A DAUNTING JOURNEY WITH COVID-19, a survivor's story

Dr. Romano Byaruhanga, Obs & Gynae Specialist

Like a creeping thief in the night, it finally knocked at my door, unannounced, un-welcomed.

Three hundred and one days since it was declared a pandemic, SAR-Cov-2 (COVID- 19) arrived.

Dread it, run from it, COVID-19 can arrive at your doorstep.

On a Tuesday evening of October 27th, as I headed home, I noticed that I developed a husky cough. Later in the night, I spiked a high temperature, headache, and generalized myalgia.

The next day, a physician colleague examined me. He was not convinced; thought I was being too cautious. Down went two nasopharyngeal tests.

Oh! Regarding the test, it feels terrible, in case you have not yet taken it.

I immediately went into isolation.

Twenty-four hours later, the worst was confirmed. I was positive.

My journey began and all the doubts and uncertainties prevailed. I browsed again the current evidence of care and statistics. Thirty-four years as a medical doctor and later, a specialist, I was cognizant of the challenges of Uganda’s healthcare system.

In which category would I fall?

How would my immunological system react?

What host factors determine response to the virus?

A lot of unknowns in the pathophysiology!

Would I be in the 81% of the asymptomatic, those with mild illness (fever, cough, sore throat, malaise, headache, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of taste and smell but who do not have shortness of breath, dyspnea, or abnormal chest imaging); the 14 % of those requiring admission; the 5 % who get severe illness (individuals who have SpO2 <94% on room air at sea level, respiratory frequency >30 breaths per minute, or lung infiltrates >50%), or those needing critical care (respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or multiple organ dysfunction)?

In the next 4 days, I experienced fever, cough, myalgia, body aches, loss of taste and smell. Sweating, a feeling of warmness and heat in the feet were part of the symptoms. The fever and cough subsided by the 5th Day. The fatigue, the body aches, anosmia, and cold sweat dragged on for an extra two days.

With a thermometer and a pulse oximeter by my side, I monitored myself daily. I was commenced on azithromycin (500mgs) daily, vitamin C (100mgs) daily, zinc (20 mgs) daily. Added N-Acetyl cysteine and vitamin D 20,000 IU oral, taken as a stat dose.

I meditated, I prayed, said a Novena to St Jude. Read novels, cleared academic work for master students, did regular exercises and watched a movie or two. Got encouragement and support from my immediate family, relatives, and close friends. Constantly monitored by physicians. Lost 5 kgs (11 lbs). Subsequently, repeated the test on November 11th and the outcome was negative. A new lease on life. Hoping that the long-term morbidities do not occur.

As Frontline healthcare workers, we took the Hippocratic oath with its four main ethical principles (maleficence, beneficence, confidentiality, justice). However, the ability for many to adhere to these principles are at risk without the necessary PPE, masks, shields, equipment to care for those critically ill.

The numbers have increased in different health facilities from Health Center II to Hospital level. Health workers as well, are being infected, some have died.

We need to avoid despair and burnout within the healthcare system. It is about to be overwhelmed.

Community transmission has led to the increase in numbers each day.

We are all at RISK.

Health begins at home and each person must take more precautions to avoid unnecessary exposure or unhealthy behavior.

Next time, you go out into the public, PLEASE WEAR A MASK properly, avoid public gathering, crowded areas, enclosed spaces.  Keep the distance. Super spreaders are likely to be found in densely populated areas, ceremonies-political rallies, in poorly ventilated shops, markets, at funerals, and other social gathering. (The pandemic is the new norm. Therefore, we need to change the way we do things, Editor)

Wash handsHand sanitize Remember COVID-19 is real.Social distancingWear mask

It is in the community.

It respects no one.

It can stealthily infect you.

Stay Safe.

Always wear a mask, avoid crowds, social distance and sanitize.

An edited version of the original posted on WhatsApp.