It could’ve been worse

Kabelo Dipholo
BED OF DISCOMFORT: Dipholo on first day of admission.

*Covid-19 positive: My brush with death

On the morning of 18th January, I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed. A quick glance at my phone showed the clock at 07:35.

Usually, when I wake up this late, I get panic attacks, but not on this day.

I had no energy. I had jelly knees and joints and I muttered under my breath that I’d never have Black Label again.

At 08:05, I arrived at the office, proceeded to my workstation and slumped into the chair. My phone beeped. It was a WhatsApp message from the Online Editor. He wasn’t happy, he needed content and he needed it now!

In the next four hours, I managed to put together a story that I reluctantly submitted. It was a half-baked piece, but may just buy me some time and get a relentless Mr Innocent Tshukudu off my back.

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By lunchtime, I was convinced this was no hangover. I had my suspicions, but I’m the kind that never seeks medical assistance unless the pain is unbearable.

Terrified that I could be showing early signs of Covid-19, I left the office at 1400hrs and headed straight home.

That’s when it dawned on me that I had not eaten anything since morning, a rarity for this food lover.

I mustered the courage and went for a test on Wednesday and made a conscious decision to self-isolate.

What followed in the next seven days was a gruelling battle with an invisible enemy.

Every night it felt as if my soul was leaving my body. For the first time, I was aware of my own mortality.

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All of a sudden oxygen became a commodity I could not afford.

There was a permanent lump in my throat (selo sa mometso) which partially closed my windpipe, attacking at random, painful intervals. I couldn’t breathe in or out.

THE FACE OF CORONA: Healing mouth blisters

My body was being ravaged. Cold and hot sweats, a pounding headache, and nonstop diarrhea took turns, and by then I had long lost my senses of taste and smell.

I did not bat an eyelid on Wednesday night. Sharp pain in my heart kept me awake all night. It was as if someone pierced my heart with a red-hot iron rod. My entire ribcage was on fire.

Fearing I was having a heart attack, I asked my partner to drive me to a private hospital on the morning of 21st Thursday. I walked into the emergency room and told shocked nurses that I was having a heart attack.

For the next six days, doctors at Riverside Hospital pumped liters of Paracetamol into my body and I swallowed at least eight pills every day.

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I stabilised on the third day of admission and was able to hold a conversation.

In fact, for the first time, I felt good, save for the mouth blisters, which thanks to the mask remained covered.

Doctors at the clinic had discovered that there was something wrong with one of my arteries and suggested that I see a Cardiologist.

“Phew! So it wasn’t Corona after all,” I thought.

I was discharged on 27th Wednesday.

Just as I was packing up, a call came from the District Health Management Team. I had tested positive for Covid-19. The time was 1500hrs on the dot.

I was given orders to remain at the hospital as a team would be dispatched to fetch me and take me to the isolation center in Matsiloje.

A few minutes later, I received a call from Ntshe Clinic, where I did the test eight days ago.

They wanted to know where I was and my contacts. I was shocked because I had just given that information to DHMT officials, and in fact, I was waiting for them for my trip to Matsiloje.

The polite lady on the other end of the phone made it clear to me that they were two different teams.

A typical case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing!

Credit to the lady from Ntshe Clinic, though, she called back after an hour to check if the DHMT team had come to pick me up.

“No!” I growled into the phone. The time was 17:15.

“Okay. If you have a car, please drive home, they will pick you from there,” she instructed.

What followed in the next couple of days was a comedy of errors and from that moment I knew health officials were overwhelmed and failing miserably at containing the Covid-19 virus.

The DHMT team called the next day and asked for directions to my house which I duly gave. They never came. The next day, the Ntshe Clinic crew came to take swabs from my two contacts who were now in self-isolation with me in the same house.

Days went by, and I read horror stories coming from the Matsiloje Isolation center. I was glad to be home, but the journalist in me is sad to have missed out on first-hand information. Good job, DHMT, I guess.

It has been 17 days in self-isolation and I was given a fitness certificate on Tuesday.

Both my two contacts have also been given a clean bill of health and one is already back at school.

It sounds like a happy ending until I tell you that both their results are still pending……

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