Covid-19 survivors speak to Lwazikazi Madikiza about their experience. The interviewees’ names are withheld and some details have been edited to protect their anonymity.
‘There is still a lot of fear because of a lack of knowledge’
1. When did you start hearing about COVID-19?
At the beginning of the year, but at the time there weren’t any confirmed cases in South Africa.
2. What made you suspect that you might have been infected with Covid-19?
I woke up not feeling well and this continued the whole day. However, I was well enough to go to work. I was especially concerned because a co-worker had just tested positive.
3. What symptoms did you experience at this point?
I had a headache. I was feeling really tired as if I had been doing hard labour and I was experiencing pain in my joints.
4. How long after you experienced symptoms did you go and test?
I tested a day later and used public testing services.
5. How was your testing experience?
I did an oropharyngeal swab and a PCR test was done. The test in itself wasn’t painful; it just felt uncomfortable and can cause one to gag or cough because the swab goes deep into the back of your throat.
6. How long did you wait for your results to be available and did the symptoms change?
After testing I started experiencing flu-like symptoms such as a runny and blocked nose, dry cough and my temperature at some point reached 39°C. At this point, since my symptoms were mild, I thought maybe I might have the common flu. I received my results after two days and they came out positive. I was shocked because I really was not expecting it since I had very mild symptoms.
7. What was the next step after testing positive?
While in quarantine I had a persistent headache that didn’t respond to the recommended dose of paracetamol (Panado). There was a period where I was extremely tired so much so that I slept over 12 hours straight, even though I was not doing any work. Also, one of the days I woke up with a pain in my lungs and it was uncomfortable to breathe. I had to sleep in a seated position.
8. Do you feel there is a stigma around being Covid-19 positive?
Yes, at work there is a lot of fear. People treat Covid-19 recovered co-workers differently. So there is still a lot of fear because of a lack of knowledge.
9. What do think you would have done differently?
I think I might have gotten infected while we were having lunch in our staff room. When we have lunch we don’t have our masks on [since we are eating]and we don’t observe the social distancing rule. So I think I would definitely change that behaviour i.e. Keep our distance during lunch time and constantly sanitise areas where we sit to have our lunch or tea. In that way the chances of infecting others are minimised.
10. Do you have any advice for the general public?
If it happens that you test positive start by having a positive mind, because anxiety does affect the healing process and the ability for your body to fight the disease.
Eat healthy food and stay hydrated. Wear your masks and stop making excuses. Wear it properly; make sure it covers your mouth and your nose.
On the day I was feeling sick, I made an extra effort to wear my mask at all times and the people that I was in contact with on that day tested negative for coronavirus.
So the recommended actions to prevent the spread of the virus do work. Wash your hands regularly, keep your distance and disinfect areas that are frequently touched.
‘Coronavirus is real’
1. When did you start hearing about COVID-19?
I started hearing about coronavirus i the news in the days approaching lockdown.
2. What made you suspect that you might have been infected with Covid -19?
A friend of mine was incredibly sick to an extent that he was taken to hospital. He was released after three days with the news that he tested positive for Covid-19.
3. What symptoms were you experiencing before you were tested?
Flu-like symptoms such as headache, joint pain, fever, dry mouth, dry nasal passages, blocked nose and feeling a sharp pain in my chest when breathing. I started drinking a combination of home remedies to ease symptoms. I drank a combination of home remedies every single day. At least it eased the symptoms, especially when I drank it with hot water.
4. How was your testing experience?
After three days of experiencing symptoms I went to test with a private laboratory. They took blood tests as well as taking a swab from deep in my nose. The results came back after three days and they confirmed my suspicions.
During that period I had lost my appetite, I could no longer taste or smell food and I was feeling extremely tired and weak. I was also feeling very thirsty all the time but felt discomfort when I drank cold water, so I always tried to warm the water before drinking. My sleep was also interrupted mostly in the early hours of the morning (3am-4am) because it would be difficult to breathe while sleeping.
I am staying alone so I didn’t need to quarantine elsewhere; I was in the comfort of my flat. My friends were the ones that brought me food because I never left the house after I was diagnosed.
6. How long did it take to recover?
For a whole week I felt really sick but after [ten]days the symptoms became mild. After two weeks I regained my sense of taste and smell and I feel healthy and strong with no symptoms.
5. Is there any stigma that you feel is associated with being Covid -19 positive?
People are really scared of the virus so a lot of people no longer come to my house because they are afraid of getting infected. The fact that the virus can cause death has made people really fear for their life. So, I only told those that are close to me at least because then someone knows what’s happening to me.
6. Do you have any advice for the general public?
Coronavirus is real. Some people think that it’s not there. It’s there and I experienced it. People must put on their masks and wash their hands properly as recommended. You won’t know if there is someone near you that is infected, so prevent it by doing the right thing. Eat your healthy foods and immune boosters.
“You won’t know if there is someone near you that is infected so prevent it by doing the right thing.”