Negative result did not mean I was fine – Nicholas Nduhuura

Thursday July 29 2021
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Nicolas Nduhuura. PHOTO/COURTESY

By Zadock Amanyisa

In the series dubbed ‘Beating Covid,’ we trace victims who caught the virus and overcame it. Despite having a number of signs and symptoms of Covid-19, Nicholas Nduhuura, a civil engineer in Kampala, originally tested negative for the pandemic. He shared his experiencewith Daily Monitor. 

“Around May 20, I developed flu, cough and my chest felt heavy. I tested for Covid-19 at Case Clinic, Kampala and the results were negative. So I started treating cough and flu as I have always done. 

I thought the medication would suppress them but my health kept deteriorating and I was generally weak. This was very unusual.  

Constant medication and antibiotics saw the flu disappear, but the cough persisted for more than a week. Sometimes the cough would become severe and I would start struggling to breathe. 

The situation got me more worried because my chest felt so heavy and my body was weak. I decided to seek better medical attention.

My family took me to Namirembe Hospital Mukono, where I was first put on oxygen for the whole night. The medics at Namirembe referred me to Nsambya hospital the following day.

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At Nsambya, the doctors used a computer tomography scan to detect Covid infection since there was high clinical suspicion of the disease. 

Covid positive
The CT scan indicated that my lungs had already been damaged by Covid though I had tested negative. My previous negative results did not guarantee that I did not have Covid-19.  So they preferred to administer appropriate care to relieve and treat the infection.

I was treated with Remdesivir and Ulinastin injections, Vitamin C and D tablets, Dexamethasone, Azithromycin, paracetamol and zinc. Some of these medicines had side effects like drowsiness that have affected me up to now.
After knowing that I had Covid, I played it cool because I knew I was not going to die. I took Covid like any other disease despite its strength. 

So, I tried as much as I could to remain calm and avoid negative emotions.

To me, suffering from Covid was not the end of life. Available information indicates that many people are losing lives because of fear.

I suspect I was infected at the office because my neighbour fell sick and passed on. I don’t know whether there was something that I shared with him.

While at the hospital, I was so weak. I spent about Shs14 million in a period of five days. For example, buying just a small bottle of medicine would cost more than Shs1.6 million. 

I think the least expensive drug I purchased cost about Shs400,000. I had to buy many of these on a daily basis and it was not easy. It was an amount I could not have afforded on my own. So my family had to look for the money to save my life.

During that time, I could not eat because I had no appetite. I would try to sleep but I could not even close my eyes. What was more worrying was that I saw people pass on. Seeing my neighbours die and being wheeled outside was such a bad experience that would come with a lot of fear and anxiety, but I remained strong.

I got care and financial support from my family. They were also very afraid because of the situation I was in. 
But they helped and were responsible for bringing me food and providing necessary support. 

I actually did not experience any form of stigma because I was not neglected. Seeing people giving all they had to care for me filled my heart with relief. At least, I was not alone in this. 

I finally tested negative on June 15. Because my condition was acute, recovery has taken long. I still have side effects, mainly chest pain.

Do not neglect symptoms
Those who test negative for Covid but show signs and symptoms of the disease should not wait, but immediately begin on Covid treatment as soon as they can to avoid getting worse. 

Waiting for positive results when you already have the symptoms makes the situation get out of hand like what happened to me.
In my case, after testing for Covid-19 and getting negative results, I relaxed hoping that this was a simple cough and flu but what followed was not good and I only got relief after I sought medical attention at Nsambya.

Those who get positive results should remain strong and believe in complete recovery.

Always save for a rainy day
I have learnt that in life, you need to save money so that it can help you when such a disease hits. If you don’t have money, you can even die. 

Sometimes when you are already in the hospital, the doctors keep prescribing drugs and if you don’t have money to buy those expensive drugs, you are in danger because the doctors treat you with what you have given them. 
I was sick for about a month. My recovery was facilitated by my supportive family and positive attitude.

Fact
Negative test results

According to the Ministry of Health, cases where Covid-19 patients may falsely test negative, are referred to as presumptive or probable Covid-19.

Early this month, Dr Monica Musenero, the minister in-charge of Science, Technology and Innovation in the Office of the President, said in such scenarios, the test turns out to be negative but the virus may continue to make the person sick and even cause death.

In his last Covid-19 update to the country, President Museveni said: “For example, the individual may have taken the test and the virus is no longer in the nose or throat, but the virus is in other parts of the body or it has already started the “body panic crisis,” which in some cases may lead to death.”

Dr Wayengera said many presumptive cases have been registered in the country but the person will present symptoms that the doctor can use to still make a diagnosis of Covid-19.

Asked whether this is caused by late testing, Dr Wayengera said: “It is just the sensitivity of the test. All tests have level of sensitivity. There is window period, the test is not sensitive enough to pick the virus because the virus has not built up in the body.”

He added: “That’s why government decided to give free tests for those with symptoms. We don’t do that blindly, the sensitivity is highest when people have started to develop symptoms.”

The best time for one to go for the Covid-19 test is between the sixth and the eighth day when the symptoms start, according to Dr Wayengera.

On what one should do in case of a presumptive test, experts said, it depends on how serious the disease is.  If an individual is sick, health workers use symptoms and other laboratory tests suggestive of Covid-19, or use chest x-ray and scans, which show a typical picture consistent with the virus.

“This false negative can be difficult to deal with since doctors are not sure whether to put the patient on a Covid ward or not. Covid wards have sometimes amenities other wards may not have such as various levels of oxygen supply and more intensive care facilities,” Dr Musenero said.

She added: “It is now left to the discretion of the attending physician to decide what is best for the patient.”

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