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Emotional Testimony: My Experience of Battling COVID-19 at Mulago Hospital

By Paulo (Blogger)

I had the shortest ride from Namugongo to Mulago in the Ambulance. My attendant nurse, Zahara was ever so graceful and extremely calm. The ambulance driver as well knew his trade really well.

Level 2 in Mulago where I was admitted is only one flight of stairs above where the Ambulance arrived at. It is really a short walking distance to the ward floor. Whilst I was on oxygen in the ambulance I kind of felt better, just a bit.

I had spent the entire day on Oxygen at the Hospital from where I was referred to Mulago. Arrival protocols at Mulago require for you to check-in any medications you may have and a number of other things which Zahara graciously did for me.

She later returned with my meds and offered to bring a wheelchair to wheel me in; I declined because I felt I could walk that short flight of stairs to Level 2. I was dead wrong!

This was the longest walk of my life ever, because by the time I got to the ward I could not stand anymore. I was offered a seat as Zahara made my bed and later connected me back to Oxygen in the HDU on Level 2.

Just then I realized how important the Oxygen we take for granted is to our general wellbeing. Just leaving the Oxygen to go to the rest room that was less than 10 meters away was such a task! I had to get accustomed to accepting that I needed to depend on Oxygen more than anything else.

Honestly, I never took a shower for three days!  (Let him without sin cast the first stone). This was simply because the walking away from Oxygen was a task I was not willing to undertake; you begin to cough incessantly; your chest is heavy and your natural breathing labors greatly.

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So, it is safer to miss the shower for a while than be sorry. Actually, even the medical staff discourage it. It’s only after about three days that I felt a bit of relief to clean myself up. I took my shower that day, though even then I was still significantly weak; it was such a relief.

Coming into Block B Level 2 I found a number of people in my section. There was two gentlemen well on their way to recovery. Remember I left home not knowing that I was an emergency case. So, coming to Mulago was a process I did not prepare well for.

I carried some basics in a small backpack (more of a computer bag). My wife later the next day packed for me a proper bag and had it sent. Once you are in, you cannot get any visitors coming direct to you. They are sanitized and asked to leave whatever they bring at the reception where it is brought to you by the nurses.

One of the fully recovered gentlemen, for privacy whom I shall call Eng. Jimmy was really helpful. He immediately took me on to mentor me to recovery. He made sure I had a hot drink to sip on regularly. He changed my oxygen water canister often (in fact on one night it had run out and he did it for me).

Death

He kept providing much needed counsel on how to recover, as well as encouragement that I can make it. I took to his counsel. Jimmy took care of the rest of us in our section (there was 6 of us in that section and a total of about 18 in our wing). Eng. Jimmy was discharged 3 days later, but not before dispensing survival skills to the rest of us.

There was one particular guy (call him Ali) whose bed was right next to me. It seems to me he had been traumatized by the disease and wanted out. He was inconsolable, clearly in great pain, but he kept defying all the directives of the medical staff and the advice from the rest of us.

He kept removing the oxygen mask and thereafter incessantly coughing and groaning in pain. Eng. Jimmy kept replacing Ali’s mask, but immediately Ali would remove it. Later the medical staff tried restraining him, but he found his way out of the restraints and removed the mask. Ali was later wheeled away to the ICU where he could be attended to 24×7.

I later learned he passed away two days later. Ali had lost the will to live, and that is the greatest asset in the fight against Covid19.  Another lady who was wheeled in the night I was admitted came in shouting on top of her voice, she was so hysterical.

To be honest, knowing what the rest of us were going through one cannot garner the strength and energy to shout like that. I kept wondering what her problem was. You could hear other patients begging her to keep calm and all will be well; she would have none of that. Later after about an hour the noise receded. In the early morning by 6a.m she was wheeled out, dead!

Care at Mulago hospital

The medical staff at Mulago in the Covid19 section was another unique but pleasant and refreshing surprise that I got. I have not seen this level of discipline, hard work and dedication anywhere in the Ugandan public sector in recent time. These ladies and gentlemen have laid it all down and do it all in a calm and collected way.

They are not even distant cousins to the previous lot of medical staff that used to walk these corridors (I know for my mother passed away years ago in Mulago Hospital). It was a breath of fresh air seeing this dedication, commitment, discipline and efficiency displayed by this team.

This team are also very relatable and take on a lot of stuff from the patients as you can imagine but do so ever so graciously.

I suddenly realized how much we have not been told about the improvements at Mulago National Referral hospital or rather how much the past must have traumatized us to the extent that we never believe that anything good can come out of Mulago! Up to now the average Ugandan cannot believe that Mulago Hospital possibly has the best Covid19 HDU and ICU in Uganda and possibly the region.

I left Mulago ten days later with my confidence restored in the medical system that is being rebuilt in our National referral hospital. I can now proudly talk of Mulago Hospital with the renewed confidence of an experience.

The Hospital does provide three meals a day. At the HDU there is lots of sharing and one will walk to the central desk and pickup an apple, an orange, make a cup of tea, etc. I never met a rude person in this centre. It has a way of humbling even the most arrogant of us.

Patients took on to helping each other and sharing with each other. I too decided to help all the new people that came into the section I was in. Over the 10days I saw 5 new people come into my section of 6 beds. All of them were scared and beaten. You see Covid19 is a sneaky disease. In my conversations with each of these patients I discovered we each shared only one common end result: breathing complications.

But how we got here, each one of us had a separate story line. However, there was a common underlying theme being the fact that each one had treated whatever malaise they had for at least two weeks without making much progress. This is where I warn that what may manifest as Malaria, cough, flue, pains in the joints could be early stages of Covid19. Ensure to get medical attention fast!

Also, to our medical providers, do not treat suspected Covid19 patients as outcasts; simply practice the SOPs and behave professionally, but help Ugandans.

I have come to a personal conclusion that most of our medical practitioners have not taken keen interest in how to diagnose a Covid19 would be case even without running the nasal swab tests. From my experience I think any dedicated medical personnel can start “sniffing the presence” of this disease so people can be helped early and avoid running into the breathing complications stage.

One guy simply got joint problems and weakness; he presumed that he was simply fatigued simply because his work involved lots of walking, until one day he went downhill and got breathing complications as he was walking himself into a clinic.

He was rushed to Mulago. Another guy treated Malaria for three weeks, but he was simply going downhill until, breathing complications kicked in. Another treated an infection for two weeks. So, the stories continue that way. General Malaise, feeling lethargic, treating obvious illnesses that normally respond to known treatments but this time they seem resistant, joint pains, are all common manifestations of this monster. Please pay attention to yourself and get medical attention.

Whilst I was in the Hospital I also did a number of things to help my recovery. I took a teaspoon of CAYENNE pepper in a half a glass of water each morning and evening. I also regularly took hot tea with lots of ginger and some half a teaspoon of black pepper. My friends made me a 500ml bottle of pineapple juice laced with chilies which I sipped on throughout the day.

They also made me another bottle of ginger, garlic, onion concoction that I also sipped on; so, each 24 hours I sipped on these two drinks. Of course, the supplements also did their part: Vitamin C – 500Mg, Zinc – 30Mg were a daily portion. By the way, to date I still take all the above measures. Another thing I now do daily is to steam myself each evening for at least ten minutes. All this went along with the Hospital treatment that we were getting per doctor’s prescriptions.

By the way, lastly, let’s love the sun, and we have lots of it here in Uganda. Vitamin D is another critical vitamin in the fight against covid19, and the early morning or late evening sun is a great source for it. Love the great outdoors and get back to basics of playing with the kids outdoors.

I left Mulago believing three things about Covid19:

1) The disease is spreading like a wildfire amongst us; we MUST exercise the SOPs else a lot of people are going to die!

2) The disease is controllable and treatable, and we can avoid the breathing complications stage for most people. Simply observe the things recommended above in the last paragraph and as well listen to your body. Do not dance tango with what you consider simple ailments; seek medical attention.

3) Many medical practitioners have not taken time to understand Covid19 and how they can provide the first line treatment. This I have simply observed from discussing with many patients I met who described how they degenerated until the stage of breathing complications.

I think medical practitioners can learn how to control the disease. They only need to be interested. Going by what I saw with the team in Mulago, we can beat this disease, but we must all sign up for the fight.

I hope sharing my experiences and views will help someone. I pray that the LORD gives us Grace and wisdom as a nation to make all the right decisions and moves in this fight.

For God and my Country!

HEALTH ADVICE DISCLAIMER:

The information contained in this blog is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for informational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek medical advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding your medical condition.

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