As a medical professional, being on the frontline, I was constantly worried about contracting COVID. And three weeks ago I tested positive for it… writes Dr Andrew Williams, a medical practitioner in the Western Cape, whose post has gone viral, in which he candidly shares his fears and guilt of contracting COVID-19 in South Africa, and the road back to recovery.
Here’s my story:
It all started with what I thought was just a simple case of Sinusitis. I always get it around this time of year anyway, so why worry right?…
I had two days of a congested nose and sore throat. On the third day, my chest started feeling tight and I knew something was up. I decided to ask a colleague to test me that Sunday night. After three days I got the result confirming my Covid-19 infection.
It didn’t come as much of a shock, because like I said with being on the frontline, essential shopping, etc. it was bound to happen sometime. However, what I started feeling were guilt, fear and anxiety. I had to retrace my steps and figure out who I came into close contact with a few days before my symptoms started/before I got tested and let them know I tested positive and unfortunately put them at risk. I started feeling anxious about what course this illness might take. What if this is not only a mild case of COVID? What if my condition worsens over the next few days and I end up in the hospital and on a ventilator? Some might call that melodramatic, but trust me, when your chest starts feeling like there’s constantly someone hugging and squeezing you tight, and your attempts to cough up whatever you think might be blocking those airways are futile and just gives you a sore throat with no relief of the difficulty breathing, then this is a valid fear.
Every day was not only a physical but also a mental battle. Every morning I woke up I literally did a full body check just to try and figure out if any new symptoms might have developed. Every morning I woke up in fear that I will be worse than the previous day. On day 6 of my confirmed infection, I lost my sense of smell. Luckily apart from my congested nose, sore throat, intermittent fever, fatigue and shortness of breath, this was the only new symptom I developed during my 14 days of isolation.
My biggest concern remained the shortness of breath. It was never bad enough to go to the hospital. Trust me I was really close a couple of times. At some point, I almost passed out while I was busy making breakfast and talking to one of my best friends on a video call, but after sitting down for a few minutes I could continue what I was busy with.
Note to self: Talking too much can make a person really tired and in this case even dizzy. Something I forgot being alone in my house during my 14 day isolation period.
Its been a week since my 14 day isolation time has finished. I had started preparing myself mentally to return back to work because frontline duties need to be resumed and every single staff member is taking strain during this period. But if I can barely do a few simple activities at home without feeling short of breath, how will I even cope at work. A feeling I don’t like at all. Those who know me well knows my parents didn’t raise a quitter! But I am physically and mentally unable to push myself more.
Three weeks post contracting COVID, and I don’t feel remotely close to the healthy, active young guy I was before all of this. Still getting episodes of shortness of breath. Still being limited in all activities. Still sitting with a fear that I might end up in the hospital if this doesn’t get better. Still having to make a conscious effort to take a proper breath at times. I’m just hoping and praying I’ll start to feel better soon.
I’m not posting this so you should feel sorry for me. I just wanted to share my story so you could all be aware of this real threat we are facing. This is not just your normal flu. Everyone is at risk (even us healthy smoothie drinking, frequently gyming folks). Some more than others, unfortunately. And you never know if the effect on your body will be worse than the next person. COVID-19 is causing millions of deaths worldwide. Our health system was already overloaded before and is now bursting at the seams with the influx of patients which we also expect to get much worse as we start nearing the peak. We are currently ranked in the Top 10 globally with our confirmed cases of COVID-19. More and more people are in need of critical care and we aren’t able to cope. Yet, people are still taking chances, being irresponsible and not following simple rules to help us curb the spread and flattening the curve.
Your healthcare workers on the frontlines are putting themselves at risk. We are also getting sick. We are over-worked, damn near burned out and at times feel like we’re fighting a losing battle. So please do your part.
Maintain social distancing. Practice good hand hygiene. WEAR YOUR MASK AT ALL TIMES WHEN IN PUBLIC SPACES/IN CONTACT WITH OTHER PEOPLE. I see people being extra cautious at work, but as soon as they take lunch/breaks or go home they forget all about this ever-present threat. COVID does not take lunch and COVID does not have a knock-off time. Be smart. Be considerate! Be responsible. AND STAY SAFE!…ALWAYS!
A frontline worker currently fighting his own battle on the sidelines.
By Dr Andrew Williams
(See Dr Williams’ original post on Facebook, republished here with Dr Williams’ kind permission).
Dr Andrew Williams shares his experience of testing positive for COVID
We’ve featured listeners who’ve contracted Covid-19 over the course of the past couple of months. We’ve followed their journeys to recovery and they’ve shared their experience from contraction to recovery. We spotted a social media post of a frontline worker who works in the health sector. He was diagnosed with common sinusitis, but after experiencing severe chest pain, he decided to get tested and found that he was positive. Medical professional, Andrew Williams, chats to Aden Thomas.#HeartBreakfast
Posted by Heart FM on Thursday, July 16, 2020