The Stigma, Struggle And Survival Of COVID-19: Confession From A Survivor

The Stigma, Struggle And Survival Of COVID-19: Confession From A Survivor



By Nellie Nakitende Mukiibi

When Uganda registered its first case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in March, extreme measures were taken to deter the spread of this deadly pandemic.

Six  months down the road, the country is still grappling with the pandemic, losing both prominent and common Ugandans, among them medical personnel, politicians, army officers, to mention but a few.

One of the reporters at happened to be a victim of this virus and so she tells the story of the stigma, the struggle, the fight and survival at one of the country’s isolation centres for COVID-19 patients.

Medics at Mulago Hospital disinfecting others

Here below is her touching ordeal in the face of death;

“On the eve of November 2nd, 2020 at about 8:00Am, I walked into International Medical Centre seeking medication for flu, cough and a sore throat that had stubbornly refused to heal for about 2 weeks. I presented my medical card and swiftly went in to see the general doctor.

In this room, the doctor took note of my symptoms even before I could explain my dilemma to him. He excused himself, without a word and 5 minutes later came back with two female nurses who kept their distance and directed me to a room where I was to spend two days.

In my mind, I couldn’t get what exactly was happening at this point. A man, whom I later came to know as the security guard, sprayed where I was seated and followed me till my room to just make sure he sanitized wherever I set my foot.

Testing For COVID-19 And Isolation 

Two hours later, a team from Ministry Of Health came to my room, I was subjected to nose and throat swabs. I dreaded these but here I was glued to a seat, going through one of my worst nightmares. They left shortly after. It was at this point that all my fears were affirmed, I was testing for COVID-19.

In that room, I prayed day and night for my tests to turn out negative.  My next pair of visitors was a team that had come to transfer me from my comfort zone to a different location that I was yet to establish.

A doctor at Mulago Referral Hospital attending to a COVID-19 patient

My room was sanitized, my shoes, my clothes, the bed I had slept on for the past two days, the floor and everything that I had laid my hands on. We didn’t even use the entrance as an exit; we used the fire emergency because in the eyes of these officials I was a deadly weapon to humanity. Inside the Ambulance, none said a word to me. We set off, as the sirens wailed; my mind was in a haze. Why me?  I remembered my colleagues I had been with in a meeting just a few days ago, I had to update them for their safety and for those they interacted with.

We arrived at Mulago National Referral Hospital, the reality had now set in and I was slowly accepting my fate. I was sanitized from head to toe and my belongings. I was taken to a ward that would later be my home for the next 14 days. The faces, the smiles, the energy, the chatter all seemed like vanity.  I settled into my small bed, my neighbor, a lady in her 30s briefed me about the daily routine and what to expect.

Her kind and soothing words brought peace and calm to my already distressed mind. Sleep seemed to get me unawares. I woke to the sound of a beeping machine next to where I lay. The lady who warmly settled me in was fighting for her life, she was later transferred to the Intensive Care Unit, fear gripped me and my entire life flushed before my eyes. Three hours later, she was pronounced dead. We gathered held hands and affirmed that that wouldn’t be our fate and told ourselves that we would leave the hospital alive and kicking.

Apart from the Vitamin C and E administered by  medics, water is an essential need while in quarantine. We were to take approximately 1.5 litres on a daily basis and sit under the morning sun for about 45minutes. A few individuals had rapid tests and claimed they are being held for nothing as the tests showed that they were negative. On how these rapid tests access the isolation wards, who brings them, how much they cost and how effective they are in testing COVID-19, keep visiting to catch this exclusive in another tale.


A Ray Of Hope For Patients

On a daily basis, three ladies all draped in protective gear came to make sure they sprayed all our belongings, shoes, bedside drawers just to make sure the virus doesn’t spread or the patients getting re-infected. The garbage cans took three to four days for them to be fully emptied; at times it took complaints from us all that something should be done about the garbage.

The wards turned to entertainment places for some few ladies who danced and sang for those of us who seemed to have lost hope. This  to some was a comforting ray of hope, while others didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

There isn’t any known medicine  that was given to us at the ward, other than eating fruits and foods that strengthen your immunity. For those of us who went into the red hour, huge cotton bundles were made available but who uses cotton in an era of affordable sanitary towels and in a hospital such as Mulago? All these little things that are overlooked actually mean a lot to the ladies held up in the isolation wards.

The doctors and nurses who are spending close to a year without seeing their families, always hang around the balconies deep in thought, wondering when this pandemic will go and they too have a chance to reunite with their families.

The days and nights passed on with the same intense atmosphere and in a span of two weeks the hospital lost about 13 people to COVID-19.


Watch Out For Your Dear Life

My dear friends, colleagues and fellow Ugandans, if you haven’t had a chance to get locked up in these isolation wards, wash your hands with soap and water, sanitize always, avoid hugs, handshakes, and always wear your mask.

On the eve of my departure, the ladies gathered around my bed, said a prayer for me and congratulated me for making it back alive. I left a piece of my heart in the female isolation ward at Mulago National Referral hospital. As I write this down my heart bleeds for all those who lost their loved ones to COVID-19, those on life support and those still undergoing treatment at the hospital.

Covid-19 has just started holding its grip in Uganda like never before. Keep safe!”

According to the Ministry of Health, Uganda has so far registered 150 COVID-19 deaths out of 16,257 cumulative  total infections and 8,170 recoveries.

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