I’m asthmatic and I’ve been for almost all my life. I think by now I have pretty much mastered the art of knowing when a flare-up needs hospital management or if I just puff away on my inhaler and live another day.
So on Saturday night when I couldn’t breathe and my inhaler wasn’t working it’s usual magic, I knew I had to go to the hospital.
I never paid much attention to the fact that I was vomiting because, of course, I’d been coughing quite aggressively, so it was to be expected.
The diarrhoea, I just attributed to something I ate. It was not important in that moment. I just needed to breathe. I’m not going to focus on the fact that my two driver’s licence-holding flatmates know that I’m asthmatic and know how bad it can get and could have driven me to the nearest hospital.
A male friend who stays at the same flat is asthmatic too and knows the struggle.
Neither am I going to focus on how a female neighbour kept making conversation when I was clearly in respiratory distress. No. That’s not the focus of this piece.
On that fateful night she prepared tea with honey trying to give some homemade remedy for me.
My situation got worse that night and I had to call my boss to notify him about my situation.Sensing danger, he then sent the driver to come and take me to hospital.
For an hour that I waited for the driver to come my condition got worse.
Upon arrival at the hospital I was told to wait in a tent outside, with the clinic staff asking me to put on a face mask, I complied because I wanted the doctor to tell me the next procedure.
The doctor kept me waiting for almost an hour in cold before telling me that they could not help me because I had exhibited Covid-19 symptoms.
They told me to get tested first, bring the results and then get attention or we could try another facility.
My situation was getting worse and I asked to go to the next facility where I met the same scenario.
I tried some facilities and there was no joy until my boss’s driver asked me to pray.
Though the night was hell, I thank God that I saw the sun on Monday.
I started looking for a nebuliser known by many as humidifier because I had noticed that when I did the steaming with my face over a bucket, my lungs loved it. So, I figured with a humidifier or nebuliser I should be fine.
I got the shock of my life when my female neighbour on the same flat I stay asked me to call the doctor who had conducted the tests early in the morning.
Hell broke loose when she said “Hanzi waita positive”, that is when I pressed the panic button.
Was I not supposed to be told by the physician? Was there no gentler way of breaking it to me? By the way, I’m still struggling to breathe on my own so you can imagine what this news does to my respiratory system.
I went into full panic mode and I remember thinking that this is it, 2020 is the year I die. Remember, no one really knows much about this novel virus but what we do know is if you get it and you can’t breathe, then you’re dying.
Moments later I picked up my phone calling the doctor and he confirmed the result and without any delay he sent me a prescription as well as the results.
That was my last conversation with him as he made himself unavailable for all the time that I was battling the novel virus.
I had to use Google to find some remedies as well as getting some knowledge about the virus.
At that moment everyone at the flat went into panic mode with some sending me messages of the dos and don’ts to avoid the spreading of the pandemic.
Empty the trash each time you use it, wear your mask even indoors, don’t come downstairs when we are downstairs, don’t touch what we touch. Let’s just make sure it’s clear that I can barely lift my head.
I was vomiting non-stop and for the past two days I had not been eating anything.
I was getting weak and very sick.
Our focus is on how as a nation we’re not ready for Covid-19. After that doctor told me I’d tested positive, he pretty much left me to die. I was not told what to expect, what to do.
If any of the symptoms I had were to be expected, I was just told you’ve tested positive for Covid-19 so there. No one told me that it’s not a death sentence. That I could come out of this victorious albeit with a few bruises and scratches. Because who goes to war and comes out looking pretty? I also want to talk about how the flatties felt it was okay to tell everyone that I had tested positive for Covid-19. Given how they’d reacted to me being sick, I wasn’t ready to share it with the rest of the world. Besides, it’s my life, my decision, but that was taken away from me.
I want to talk about how people are dying from Covid-19 not because it kills, but because as a nation we’re not ready for it. I’m grateful that I have friends who came through for me with a humidifier and with food and helped me with the necessities like filling out my prescription. What of those who don’t have such privileges? What of those who have friends and family who’re like my flatties who think that just by extending a basic kindness like putting food by the door, it will jeopardise them? Most of the medicine wasn’t cheap, what of those who cannot afford it? This is why people are dying. Because as a country we have misplaced our priorities and lost focus of what’s important. How is it okay to keep a patient in respiratory distress in the cold for long and still not render medical assistance because they don’t have a test result? As doctors, should not the first priority be to treat, then ask questions later? This is why people are dying. Because after we’ve told them they have the virus we’re not telling them what to expect. How it’s going to get worse before it gets better. How some days you’ll wish for death, but you’ll pull through. How just when you think you’re better you get hit by a fever and such pain in your body, but that’s okay because tomorrow you’ll feel better again.
Something has got to give. Our healthcare system needs to change. I was able to beat the virus on my own. Imagine how much better it would be if we actually had healthcare professionals chipping in? It’s not that we cannot. It’s because we do not want. How many more people have to die before the suits wake up and realise how bad the situation is?
l The identity of the author is protected for professional reasons.