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Blog: When the Pandemic Became a Playfield

By Rebecca P. Tumwebaze

Sunday, 13th September was just another day for me. 7.00 am found me at my sister’s house. Flora Tumwebaze had been scheduled for a colonoscopy at Nakasero hospital and I had committed to escort her for the procedure.

A Colonoscopy is a procedure where a doctor uses a flexible tube with a miniature camera attached to view the inside lining of your rectum and colon.

The procedure is done in theater so I would be Flora’s caretaker for the day and would wait to drop her off at her house after theater.

For about three days prior to the procedure, Flora had gone through the process of emptying her bowels.

She had also starved for several hours before the D-day. She was haggard.

Three days prior, she had also been informed that it was standard procedure at Nakasero Hospital for anyone going into theater to submit a Covid19 certificate showing they were free from the virus. So two days earlier, she had left her sample at Lancet laboratories and paid a paltry Shs 350, 000 for a Covid19 test.

But here we were, on this Sunday morning, all set for theater and the only missing link was the damn Covid-19 certificate.

We made several calls till I just decided to drive to Lancet with my little sister Agnes Laura Nyakato.

At Lancet Laboratories, we were told they needed to verify the results but everyone who had anything to do with them was out of office since it was a Sunday.

The lady told us to wait as she made a few calls.

Interestingly as we waited, we found ourselves unintentionally eavesdropping on the phone conversations and we got to learn that on the same day when Flora submitted her samples to Lancet, another person too had submitted their sample.

So on this beautiful Sunday morning, there were two people at the lab waiting to pick their Covid-19 test result but the lady had only one result and seemed unsure whose it was.

I am not sure how that is even possible. For over two hours, the calls went on.

She called an Elijah, then an Abdul and several others. You could read frustration in her phone conversations.

My little sister Agnes was so absorbed in the eavesdropping than I so she was always keen to ask, “did you hear that?” whenever something was mentioned about the confusion in the samples.

Anyway we still waited after all there was no option. We kept updating our patient at Nakasero to calm her nerves.

About 2.5 hours from the time we had entered Lancet, the lady walked to us.

“We finally have the results, but we can’t print; our network is down, so I will just tell you by word of mouth, Flora is Covid19 positive,” she said gracefully.

“We have submitted her details to the Ministry of Health and they will contact her, but she too can contact them for guidance,” she added before reminding us to tell her to return to Lancet after 10 days for another test.

Results

This was it. Flora was Covid19 positive.

With the process of preparing for colonoscopy, I knew her immunity was compromised, so I got scared that it could get fatal.

And oh, I was now a contact.

Agnes too. I turned to share my thoughts with her. But don’t joke with my big ‘eared’ little sister, she immediately pulled me aside and said she doubted the result.

She reminded me of all the eavesdropping we had done.

I walked back to the Lancet lady and requested that at least I get a soft copy of the result.

She could send me a copy of the results by email if her printer was ‘down’ like she was saying.

Within another 15 minutes, I had Flora’s Covid-19 positive result on my email. We drove back to Nakasero Hospital.

By now we knew MoH was probably going to start hunting Flora down.

So we called her once we were in the parking lot and asked her to inform the hospital that she had chosen to postpone her procedure.

Checks

We decided to dig deep into our pockets and time, and do several other tests so we confirm the Lancet result before fully handing over to MoH.

We went to Mulago, then Ndejje health center IV and finally Central Public Health Laboratories and left samples in all these places.

We wanted to leave no stone unturned. And then we isolated ourselves as we waited for our fate.

We were officially a team of three i.e. one confirmed Covid-19 patient and her two contacts.

In fact, we instantly felt Covid-19 symptoms that night.

Meanwhile, MoH started looking for Flora. They called my father (her next of Kin) in Mbarara to inform him she was highly infectious and missing.

Fast forward, by the next day, we had three Covid19 negative results from Mulago, Ndejje Health Center IV and CPHL.

We released ourselves from our isolation center and returned to our normal lives.

Of course we are thankful to God. Agnes and I laughed so hard about it, but for Flora, it was quite emotional.

For several days, she went through a rough patch preparing for her colonoscopy, then it never happened.

Amidst the hustle of doing the several tests, she relapsed and started eating again. Now she has to start the process of the colonoscopy all over again.

In a serious case of a pandemic, those who are supposed to be key actors seem to have found a good play ground. They have no idea how much their games affect lives.

By the way, I know that Covid-19 is real. I encourage us all to sanitize as much as possible, wear our masks and social distance. Together we can kick Covid19 out of Uganda. And to the key actors, let’s stop the games.

A pandemic is no playground. Your work directly affects the lives of many people.

 

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