves from me as I had developed rare signs and symptoms.
On Wednesday, I was advised to take some tablets by one of the doctors at Rakai General Hospital to relieve the pain. I later went to Masaka City where we had planned a retreat as “Obwa Kamuswaga bwa Kooki” at Garden Courts Hotel on Thursday.
I went ahead to warn the Kooki ministers and all the other people who attempted to come close to me to stay away because of my situation.
On Thursday night, I started to have a severe cough and also developed flu, which I hadn’t had before. This worried me. I had been advised to take oranges, lemon, tangawuzi [ginger] and hot water, which I did frequently.
As the night went on, I got worse and I started to cough blood. My body just kept weakening. I called a friend, Mr Stephen Ssemutono, the Rakai District inspector of schools, who directed me to Ssanyu medical facility on Bukakata road in Masaka City, where he said he had just been treated and cured from the same illness.
On Friday morning, I couldn’t wait for an ambulance and instead requested my fellow minister, Mr Dickson Ssebyala, who bravely drove me straight to the health centre where I had been directed to go. I luckily found Dr Micheal Mukiibi who received me well.
It’s at this point that the Rakai doctors revealed to me that I had tested positive for Covid-19. I found difficulty on my first day at the health facility because the doctor would spend some hours without coming to the room yet I was coughing a lot and with blood.
I assume that the doctors in Rakai got the results earlier but tried to find a simpler way of giving me the information. My wife, Ms Justine Kasozi (Nalongo), had already received the news of my positive test and where I was. She quickly came to the facility and started giving me the necessary care I wanted.
Justine’s presence gave me courage because I had thought she would fear delivering the necessary service.
As soon as I arrived at the health centre in Masaka, I was put on oxygen support for about an hour.
The next morning, I started using herbs as directed by Mr Ssemutono who had recovered from the virus; this was through steaming and drinking warm water mixed with lemon, garlic and ginger. I used to do the steaming at least three times a day and I would take about two litres of the warm water that I had mixed with the above ingredients.
Friends would come but they feared getting close to me and I couldn’t blame them for that.
By this time, I had lost appetite and could not eat food anymore. I survived on just one teaspoon of milk for the first four days of my treatment at Ssanyu Medical Facility. I could neither smell nor taste anything.
After some days, my wife developed signs and symptoms of coronavirus, which worried me very much. However, because she started using the herbs and concoctions early as well as eating fruits, she did not develop severe symptoms.
I also got information that two of my children at home had tested positive for the virus, which scared me more. The children were aged 15 and three, and were put on medication though the three-year-old girl, Nakato, did not at any time show signs of being weak.
At this point, I almost wrote a will but had to stand firm as a man and focus on fighting the virus. I love my twins but surprisingly I couldn’t speak to them even when I was given a phone because my voice was very low and I would feel pain whenever I tried to speak.
What worried me most during my time of illness was that several people succumbed to Covid-19, which made me feel I wouldn’t survive as well. These included the medical superintendent of Rakai Hospital, Dr Yasin Kiyemba, and the Kyotera Woman MP, Robinah Ssentongo, along with her husband, among others.
I asked myself, ‘If a doctor and MP can die with the care they get, how can a mere Kasozi survive?’ One thing that helped was that friends and family members really supported me. They contributed some money, which was used to buy basics while at the facility. Herbs and fruits were also brought in plenty. I realised later that the friends and relatives who came to visit me from a distance and urged me to fight are some of the reasons I stayed alive.
Dr Kiyemba and Ssentongo should have been allowed the chance to see their friends and relatives even if it meant seeing them from a distance; they would have got the courage to fight the disease.
Using the herbal medication and the treatment the doctors gave, I managed to test negative after 13 days.
Though I had not healed fully, I decided to leave the hospital so that the rest of the feeding could be done at home. I also wanted to avoid having high bills from the hospital and also to give hope to my friends and family members who had become afraid about my illness.
I experienced some stigma while on my sick bed when friends came to visit me but could hardly come to me. They would instead pray and talk to me from a distance. I also faced it rough at the work place when I returned. The workmates at the district headquarters would no longer interact with me unless I was about three metres away from them.
I would also hardly buy the home basic needs because news had spread everywhere and people would run away whenever I got close to them. It was only when people got used and realised I must have healed that things normalised.
I advise anyone who goes to hospital as the next of kin to a Covid-19 patient, to always be around the sick person to give him comfort. At times, doctors become too busy to perform the simplest duties due to the various assignments they could be having. The relatives of patients should also boil herbs from different tree species to create warmth for the sick person, follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and also take as many fruits as possible. The patients should also avoid receiving calls while on the sick bed.
I used around Shs2m for the treatment and all other expenses in the 13 days I spent at the facility until I recovered.”