By Paula Mary Patience (COVID-19 recoveree)
KAMPALA — The wake of 27th March 2020 might have been a typical day for many Ugandans, but not for me. On my part, it was the day that I got tested for COVID-19, and two days later, on the 29th March 2020, I was declared COVID-19 positive. In shock and confusion, all I could do was cry and fear for what would come next.
The tests were taken at a time when I was in quarantine, having just returned from the United Kingdom. I had a terrible cough which started shortly after my return. It was so dreadful that there were days I chose not to talk at all because anything I said would just trigger the cough which would last for some minutes caused so much pain around my stomach, body muscles and chest.
The warning symptoms of COVID-19 that are detectable between 2-14 days after exposure include; a running nose, cough, fever, difficulty in breathing if one develops pneumonia during contraction. I happened to present some of these, hence prompting the COVID-19 test.
Treatment during my quarantine was not the most disturbing matter at the moment, but the psychological and social trauma that was birthed from my current COVID-19 status. If it wasn’t for the encouragement and support from some of the health workers and my family that helped me believe that it will be ok, I might not have made it through.
Nonetheless, the big question remained as to whether I would live to see another day, and if I did, how were my family, friends, and those around me going to receive me when out of the hospital? Will they still want to be associated with me after this? Will I be a danger to my colleagues? What if something goes wrong or I infect them somehow?
All these questions loomed in my mind and troubled me greatly, with many sleepless nights.
After going through a series of treatments over approximately three weeks, on 16th April, 2020, I was discharged from hospital having taken several tests to ensure I had recovered. I went into further isolation for fourteen days to guarantee that I would soon after be officially declared COVID-19 free.
I still had a worry that lingered in my mind; as an individual, how was I to help those around me stay safe? To do this, I could not live where I was staying before this nightmare, and I ended up shifting homes to a new place to live with my sister.
Unfortunately for me, I no longer had access to other friends and family that were dear to me. I was unable to live with two of my housemates and the thought of possibly not seeing them any time soon caused me great distress, anguish and pain because of how close we were.
Many recovered victims from the coronavirus have also faced a similar problem, which has caused some to move into hiding, have suicidal thoughts, abandon their residential homes and move to new places, where, perhaps, nobody has heard about them.
I then ask the question; should this be the case? My simple answer is no! More than ever, those in hospital and those that have recovered alike require psychosocial support from those around them.
Psychosocial support addresses the ongoing psychological and social problems of affected individuals, their partners, families, and even caregivers.
There were days I wanted to give up on life, getting to the point of affecting my spiritual, social, and mental well-being, but only kept hope alive because I was encouraged, reminded to smile and re-assured it was going to be alright.
For COVID-19 victims and recoverees, psychosocial support from their partners, families, and friends can assist in making healthy and informed decisions, coping better with illness, and dealing more effectively with discrimination. It improves the quality of their lives.
Contracting the virus, among other things may result in loss of socioeconomic status, employment, income, friends, to mention but a few. Therefore, training caregivers, health workers, immediate family, and the general public on how to give psychosocial support to the COVID-19 patients and recovered victims needs to be done as a matter of urgency to help provide hope for recovery.
It is about four months now since I was declared COVID-19 free and have had the pleasure to see my family and just a few friends while maintaining physical distance, ensuring we all have our masks on, washing our hands with soap and clean water.
This was made possible for me due to those around me having the right attitude towards me as a recovered victim and has gone a long way to stabilize my spiritual, social and mental state.
Therefore, as a wakeup call to fellow countrymen is to reconsider our attitude towards COVID-19 victims and the way we are receiving the affected people back into our societies.
It is Up to US to ensure the wellness of those around us. Thank you!