Zim doc­tor wins Covid-19 bat­tle

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Andile Tshuma Chron­i­cle Correspond­ent

DOC­TORS are al­ways the source of an­swers and hope for many who trust them with the lives of sick loved ones dur­ing a health cri­sis.

At some point, it be­comes easy to think of doc­tors as su­per-hu­mans who are im­mune to fear. Peo­ple who do not get sick much, and do not worry about sick­ness as they know what to pre­scribe.

The doc­tor is al­ways the hero in med­i­cal drama. The doc­tor can­not be a vic­tim.

How­ever a lo­cal doc­tor’s brush with Covid19 has shown that the virus af­fects all, and that stigma is the big­ger virus than the ac­tual dis­ease it­self.

Even he was fooled by a RDT test, which as­sured him that he was Covid-19 free.

Spe­cial­ist psy­chi­a­trist and deputy direc­tor of men­tal health ser­vices in the min­istry of health and child care, Dr Sac­ri­fice Chirisa at some point needed a men­tal health ex­pert to help him deal with fear and anx­i­ety af­ter he and some of his fam­ily mem­bers tested pos­i­tive for Covid-19.

He was prob­a­bly one of the first med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers to test pos­i­tive and he could not hide his joy in a YouTube video he shared re­cently, on test­ing PCR neg­a­tive, to­tally re­cov­ered and symp­tom free, af­ter what he de­scribes as a night­mare.

This is his story: “My jour­ney started be­gin­ning of July, prob­a­bly around the 3rd or 4th. At that time, my wife is the one who started hav­ing symp­toms and she told me that she was hav­ing a fever, for just about two or three days shortly af­ter, I started feeling the symp­toms and she re­cov­ered within three or four days. We went to a lab­o­ra­tory to have Covid-19 tests done, the RDT tests, it was on a

Sun­day af­ter­noon, I re­mem­ber, we were hav­ing a bad fever. When the re­sults came back, we had both tested neg­a­tive and that gave us a bit of com­fort to say that well it’s just the flue,” said Dr Chirisa.

He said he got worse and his health de­te­ri­o­rated, although his wife re­cov­ered from the fever.

How­ever, his thoughts were no longer on him be­ing a po­ten­tial Covid-19 pa­tient, af­ter both he and his wife had tested RDT neg­a­tive.

“Dur­ing the fol­low­ing week, she had fully re­cov­ered, but as for me, I pro­gres­sively be­came ill, the fever be­came mag­ni­fied, I would feel so cold, even if I heaped blan­kets or used the elec­tric blan­ket that we had. I would still feel a fever and the cold. Noth­ing could heat me up. I would sweat and I would drench my py­ja­mas and sheets. I would ac­tu­ally sleep with a towel to wipe off sweat dur­ing the night,” said Dr Chirisa.

He nar­rates how his con­di­tion con­tin­ued to de­te­ri­o­rate, as he kept think­ing that the bout of flue was par­tic­u­larly bad. Af­ter all he had tested neg­a­tive with the RDT test. Even­tu­ally, when one day he could not even get up from his bed, Dr Chirisa said he had to call around and ar­range for a PCR test, which is more con­clu­sive.

The re­sults con­firmed these fears.

“I would have the chills very much. I de­vel­oped a per­sis­tent cough and I ac­tu­ally ended up hav­ing chest pain. One of the days I couldn’t get up on a Fri­day, it was ter­ri­ble. I had lost my sense of smell and sense of taste. I couldn’t taste any food, I lost my ap­petite. That prompted me to go for a PCR. I went to Lancet (Lab­o­ra­to­ries) and got tested. And 24 hours later, I learnt that I was pos­i­tive.

“I don’t even know where it came from, I can­not point to a per­son or a pa­tient, or a sit­u­a­tion that I had been to, that I can say was the source. Up to now, I am still baf­fled to say where it came from. Maybe it’s be­cause of the wide­spread com­mu­nity t rans­mis­sions that are ram­pant now in the coun­try,” said Dr Chirisa.

He said he made ar­range­ments with friends so that he could stock up on all the med­i­ca­tion he thought he would need and a num­ber of an­tibi­otics and re­lief med­i­ca­tion were pre­scribed by fel­low doc­tors.

Dr Chirisa said he also de­vel­oped di­ar­rhoea, among other symp­toms. He also used home reme­dies to up his chances of get­ting bet­ter.

“When that hap­pened the fever was con­tin­u­ing and I called a few friends of mine. Physi­cians that are in the front­line in the Covid-19 treat­ment. They gave me things that I could use and pre­scrip­tions that I could buy. I bought and used Vi­ta­min C, Vi­ta­min D, Zinc, azithromyc­in and I also used an­tibi­otics. I did have a sup­ply of chloro­quine which I did not use and other med­i­ca­tions. These ones, my physi­cian had in­structed to use when I was now very sick. The fever con­tin­ued with the use even of an­tibi­otics. I even de­vel­oped a di­ar­rhoea I’m not sure if it was Covid-19, or the use of an­tibi­otics as Covid-19 can also cause di­ar­rhoea.

“Over that week, I was now also tak­ing home reme­dies such as the zum­bani tea, gin­ger, lemon and I would maybe have four cups a day,” he nar­rated.

He said he was afraid un­like what one would think of a med­i­cal prac­tioner and spe­cial­ist in men­tal health.

The or­di­nary per­son would think that it is eas­ier for the men­tal health spe­cial­ist to process things. It would be easy to as­sume that some­one in his shoes would be im­mune to fear.

But he says he was afraid. News of peo­ple dy­ing in the coun­try and around the world kept him up on many nights. He was now one of the Covid-19 pa­tients.

Daily sta­tis­tics on cases in­cluded him too, and it had a psy­cho­log­i­cal bear­ing.

“The most dif­fi­cult thing that went through my mind was the psy­choso­cial be­cause I was in the first 1 000 in the coun­try. prob­a­bly the first med­i­cal doc­tor to test pos­i­tive. I was afraid of dy­ing be­cause I had seen some peo­ple dy­ing,” he said.

Dr Chirisa said fear crept in when he con­sid­ered that he had an un­der­ly­ing con­di­tion, hy­per­ten­sion. He felt that meant some­how the odds were against him.

The men­tal health ex­pert nar­rates that he was ir­ri­ta­ble and did not eat or talk to peo­ple who tried to reach out.

“I had an un­der­ly­ing con­di­tion as I am hy­per­ten­sive and on treat­ment. So, all those thoughts came. I was not sleep­ing. I was quiet and I did not want to talk. So many things could hap­pen to you when you are in iso­la­tion,” he said.

His friends threw med­i­ca­tion over the gate. Prob­a­bly, they were too afraid to get too close to him as a Covid-19 pa­tient. Get­ting too close would be too risky. But see­ing such de­manded a lot of men­tal strength to process, and a psy­choso­cial sup­port.

“Friends would come. They would bring sup­plies, med­i­ca­tion or something like that and they would lit­er­ally throw the med­i­ca­tion over the gate. They would stand back there. I think ob­vi­ously they needed to be safe as well,” he said.

Dr Chirisa said his youngest son found it dif­fi­cult to stay away from him, and soon got in­fected with the virus bring­ing to three the num­ber of in­fected fam­ily mem­bers.

“While I was in iso­la­tion, it was 21 days, my last born also be­came pos­i­tive. He could not un­der­stand the iso­la­tion process. He could not stay away from us. The rest of the fam­ily that stayed away tested neg­a­tive. My wife who was nurs­ing me, also be­came pos­i­tive. My son was sick for just one day. The other two had mild forms of Covid-19. I had the chal­leng­ing one. How­ever they have also tested neg­a­tive. I checked my tem­per­a­ture and my pulse every day,” said Dr Chirisa.

As a part­ing shot, he en­cour­aged peo­ple with un­der­ly­ing con­di­tions to en­sure they were well man­aged so that should they test pos­i­tive for Covid-19, they are not at risk of too many health com­pli­ca­tions.

“The take home mes­sage I give to peo­ple who have pre-ex­ist­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions, do not wait un­til you have Covid-19, this is the time to en­sure that your con­di­tion is well con­trolled. You do not want that up­surge be­cause it will change how your body re­acts to Covid-19. There is stigma. I vol­un­teered to come out, be­ing a med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner. I had covid-19. It was not my fault. There’s no­body to blame. There are a lot of peo­ple that are go­ing to get Covid19. They must be treated like hu­man be­ings,” said Dr Chirisa.

He said peo­ple needed sup­port from friends and fam­ily to help re­cover and said men­tal well­ness had a bear­ing in the re­cov­ery of a pa­tient.

“All you need is sup­port, all you need is care. We must try and break the stigma. I hope more peo­ple will come out. I thank God that I am back at work. Ciovid-19 is real. If you have Covid-19, do not just sit in bed. Feed your­self with pos­i­tive news, read a book or find something mo­ti­va­tional. If you feel like you are strug­gling with breath­ing and can­not speak a sen­tence without gasp­ing, then go to hos­pi­tal. Early oxy­gen ther­apy is needed. Most peo­ple die be­cause they would be too sick and would have sought help late,” said Dr Chirisa. — @ andile_t­shuma

Dr Sac­ri­fice Chirisa

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