The ordeal of battling Covid-19 -- a survivor’s experience

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Sharon Kavhu

Windhoek - While striving to breathe at her hospital bed, she watched people being wheeled out from the wards in body bags.

Her daily prayer while battling Covid-19 in that hospital was for God to keep her alive.

“It was awful seeing patients next to my bed dying of this virus. We lived not knowing who was going to be next in the body bag. It was scary. However, I am grateful to God for being alive,” said Nicoleen Nyambiya, one of the hundreds of thousands of people that have recovered from the Covid-19 worldwide.

She is a 34-year-old Zimbabwean based in the United Kingdom (UK) where at least 29 Zimbabweans have died due to the pandemic.

Last week, The Southern Times had an opportunity to interview her when she was discharged from the hospital after recovering.

The 34-year old mother of one was abiding by the restrictions and measures that were put in place in the UK. She only moved from her house to work and at times to the supermarket to buy some food and other essentials.

Nyambiya had to work because she is part of the essential workers in health care industry. At her work place, she also practised caution, but the virus still made its way into her body.

“It all began on 31 March 31 at the end of my shift where I started feeling feverish. By then, I just thought it was nothing, and hoped that if I go home and take a quick shower it would go away before I returned back to work since I was on duty that night,” she said.

“I had my shower peacefully but as I got out I started having a cough that was continuous. It got worse that I had to cancel my shift, I developed a severe fever and my whole body was aching. That is when my partner called 111 and I was taken to one of the hospitals straight away. My temperature was about 39 degrees Celsius. It felt like an elephant sat on my chest and I was so out of breath, it was hard to breathe.”

She said the doctor who attended to her at that point only prescribed amoxicillin antibiotics and paracetamol before sending her back home.

Although she experienced signs and symptoms of the virus, the doctor told her that there were no Covid-19 test kits at the hospital.

“He told me that the hospital had no beds to admit more patients and that if I was indeed positive of Covid-19, I was fit to fight it,” she said.

The hospital was only taking the vulnerable and Nyambiya was told that she would not fit in the vulnerable criteria. She was told that the hospital had a limited capacity and as such in her terrible state, she was still sent back home.

 “At home, as from 1 April which was my first day on medication, I was taking the medication as prescribed by the doctor. However, the desperation of the pain also made me try out various things I had seen online such as lemon, ginger infusions, and onions, among other various concoctions. The pain was too much for me to handle,” narrated Nyambiya.

As days went by, she started feeling better and she thought the battle was over. However, it was actually the beginning of a major blow.

“It went from better to worse, half the time I could not breathe, my body aches worsened. I developed a severe sore throat, my body was shaking, migraines and coughing worsened that I could not even talk. By day 10, my partner who was in self-isolation with me and our 12-year old daughter and had been looking after me, noticed that my breathing had worsened. I was passing out and they called 111 again,” she said.

Soon after the call, the paramedics came to her house and took her to a hospital where she was put on a ventilator.

It was at this point that she was tested for Covid-19 and the results came out positive. Her pulse was extremely low and she was passing out.

“In that state, I could not eat or take medication, so they administered medication and fluids in my body through IVs. They also took a CT scan on me and discovered that my liver had been badly damaged. I was told that the damage could have been avoided if I had been admitted the first time I showed up at the hospital,” she said.

She was in hospital for two weeks. During that time, she witnessed a lot of people dying in that hospital.

The fact that there were patients in the hospital who were given special medical attention but still died of the virus made Nyambiya to rely on God for her survival.

“I struggled to talk, so most of the time I was just quiet, observing and praying in my heart to God for healing. The doctors offered me an antiviral drug for 10 days which was administered through IVs. I got better slowly each day. On day 20, I started breathing independently, so they took me off the ventilator,” she said.

She said the antiviral drug was not given to everyone, it was only just a selected few and she still doesn’t understand why.

“The anti-viral drug seemed effective and it pains me to note that it was not given to everyone, because I strongly feel that many lives would have been saved by that drug.”

Nyambiya was discharged on her 23rd day (23 April). Although she was discharged, she told The Southern Times that she is still weak to do things on her own.

“I am home recovering and I still need help in doing everything. My lungs are damaged and I am now taking blood thinners because I have clots in both lungs. My husband and daughter have always been supportive throughout this phase, there was a time where my husband would bath and dress me, it was not easy,” she said.

Although Nyambiya still stayed in the same house with her husband and daughter before being admitted in hospital, they were not severely affected by the virus.

Her husband only had a few mild symptoms of a flu and her daughter never showed any symptoms.

 

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