Zimbabwe: COVID-19 Survivor Relives Ordeal

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interview

Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN) last week interviewed the third person to test positive for coronavirus (Covid-19) in Zimbabwe. In a question and answer session, the patient, Mr Saul Sakudya, explains how he became aware of his condition and subsequent steps taken by the authorities to treat him.

Question: Can you tell us about your trip to Dubai?

Answer: I went to Dubai on March 15 and came back on March 18. I started feeling unwell on the 20th. I started vomiting and feeling dizzy and my back was aching. That is when I thought of going to Wilkins for medical check-ups.

But before that, on Saturday, I went to my medical doctor. My private doctor gave me some medication and I took the medication. On Monday morning I went to Wilkins for testing. They told me that they would bring the results that very morning but it took them two days to come.

After two days, that's when I saw these guys coming to tell me that I was positive. I was very sick that time and so the following morning on March 24, they took me to an isolation centre at Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital. I spent two nights there but when they found out that my wife and my son were also positive because they took samples from the whole family of nine at that moment, they said I could go back to my family because everyone was positive so I came back home on Sunday. They brought me here in an ambulance.

First of all, I want to thank Dr (Prosper)Chonzi and his team. They did a very good job. They were looking after me very well in the hospital and out of the hospital. Up to now they are coming to see me and my family though we are isolated here.

Q: The time you started showing signs of illness, did you suspect that you had been infected by the virus?

A: At first I did not think that I was affected but when I read from the newspapers about the symptoms that is when I started thinking that these were the symptoms of coronavirus.

Q: And how did you receive the news that you tested positive?

A: It affected me mentally, physically and emotionally. Everything. I was affected.

Q: You mentioned that you stay with your family and there are nine of you. Are all of them infected?

A: No. Only four of us were infected. The other five's results were negative.

Q: So how are you ensuring that the others will not get infected?

A: Thank God that we have another house which we are building so we decided to move those who are not infected into the incomplete house and the rest of us who are infected remain in the cottage.

Q; We understand that the virus can survive for a long period on surfaces, so when you moved out of the house, was there any process to disinfect it?

A: Yes, we disinfect everyday using Jik (a strong alkaline chemical and household bleach). We also use gloves. We put Jik into the water and scrub all the surfaces. We are using the same toilet, so we clean it thoroughly. Those who are positive are the first to bath and the rest will bath after thorough cleaning.

Q: On receiving news that you had tested positive, how did your family react?

A: Everyone was shocked because no one was expecting that. I said to myself, "Why me God?" and the answer came again within some minutes that "Who is supposed to be affected?", so I accepted it. I think if you accept it in your mind it will help you.

Q: And when the other members of the family tested positive, did it not affect you psychologically?

A: No. What happened is they put the results on the internet and we already knew that some of our members were affected by the virus. For them, it was very mild because there were no symptoms.

Q: And the community where you are living, how did they receive it? Are they aware that their neighbour is infected?

A: Yes, yes, they are very supportive. I want to thank them. They are praying for me. They are the ones who are even giving me food because we have been quarantined since March 24 up to today. So the other families, the neighbours are the ones who helped us a lot. We want to thank them. May God richly bless them.

Q: And your children, are they able to go out and play with others?

A: No. We are quarantined. Everyone is staying at home. Yesterday I was able to play football with them inside for us not to think a lot. We bought a soccer ball, so even after you leave we are going to play, the negative team and the positive team.

Q: And perhaps can you take us through the recovery process. You told us that at some point you experienced symptoms, vomiting and backache. What type of medication did you take and how was your recovery process?

A: I don't want to lie to you, the doctors were giving me some antibiotics, I did not check the names of the antibiotics and also some painkillers but they were very effective. Yesterday the doctor came and tested me but I have not got the results to check if the virus is still in me or whether I am now 100 percent fit.

Q: But are you optimistic that you are off this virus?

A: Yeah. Even in future, I think, I don't mind to be part and parcel of people who want to fight this virus because I now know how it pains and how it goes. I think from now on, I can help others because there is that stigma. Most people think that if someone is positive, they are a bad person yet there is life after that.

Q: You spoke about stigma. How was your treatment when you first got admitted to the health facility?

A: At the hospital at first, the nurses, I think because of what they were seeing on television, thought that the person was almost dying so they ran away. All of them. It took me three hours to disembark from the ambulance, because they were still preparing my place. So, it took three hours for them to prepare because everyone had run away.

Q: What is your message to people out there who might in future test positive for coronavirus?

A: They must be positive in their minds. They should focus on the Lord. They will not die. They have to fight it in their minds.

Q: Some relatives, generally, do they have to fight any stigma?

A: No, even my church members. Everyone was supporting me in many ways, phoning me, helping me in kind, in cash, in everything. I want to thank them, even my church AFM in Zimbabwe, I want to thank them. My (church) president Mr Madawo because he phoned me, checking on me. My overseer, my pastors. All the pastors were phoning. All the members of my church, most of them and some I do not know them but they were phoning me. It helped me a lot.

Q: It seems some Zimbabweans are not taking this seriously. They are joking about it. We see it on social media. There are a lot of jokes being thrown around. What message do you want to send across to these people?

A: This thing is real. It's there. Guys, those who think that they are clever, one day you will regret it. I want to thank our Government for this lockdown. I think everyone should heed the call to stay home because if you check what is happening in America and other countries, you will see that this thing is deadly. I am saying this because I was affected. I know what I am talking about.

Q: Were your children not affected psychologically? How are they handling it?

A: I want to thank God because they accepted it from the word go. When the results came they thought since they were with dad, they were also affected. Already in their minds, they were affected. When they got the results, they were not affected.

Q: Did you go under any sort of counselling?

A: We are counselling each other every day. We read the Bible, teach each other. I tell them some verses to encourage them. I am happy they are coping, even in their environment they are coping.

Q: What other precautions apart from disinfecting the bathrooms are you taking to ensure that those that are negative stay free from the virus?

A: We are using some gloves every time. We use these hand sanitisers. We are cleaning the house. We are trying our best to maintain good hygiene.

Q: From what the doctors have said or advice they have given you, is there any possibility that you will re-infect each other, those that are positive?

A: They never said anything about it. We are trying by all means. We are the best teachers of this because I know the pain. I do not want a repeat of the same pain again or even to be seen again in the newspapers.

Q: As a father and a husband we know there are different ways of showing affection, love to your children, one of them is hugging them. How do you feel about not hugging your children and keeping that social distance?

A: It's very difficult but we have to accept it because this is the reality of the situation.

Q: Tell us the nature of your business?

A: I am into IT. I sell computers, laptops, desktops, cartridges and even cameras. Everything. I sell and repair.

Q: So is that the reason why you had travelled to Dubai?

A: Yes, I had gone to buy. I had some orders, but I did not manage to bring them because that is when they closed the borders but I brought some few items though. I will sell them when this thing is over.

Q: Where exactly do you think you might have contracted coronavirus? Where did you contract coronavirus?

A: I think where I got some phones because I just read in the newspaper someone sent me in Dubai that that area was 99 percent coronavirus affected. That area, I think that is where I got the virus. Where I got some phones.

Q: Some might say you travelled at a time when the risk was high. Why did you choose to travel at that time?

A: There were seven of us. We just thought that since Dubai was going to close, it was better for us to go and buy some stuff. None of us knew I was going to be affected and I was the only person who was affected.

Q: So the other seven are ok?

A: The other seven are ok.

Q: Now that you have been isolated for a long time, how has this affected your business and income?

A: I have been affected a lot. I did not manage to sell a single item since I came back and my things are still stuck in my office where I am expecting that may be after this 21-day lockdown, I will be able to sell. I think my orders have already been cancelled. They have already cancelled because of this pandemic.

Q: And when you arrived back home were you screened?

A: Yaa, I was screened. I was screened at the airport.

Q: And you managed to go through?

A: Yes. May be I was not yet affected directly. I do not know.

Q: How effective is the screening process?

A: I think they need to improve. Really, they need to improve because, for example, I was affected already but I was screened and I passed through. I think they have to improve on that one.

Q: How often are health professionals visiting you?

A: They are coming every day, except for today. From day one up to yesterday. The doctors are coming.

Q: How long did it take you to show the symptoms from the day of your arrival from Dubai.?

A: Three days.

Q: How many days did it take you to go and have tests

A: Two days. It took me two days because I was in pain.

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