Saturday, 11 September 2021

UNVACCINATED : COVID NEARLY KILLED ME

 MR Herbert Harmony Mandunya of Victoria Falls almost gave up on life when he was put on oxygen support for nearly three weeks after testing positive for Covid-19.

He is grateful for the emotional support from clinic staff, his family and pastors who helped him conquer and recover from the coronavirus.

Mr Mandunya’s case is one of the success stories at the Zimbabwe Aids Project (ZAP) clinic isolation centre where dozens of Covid-19 patients have been admitted and a majority of them recovered.

“It’s been a month since I was discharged and I have been making progress by each day. In that state one needs emotional support. Support from health staff is critical and people phoning or visiting to see how you are keeping helps beat anxiety.

“I would speak to pastors on the phone. My wife Patience and sister Rejoice would bring food but had no access to me so they took turns to keep me company on the phone and I am grateful,” said Mr Mandunya.

A tour guide operating in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, Mr Mandunya tested positive to Covid-19 in early July. He and his wife developed flu and both went for an antigen test which came out negative.

They bought Vitamin C and D and zinc tablets. He said his wife recovered while his condition deteriorated, with severe headache and high temperature.

Three days later, Mr Mandunya consulted a doctor who recommended that he takes a PRC test which confirmed he had Covid-19.

The couple took its two-year old daughter to Bulawayo as a precautionary measure.

Mr Mandunya went into home isolation but his condition deteriorated as his oxygen saturation had dropped to below 75 percent in two days.

He presented himself at ZAP clinic where he was immediately admitted and put on oxygen support.

“At first I was reluctant to do a PCR test because it costs US$75 but because of my condition I had no choice. I suspected it could be Covid-19 so the results did not shock me. I was actually happy to know my status.

“I looked for stronger antibiotics and went home where I would steam myself and take remedies. I was monitoring my oxygen saturation on the oximeter and after two days I noticed it had dropped from 97 percent to below 80 percent while pulse rate had risen. I decided to go to the isolation centre and they admitted me,” he said.

According to health guidelines, a person’s oxygen saturation should be between 96 and 100 percent and if it falls to below 95 percent, the person is put on oxygen support.

Normal pulse rate ranges between 75 and 100 beats per minute and might fluctuate due to physical exercise, illness, injury or emotion.

Many people present late to health officials when the virus has affected the lungs hence some succumb to Covid-19.

Mr Mandunya said he was having difficulty breathing and felt relieved when they put him on oxygen support.

For him the first week was difficult as he was constantly losing strength.

“When you have low oxygen levels, it causes hypoxia which affects your mind and you start having anxiety, hallucinations and suffer from insomnia. The best remedy was to distract myself by keeping my mind busy on the phone or watching movies on Netflix.

“Even after being discharged I suffered from post-Covid-19 syndrome where I had headache, anxiety, depression and mental fog as I would easily lose memory,” he said.

His pulse rate rose to 145 beats per minute in the first two weeks causing fatigue.

“I had never been hospitalised in that state before, I couldn’t walk or move a limb. It was like I had just completed a marathon race and everyday they would make my bed while I lay there like a dead person. The staff was professional,

I had literally transformed into a baby as they would feed me, bath and clean me but I thank God because life belongs to Him,” he said.

Mr Mandunya’s condition started improving in the third week and health staff began to slowly wean him off oxygen support. He said he was filled with anxiety and fear as he thought he would die without oxygen support.

He started doing light exercises on day 15.

Making a single step or moving a limb was enough exercise for him for a day.

Mr Mandunya’s condition improved on the third week and he was eventually removed from oxygen support, and focus turned to physiotherapy.

The first time he walked for about 10 metres from his bed everyone at the clinic celebrated the huge achievement and relief for his recovery.

A PCR test was done on him on day 21 and it came out negative and he was discharged. His pulse rate was 120 per minute while oxygen was at 90 percent on the day of discharge.

Mr Mandunya had not been vaccinated when he tested positive. He has since gotten one jab after recovery, and according to health guidelines, a person who recovers from Covid-19 is given a single dose as an immune booster.

Pharmacy technician Mr Gideon Makotose who is ZAP Clinic supervisor said they check on Mr Mandunya on a daily basis to monitor his progress.

“There were times when we would discourage him from using the phone because his oxygen level was very low hence, he needed to preserve the little energy to survive as even talking would waste his strength. We thank all staff, nurses and general hands for teamwork. We believe this job is a calling hence we need to be at our best. It’s more emotional when you lose one life and whatever you do you will be praying for the patient,” said Mr Makotose.

“We try by all means to do our best especially making sure we have enough oxygen stocks and being the focal person in the supply chain I would sometimes use my own vehicle to transport oxygen cylinders to make sure stocks were always available.”

He thanked the Victoria Falls Covid-19 taskforce and stakeholders for equipping the 10-bed isolation centre.

ZAP Clinic caters for Covid-19 patients in critical condition and has 8×4 6kg and 4×9 2kg oxygen cylinders, with authorities appealing for more. Currently there are two patients at ZAP.

But how do the frontline workers ensure their own safety?

Mr Makotose said correct and consistent use of personal protective equipment is key, and each time he knocks off, he alerts his family and when he gets home, he heads into the bathroom first to bath before joining the family. Chronicle

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