I survived COVID-19 and I am happy to tell the story. By the time you read the last paragraph of this article, you will have learned how to beat COVID-19 and stop being scared by it. But first, a bit about my background for context.
When you spend a lot of your early life with grandparents, you learn a great deal about so many things. Being a World War II veteran, Grandpa Atanansi Komunjara, was a living encyclopaedia of knowledge. Every night, after prayers, he spoke to me to sleep.
Initially, he slept alone in a room. As years went by, he invited me to sleep in his room, just next to his wooden raised bed. I had a mobile bed, which I laid in a way to his bed. To reach grandpa’s bed, you had to first jump or go through me. The war-affected grandpa a lot that one of his favourite lines was, “fwa norwana omukikaro kyokukukwata. Ekisa kyomunyanzigwa kiri kitaito, atamwesiga”, meaning “better die fighting than be captured. You cannot expect mercy from your enemy. Never trust the enemy.”
I grew knowing to never allow myself to be taken as a prisoner of war at any cost. You put your life in the hands of the enemy. And it can only get worse. When you hear something several times you start believing it.
With hindsight, my approach to life and business is a result of the need to remain free and independent from any form of captivity. I attained several professional qualifications to be independent of the captivity of the employer. I did not want to stick to a job for lack of a transfer price, but rather for the job’s passion and love, which means I am in charge and not the employer. Everyone needs such freedom. When Coronavirus was declared a global pandemic, and seeing news of so much death globally, we focused on prevention. I did not want to be a captive of this virus, COVID19.
When the government first announced the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown in March 2020, I quickly convened a meeting with my team at Summit Consulting Ltd for a virtual working strategy. By some luck, we had been phasing out the purchase of desktops in favour of laptops for our staff. All we had to do was fast track our online platform for strategy execution and performance management tracking. Since our focus is always outcomes and results, we opted for a system that did not track inputs (clocking in and out) but rather outcomes and KPIs (performance tracking). Only staff failing to hit their set monthly targets were required to submit detailed timesheets.
From March 2020 to date, I worked from home. And whenever, any one of us stepped out, we were very careful in observing standard operating procedures, SOPs. Since I was not one of the essential workers specified for vaccination, I decided to wait.
Fast forward to June 2021
The second wave of the Coronavirus lockdown affected Form two’s, and Primary one to three, more adversely, as they lost the entire year. After the candidate classes, senior twos returned to school around 31st May 2021. However, that weekend it was rumoured that the President would close the schools. Since the girl had been at home for over a year, we decided to take her anyway, because the rest had started.
On Sunday 6th June, the President addressed the nation and instructed a lockdown of 42 days, which included closing all schools with immediate effect. Since my wife’s niece goes to the same school as my daughter, we asked the elder sister to pick both the girls early morning.
By 7:30 am, the girls had arrived at home.
We did our usual welcoming, the hugging. The siblings carried her belongings to the house. She had just been away for a week.
After taking breakfast, my daughter slept in the chair. The mother woke her up and asked why she was sleeping in the morning. She said that the teachers had woken them up at 3 am to pack their belonging and prepare to vacate the school early morning. We allowed her to catch up on the lost sleep in her bed.
On Tuesday, June 8th, 2021, the girl was still sleepy and weaker. You would wake her up, move around and return to find she is back deep asleep. My wife suspected something wrong. She searched for the symptoms of COVID-19 and noticed that fatigue is one of them. We called the cousin to find how she was doing and told us she was having some little cough and fatigue. So, I decided to call my brother who had also picked his kids from school. He said, they had some little cough and they had taken them for COVID19 testing and were waiting for results. Later in the evening, the COVID19 results confirmed, they were positive.
The COVID19 testing
I asked my wife to pick the niece and take the girls for a COVID19 test. She did and it was positive. We decided to isolate them together at home. Two days later, we observed that one of our twin girls was having the flu. We decided to all go for testing. For some reason, I refused to go.
The rest were negative, but the twin positive. We also put her in the isolation room. They were basically on Azithromycin, Zinc, Vitamin B complex, Vitamin D and C. We would give them ginger, garlic, and honey water every after 2 hours, an egg and Nile Perch meal, with other fruits and foods. Their symptoms were mild, no fevers, little cough.
My Turn, day 1
On Saturday evening 12th June 2021, I felt chills all over my body. I tried to keep warm, took hot drinks in vain. I thought it was psychological.
On Sunday morning I had some sneezing. I thought it could be an allergic reaction that I usually get in the morning, though this felt different. Later in the day, I did not enjoy Sunday lunch the way I usually do. My wife looked at me and said “love, you do not look fine.” I told her that I needed to only exercise and I would be fine. The good thing, when the girls tested positive, all of us started on the preventive measures – taking hot drinks with ginger, garlic and honey every two hours. Eating tangerine and orange, morning and evening and other fruits (watermelon, pawpaw, cucumber, carrot, and pineapple) and steaming at least five minutes once a day. We avoided cold things. We switched the fridge off. We also started taking Zinc, Vitamin B and C. My wife also secured two bottles of COVIDEX. I do not know how she got them, but she said she was keeping them for the rainy day.
Somehow, I felt fine.
However, on Tuesday 15th June 2021 night, my body temperature went up to 38 degrees. I felt unconformable. I had a sore throat and started feeling chills again. My wife gave me a Brustan tablet to take and the fever went down.
This time, I was very ready to take the covid test and the following day, on 16th June 2021, she took me to the hospital for testing. Since the rapid test was not available, they did a PCR. That meant waiting longer for the results. In the meantime, the doctor suggested I do a full blood count test, and test for Malaria. When you are sick, you tend to agree to everything. The COVID19 test nasal swap is very intrusive, but I had to bear it. The lady who drew my blood sample acted as a learner. She pinched me the first time. It was painful, and I took it all in. Unfortunately, she asked me for another hand as she had not drawn any blood. I was furious. But I had to give in again, and it was successful. The first wrong attempt made my hand to pain for over two weeks.
When I came back home, I too self-isolated. Six hours later, at about 11:30 pm, the hospital called to inform me that my results were COVID19 positive. I did not bother to wake up my wife since she was already convinced that I was sick and in denial.
Extract: Mugisa’s Covid test positive results
The hospital sent me a list of medicines to buy –zinc for 14 days, Clavulin for six days and Paracetamol in case of fever and headache. And the instructions to take warm fluids and to try to keep warm. That night, I got somehow scared. The stories of the people whom I had seen on social media dead, the news of so much death in Italy — all started playing in my mind.
I researched a lot about the Coronavirus pandemic, and all the stories were not good. But two weeks earlier, my father had been brought to Kampala and tested positive for COVID19. He was doing well at one of my brother’s homes. I said to myself if my dad, an old man, has managed to beat this disease, why worry about it. I did some 15 push-ups, just to scare Covid. I always love to stay in control.
Looking like “a bird beaten by rain”, day 3
I think I reached the peak of the infection on 18th June 2021, which was day three since my testing positive. It was a tough day for me. My eyes were red. I was feeling very cold. The muscles were paining. Itchy throat and nasal congestion were at their peak. I remember my wife, looking at me and saying, “you do not look yourself. Get up and exercise. You look like a bird beaten by the rain.”
I just kept quiet. I rushed to the mirror. She was right – I was not the usual Mr Strategy. I looked weak. Red eyes and chilly. I felt and looked sick, not in my element.
My wife looked scared and worried for me. She again brought to me the COVIDEX bottle and asked me to try it. At first, I refused. I had reservations about the drops. I felt it was dirty and could have some negative effects on my key organs. She said this is herbal. It is far better than the chemicals in the tablets I was swallowing. She had me.
After a lot of bargaining and asking me to try it, later in the evening, I opened it and swallowed six drops, and I included it on my schedule of medications. Don’t know whether it was psychological, but it reduced my itchy throat and nasal congestion.
How I managed to beat the disease
I continued taking my medicines religiously in addition to good feeding, with lots of fruits and greens. As they say, always remember why you started. Instead of bemoaning my fate, I opened my laptop and continued working as if I was suffering from the usual flu. I refused to worry or even think that the disease could kill me. I ran or walked at least 4 kilometres every day throughout the period I was sick.
I would get concerned in the evening around 9 pm. I bought audiobooks and decided to enrol on a machine learning course on Coursera to keep myself upbeat and focused on studies instead of sickness. I continued to exercise, doing some push-ups before going to bed. And to try reducing the impact of nasal congestion by steaming. I always delayed going to bed. A friend, also a survivor, had warned me against sleeping on my back. So, I tried as much as possible to sleep on my side. She told me that lying in a side position helps air get into more parts of the lungs and lying on your back puts pressure on some parts of your lungs, causing them to collapse. Since Coronavirus heads straight to the lungs, if not arrested early, that could be fatal.
Coronavirus has a way of making you so weak to want to lie down and sleep. And once you do, the virus will freely roam your body and break your joints and weaken you. By the time you wake up, the entire body is weak. I did lie down on the night I received the results and woke up very weak.
I decided to keep moving.
I would jog lightly around the nearby playing field in the morning between 9:00 am to 11 am; as I ate oranges and sunbathed. In the evening, I would play chess on the phone against the computer, and when tired watch movies. I love the Kungfu genre. This kept my mind sharp and upbeat. As the movie played, I kept punching in the air.
In the meantime, the girls were doing fine.
However, around 20th June 2021, as I was starting to be myself again, my wife started to get the chills. I had to get better, and the following day took her to the hospital. About eight hours later, she received the results on her phone. She was positive.
By now she had seen the daughters go through it so easily. The twin girl was asymptomatic. She kept playing and just enjoying the nice Coronavirus meals and fruits. No cough. No chest pains. No nasal congestion nor weak joints.
My wife started on the medication. The challenge was our 9-month-old baby she was breastfeeding. We instantly instituted a 24/7 masking policy at home for everyone. The good news, I decided to move out of isolation.
My suggestions for you
If you can, do shut out all social media news or be selective about the messages you open. Since it is your phone, you have total control, exercise it. Avoid at all costs news about COVID19 death.
Eat well. Coronavirus takes away your sense of smell and taste. If you are lucky, you lose only one. I lost only the smell. That means I enjoyed meals. During this time, I decided to pay myself. Thank God I had some savings for a rainy day and enjoyed the money. Bought chicken, fish, and goat and other proteins. I loved the boiled soup especially goat and fish. Since we could not take any cold drinks, I had a basket full of fruits throughout the day and night. Every three hours I enjoyed tangerines or an orange, or a banana. I started preferring to sleep during the day when others are awake.
The preventative medication I started taking early on, must have helped reduce the severity of the disease on me. Once I tested positive, I took my medication religiously.
I know many people have not been so lucky like me to survive the pandemic and tell their stories. I pray for their souls. And pray for their families and friends to be strong during these tough times.
When one is unlucky and takes a long time to detect the virus early, it enters the body and breaks it down. By the time they diagnose the virus, it is usually too late. Many people who end up needing oxygen are usually victims of delayed diagnosis of the disease.