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  • Writer's pictureLilian Chiwera

A healthcare professional’s COVID-19 experience

After a hard 3 weeks of isolation, a breath of fresh air! COVID-19 symptoms are hard to bear not just medically, physically but mentally. It was one fine Sunday, I felt so well during the day that I was in a mood for cooking all day. But as I prepared myself to go to bed, I felt the sudden body chills. I thought it was just the night temperature going down so I wore my jumper. After an hour, I felt uncomfortable as I felt like my whole body was being roasted. The high temperature carried on for 24 hours, I took paracetamol and wondered if fake or expired as the temperature did not go down, so I took it round the clock.

I had fever for 12 days, a box of paracetamol was not enough as I had to consume another box. Fever came along with severe headaches, muscle and joint pains. On the third day, I started having diarrhoea. Dry cough was getting worse but breathing was not compromised. I was coughing like a barking dog.

I had my scheduled swab on the 4th day but on the 6th day the result came back negative via email. I began to doubt everything as my temperature was 38.5⁰C when I woke up early in the morning. I kept myself in isolation as my body was not feeling right. I felt blessed that I was alive on my birthday but hoped a cake and noodles should make it special but I had no appetite. On the 8th day, I called my doctor and was told to continue isolation and started on oral antibiotics. It may not work – I was warned! I cried after speaking to the doctor during a phone consultation, fever can last for weeks!

Temperature was above 38⁰C even with regular paracetamol. The night was an unforgettable traumatic incident. Ambulance crew came in as I felt dizzy with shortness of breath but unfortunately the saturation probe/device was broken. A third crew came in after an hour but I felt settled after I passed out. Good thing I landed on the bed when I collapsed. They were caring and stayed with me. I was examined and reassured to best stay and rest at home rather than taken to the hospital. The antibiotic gave me horrible stomach upset. After a few minutes/hours after eating I was back in the toilet, sometimes with explosions. This gave me bloating, cramps, greenish acidic stools and frequent breaking of the wind.

Staying in the four corners of a room can be boring and tiring, wishing and praying that the agony ends soon. I kept myself positive with the help of loved ones, friends and relatives. My manager was supportive and encouraged me to rest and recover. Forced to eat to nourish and hydrate myself to help bring down the temperature. Ginger tea is good and 5 a day of fruits and vegetables.

Watching or reading negative or sad news does not help when you’re unwell. Comic books and movies were good diversions plus cooking, gardening and travel shows kept myself learning and having something to look forward to. After being stuck in my room for several weeks, I went out for a walk on the 20th day. I felt good but after a few minutes, I started to feel breathless and exhausted. It may take some time for me to regain my full strength. I felt like I lost weight. The war is not over yet, I have to get myself composed again to get back to the war. The anxiety remains but this is my calling, a vocation with the full personal protective equipment (PPE).

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