By Paula Mary Patience
Amid the whirlwind of the fast-spreading COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to travel back home from the United Kingdom (UK), unsuspecting of what lay ahead of me.
Right from touch-down at Entebbe International Airport, I began to feel unwell with what started as a mild cough that kept intensifying by the day, while in mandatory quarantine instituted by the Government for all returnees.
It was so terrible that there were days I chose not to talk at all because anything I said would trigger this cough that lasted for several minutes, causing me grave pain in my lower abdomen, chest area and muscles.
My anxiety sank in more deeply as I started to put the pieces together. While more and more people were testing positive for the coronavirus, I feared for the worst. I knew the risk was high, considering all the contact I made on my voyage in the UK and on the trip from the UK to Uganda.
While in Isolation, on the 27th of March 2020, I was visited by Ministry of Health officials who took samples from me for the coronavirus tests. Two days later, my diagnosis was confirmed positive for the novel coronavirus.
The news that I was positive felt like a nightmare, and at that point, all I could do was cry, as if it would change anything. Worse than the disease was the stigma being displayed especially in the news and on social media that sounded like a death sentence, and I wondered if I was going to make it through.
On arrival at the hospital, the medical personnel were very receptive and offered me as much help as they could, well knowing that I would be okay, regardless. Among other medical and hygiene practices that I was advised to adopt, what stood out for me well was what everyone else I saw on social media seemed to disregard, even to-date; like wearing masks, washing hands frequently with soap and clean water, keeping physical distance and not going for social gatherings.
This was my resolve once I was out of the hospital! I must add that, while in the UK, had the people in the community and I, judiciously followed these simple guidelines, maybe -just maybe, I would not have contracted the novel coronavirus.
In my quest for healing and not repeating the wrongs of others and mine too, I learnt a lot on how the disease spreads, its symptoms and what to do to prevent spreading it to others or contracting it again after I heal from this instance of it.
On April 16th 2020, about three weeks from when I was hospitalized and received treatment to help manage the coronavirus, I was discharged from the hospital after several tests revealed that I had fought off the disease with the help of some of the medical prescriptions like face steaming, and other medicines.
Upon discharge, however, I was to self-quarantine for another fourteen days upon which, if I do not present further symptoms, I would be tested and declared COVID-19 free and allowed to get back to the population. I was excited to finally leave the hospital and isolation, but what bothered me even more was how the society was going to receive me, how people would look at me, if my old friends would still love me and if they would still associate with me like they used to before all of this.
Apart from my immediate family who received me happily, most other people did not want to associate with me, especially on a physical front despite being declared healed and free from COVID-19. I kept wishing I could turn things around. I had already accepted my truth, but the demeanor of those around kept weighing me down.
I didn’t need to be reminded I was a COVID-19 survivor, or that I was at some point on the verge of death and neither did I need to be isolated from what was once dear to me and the life I happily lived before COVID-19. Feeling not wanted nor accepted by even people you care for the most is not something I wish on anyone.
Whereas it is normal to have fear of contracting the disease, I believe it is only right that COVID-19 patients and recoverees as me are not treated with contempt or looked at as outcasts.
It calls only for a little empathy and acceptance as opposed to stigmatization. Everyone is prone to contracting the COVID-19 virus, especially if we do not follow the standard operating guidelines because it is not a respecter of persons.
My call to everyone is for a small sacrifice from each of us to fight together as one instead of stigmatizing those that suffer from the novel coronavirus. In its place, show a little positivity, rays of hope and encouragement, enthusiastic jokes if you must, as a reminder of the victory achieved against our one enemy, COVID-19.
I am on my road to full recovery now from stigmatization like millions of survivors across the globe and beseech everyone to show support and compassion to those that have been diagnosed as no one chooses to be infected. Let’s do this while keeping safe at all times. It is up to us.