Friday, 17 April 2020

CORONAVIRUS PATIENT 1 :MY TORMENT


A Victoria Falls resident who was the first to be diagnosed of Covid-19 in the country has opened up on his endurance during the 32 days he was in self-isolation at his home before fully recovering from the deadly virus.

Patient Number 1, name withheld for ethical reasons, detailed the mental anguish he went through caused mainly by anxiety about the virus that has killed more than 152 000 people worldwide.

He talked about the strain of having limited contact with his family and the constant fear of possibly infecting his wife, son and community. Finally, he told of the immeasurable joy he felt at being told he was fully recovered.

He becomes the second person to recover from Covid-19 from the 24 that have been officially recorded in Zimbabwe. Three have died, two from Harare and one from Bulawayo.

On Thursday, health authorities discharged Patient Number 1 from self-isolation after he tested negative following a second set of tests conducted on him after his initial 21-day quarantine.

The shock he got when he was advised that he was positive for Covid-19 on 20 March, turned into joy as he instantly hugged his wife in celebration soon after being told he had tested negative. 

While expressing concern about spread of fake news about coronavirus on social media, Patient Number 1 said he became friends with Facebook and WhatsApp platforms during his isolation, while also helping his family with household chores to keep himself busy and as a coping mechanism.

He said on Thursday, he quickly shared the good news with family and friends.

Responding to questions sent to him via WhatsApp, the recovered patient said soon after being told he was positive, he started researching about the novel virus while also taking advice from medical officials. 

“I received the news late at night. The baby was sleeping and so I wasn’t able to jump and shout with joy. I waited till the morning. But my first reaction was to tell my wife and we hugged. Then I proceeded to thank the doctors and the Rapid Response Team (RRT). After that I wrote to family and friends to spread the good news.

“Isolation was hard. In total I spent 32 days in isolation. I managed to keep my mind busy which was the most important thing, by doing work where possible, speaking to friends and family through social media as well as reading. I was also doing chores around the house so that was a good diversion from the reality that I had a virus,” he said.

The man said his other source of strength came from the fact that he got into self-isolation when the whole world was also reacting to the Covid-19 and the whole process felt to him like a “unified action.” 

His family had minor flu symptoms but is safe, he said.

“I have recovered and I am feeling 100 percent healthy after being clinically tested while my family is well too. That is the most important thing that they are well,” he said about his wife and little son.

He said he departed Zimbabwe on March 5 going to the United Kingdom to market the country on behalf of a conservation company that he works for and in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Tourism Association.

In the UK he went to areas North of England and moved around until he got to London, meeting travel agents to talk about Zimbabwe’s tourism.

He was screened together with other passengers on his return on March 15.

“It is very important to note that before undertaking the trip, we had checked with the UK and travel advisories and it was deemed safe to travel. I would not have travelled if there was a threat of contracting the virus.

“I was screened upon my return to Zimbabwe at the Victoria Falls International Airport. I was not having a temperature though, so it was impossible to detect. I cannot recall if I was screened at OR Tambo as I was in transit to and from the UK,” he said.

Patient Number 1, who is 37 years old and was born in Harare, said he suffered minimal discrimination as he urged people to research and understand about the disease. 

“Sadly, to an extent yes. We had many tourists visiting who may have not been tested as the pandemic hadn’t hit the world yet. They could easily have unwillingly brought it to Zimbabwe and by no means do I believe I was the first to enter with the virus, rather the first to be tested.

“This is by no means anyone’s fault. We had no idea what was happening and how fast it could spread. Many people have not researched or understood how easily it can spread and being the first official case that was discovered, some uneducated people were very upset thinking I was the only one to possibly have it. This is where I am extremely grateful that I self-isolated from the word go and was not able to affect others by going shopping or playing sport and attending work,” he narrated.

Patient Number 1 said he developed flu-like symptoms two days after arriving home and immediately contacted his doctor who advised that he be tested.

He said he felt he had a civic duty to voluntarily get tested since he had just returned from a country which had recorded some cases.

The patient said he advised all his domestic staff to go on paid leave during his isolation and he remained with his wife and child.

“To be honest, my symptoms had been mild and I thought I just had a common flu so the results being positive were a bit of a shock. However, based on everything I had researched, my age, my fortunate health and support around me from family, community and medical professionals, I was always confident of beating it. 

“Remember, no one deliberately catches the virus and no one deliberately spreads it but it can happen so fast. I was disciplined to stay at home, not going to work, sports or shops where I would have unwittingly spread it.

“This happened at a time the virus was hitting the news widely and so it was easier to make a decision on self-isolation. Isolation was necessary and so my social life will take a back seat. Facebook and WhatsApp became my social life!

“It was just me and my family. We are strong as a family and we help each other. It is likely that I passed it to my wife and child. However, I was fortunate to be young and healthy enough and so were they. We only had minor symptoms. I was always in contact with the doctors in Victoria Falls and they monitored us from a distance and did an amazing job. Our symptoms fortunately did not need a hospital and it was safer for me to remain isolated at home so as to not risk infecting others. I am happy to say all three of us are well and I am recovered,” Patient Number 1 said.

He paid tribute to his employers for allowing him to stay at home and isolate and the support rendered by his workmates as well as medical staff, Emergency Response Team and everyone that handled him from the airport until his last day of isolation, saying they deserve “10 out of 10.”

Patient Number 1 urged the world to unite in the fight against the virus and flatten the curve to restore normalcy.

He urged people to desist from spreading fake news about coronavirus. Chronicle

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