Life In Isolation – As Experienced By 5 People Who Had Covid-19

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COVID-19 was the plot twist of 2020 no one saw coming. It brought out sides of us we never fully knew existed, whether that be bursts of creativity during lockdown or moments of anguish in isolation – this has been a rollercoaster ride for so many of us. For those who went through the virus, the repercussions hit slightly differently. Along with the physical toll, it’s also known to cause a mental strain on those forced to isolate themselves in the confines of one room for 2 weeks. In order to understand the differences in COVID experiences, we reached out to 5 people who went through it:

‘It started with a low grade fever and some fatigue. Upon my friend’s insistence, I got tested and the worst came to be true. I had also been in contact with my grandmother who developed symptoms as well, and thats’s when I got really paranoid. I ended up isolating with her and though it was good to have company, it was extremely challenging to be sick and take care of another sick person simultaneously. Gasping for breath every now and then but trying to stay positive can take a toll on one’s mental health. But positivity is a vital aspect of fighting covid. I watched movies with my grandmother, heard her childhood stories and got to bond with her a lot.  Isolation itself can be overwhelming so I made a constant effort to keep busy and not let the covid blues get to me. I was also always in touch with my friends and family through video calls, which really helped me get through this tough time. I finally tested negative after 24 days but covid did leave me with anxiety and brain fog for a long time, and I definitely don’t have the same stamina I used to. Word of advice – please stay home and stay safe. This is far from over!’

⁃ Manal Shakir, 24 (Karachi)

‘Over a fresh cup of morning tea which I was sipping hurriedly so I don’t get late for work, I listened to my daughter eagerly plan her activities once Mama comes home from work. She had developed a habit to stand at a distance, as being a doctor, I had warned her that Mama was at risk of having the infamous coronavirus. Not to mention, some of the staff at the clinic I work in had tested positive and I had been in close contact with them. I pushed away the nagging fear that loomed on; my COVID 19 test result was scheduled the same day.

I found out I tested positive early next morning and immediately isolated myself from the rest of the family. My next step was to quickly get the whole family tested. I made calls to those who had left for work and asked them to return immediately and get themselves tested. All were tested within a couple of hours and I waited impatiently for their results. I think the toughest part of my quarantine was just waiting on that – the thought that someone else might have gotten infected through me was unbearable. It came as a huge sigh of relief once I found out that no one else was affected at home, but at the same time I was disturbed because more staff in the hospital were getting testing positive, as well as their families.

From then on it was just a matter of spending time praying, watching random shows and speaking to family and friends over a video call. I considered myself extremely fortunate because my symptoms just ranged from a headache to low grade fever – nothing drastic that would entail rushing to the hospital.

My highlight of the day would be the countless notes my kids would slip under my door wishing me a speedy recovery. Our conversations were either through a screen or through the closed door (even though I had given strict instructions that they not be allowed too close to the door either), and I counted days to when I would be with them again.

I was tested again after two weeks and luckily I tested negative this time. After an unexpectedly emotional reunion with my family, I resumed work immediately the next day and was back to having my fresh cup of morning tea hurriedly so I wouldn’t be late. Again I pushed away the thoughts of reinfection – what are the chances of that? Only time will tell.’

⁃ Maria Omar, 36 (Karachi – Frontline Worker)

‘On a mid-September morning, I woke up with a sore throat, a fever, body aches, and a head ache (i.e. majority of the early strain symptoms). After a quick call to the boss, I made my way to the hospital to get tested. Fast-forwarding to 7pm that day, the hospital notified me that I was indeed positive for COVID-19. Thus began my 14 day self-isolation period.

Days 1 – 5: The period when my symptoms were at their peak. All the symptoms, barring the head aches which were unpleasant, were that of a moderate flu. I primarily rested during this period. I slept A LOT, caught up on pending TV shows, spoke with old college friends, went down internet rabbit holes, read books that had been piling up in the corner of my room…etc. Before I knew it, 5 days had already passed and I was feeling much better.

Days 6 – 10: The most frustrating period. Although I was feeling much better, I was still trapped in my room. At the beginning of my self-isolation, I had made a conscious decision to be positive about this whole ordeal. Obviously I didn’t like the self-curtailment of my mobility, however I knew that if allowed myself to indulge in the negativity of my situation that would just lead to my self-isolation being more taxing. I took each day and tried to make the most of it rather than to think about tomorrow or the day after.

Days 11 – 14: The ‘finish line’ period. The countdown had begun, and my spirits were at an all-time high. I began planning for the future (eg. booking cleaning services to sanitize my room) and had developed proverbial beer goggles towards my daily routine. I looked forward to sleeping as much my heart desires, watching as much TV as I wanted to, aimlessly roaming the internet till tired, and just being an
unproductive member of society for a few more days.

When I look back at my self-isolation, it seems like one very long day. I don’t have any negative emotions towards that period. Yes I couldn’t go anywhere, but I also did a lot of things I wouldn’t have done otherwise. I caught up with pop culture (albeit momentarily), reconnected with friends, and took a break from the world – just to name a few. From my COVID-19 experience, I learnt that along with the physical symptoms, also comes the mental strain of self-isolation. I am aware that l am privileged and was able to self-isolate with all the comforts. However, I feel that adopting a positive outlook towards the self-isolation was as important as taking medicines to treat my physical symptoms.

P.S. Through-out my self-isolation period, I also spent a significant amount of time consuming various “healthy” foods and hot drinks as my mother was on a mission to bury and/or drown the COVID virus in my body.’

⁃ Humaid Hussain, 26 (Dubai)

‘I knew something was wrong when I felt cold in the scorching heat of Karachi. I checked my temperature and it was 99.8 degrees Celsius. I decided that I needed to get tested the very next day and I did. I waited impatiently for the results, and then at 5AM, woke up to a text from the lab that read the dreaded result: positive. I informed my father by opening the door just enough for my voice to travel; I was extremely afraid of my parents catching the virus. Thankfully, no one else in my house got infected. My two weeks were spent watching Netflix, but also taking full care of myself. I got 10 hours of sleep every night, ate properly, took all my supplements, took steam and kept checking my oxygen saturation every few hours. The physical exhaustion took a toll on my mental health as well. I did not feel like getting out of bed and taking a shower was a cumbersome task. I had to force myself to eat sometimes because I knew I had to fight this. When my test returned negative after exactly 18 days from the onset of symptoms, it was the biggest relief I had ever felt. I realised how much we take the smallest things for granted – things like leaving the house whenever we want, hugging our loved ones, and even going to school/work! One thing COVID-19 has taught me is gratitude. Always count your blessings and be grateful for what you have (it’s never too little!). If not for yourself, please take care and stay safe for those you love around you.’

– Sania Shahid, 24 (Karachi)

‘The most important thing I learnt during my isolation was how much we take for granted. Simple pleasures like taking a walk outside or being able to get myself a glass of water without the fear of infecting those living in my house, or more concrete things like seeing another human being and engaging in human interaction. Prior to the pandemic and prior to my positive COVID diagnosis, I never appreciated the time spent with my loved ones – the hugs and the social interaction without a mask, all now seemed so far away. While I was isolated, I remember thinking I would even take a socially distanced meeting as opposed to spending all this time with myself. But I also learned that you can be enough for yourself, for at least a short period of time. And I realised that it’s important to find a balance – it’s easy to get so preoccupied that you forget about other people, and it’s easy to be so involved in others that you forget about yourself. I believe it is this balance that is key to the post-pandemic lifestyle.’

– Mahrukh Ali, 25 (Toronto)

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