This is the story of a Covid-19 survivor from a small rural village of Bera in the Midlands.
By Ndaba Ndhlovu
This week Silence Gumishave was a guest of this newspaper on one of our feeder platforms – where Zimbabwean newsmakers are put on ‘Hot Seat’ famously called the Rudo Zvobgo-Chidwala show.
True to her mantra, Rudo is an international host, she handled the show with dignity and decorum when interviewing our guest on the programme – Silence Gumishave.
The story of a COVID survivor will only make it to the news if the survivor is a celebrity or politician. The mainstream news will not even bother to show case Silence’s story (an ordinary rural boy.
TV and newspapers have reported that millions have contracted the virus and these gallant fighters are at war with the virus on their own.
People do understand the impact of COVID-19, but they don’t see the actual people at the centre of this war who are struggling and fighting for their lives. Silence shared five key tips to survive COVID-19.
In a more lucid state, Silence explained that by sharing his survival tips and experiences, he will demystify the stigma and help someone out there.
1. Know the symptoms of COVID
Silence first experienced a headache, then some chest pains, his voice was hoarse, lost sense of taste and smell and his chest felt congested. Few days later, he had fever and body aches, but his symptoms felt many times milder than the normal flu.
He felt the disease was playing “mind games” with him, each day seemed to bring a new symptom.
On the third day, he felt like his throat was clogged with sawdust, he experienced a very dry cough, unquenchable thirst and loss of appetite.
He experienced episodes of shortness of breath as he struggled to sustain a two-minute conversation, Silence recalled, gasping for air while talking to his uncle. Silence was quick to point that people experience different symptoms and it is important to seek medical treatment early.
He still experiences post Covid-19 symptoms and these are : Changes in appetite, energy and activity levels; difficulty concentrating and making decisions ; difficulty sleeping at night or nightmares and physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes even though he has tested negative for COVID -19.
2. Get tested
The second day was non-stop sneezing, Silence knew something was amiss. He then decided to get a Covid test. He went for the PCR test and he tested positive.
His advice is for people to know what to do if they are sick, in his case he telephoned the Covid-19 hotline 2019 for advice on where to get tested. He also knew where and how to get treatment and other support services and resources, including counselling or therapy.
3. Fight the virus with all you have and self-care
What motivated Silence to fight was that he lost his two close friends to COVID-19 and they didn’t have symptoms. Silence followed a systematic routine of self- care.
He drank plenty of fluids, ate nutritious food and drank lots of water and this helped him stay hydrated. His advice is to avoid alcohol and alcoholic beverages as these tend to dehydrate.
The second self-care tip from Silence is to get plenty of rest and sleep. Silence isolated himself at his rural home because she had a room to isolate.
He also used home- made remedies and these include garlic, steaming and rubbing viks. He cautions Covid-19 patients to stay in a separate room from other family members and use a dedicated bathroom if possible.
They should clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces all the time. Silence found making social contact with loved ones through the phone or internet very helpful.
He said ‘It is normal to feel low, sad, stressed, or confused, therefore, talking to people you trust, such as friends and family, can help. If you feel overwhelmed and mentally exhausted talk to a health worker or counsellor’.
Sequestered at home with family and friends is something we often covet but rarely attain, based upon conflicting schedules and busy lifestyles. Silence only dreamt of being able to spend unlimited quality time with his loved ones.
Scientist have argued that one of the most basic psychological needs is the ability to forge positive and enduring relationships (Ryan & Deci, 2000), Silence jumped at the chance to be with those he cared for the most.
Isolation due to Covid-19 should not be looked upon as a prison sentence, but the time to renew positive relationships with others or patch up strained relationships.
Silence maximised on the opportunity to strengthen existing bonds that he took for granted during more prosperous and busy times. Instead of ruminating on the inconvenience of being in isolation, Silence took time to reflect on what he values most, and he prayed and read the bible to connect with the God.
4. Building one’s emotional resilience
It is natural and common to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during an epidemic like covid-19 and Silence experienced all these. However, Silence believes that people react differently, and one’s feelings will change over time; therefore, it is important to notice and accept how one feels.
Taking care of one’s emotional health during an epidemic helped Silence’s chain of thought. Self-care during an emergency will help with long-term healing. Silence built his emotional resilience by reading.
Bergsma and Ardelt in 2012, did a study and found that happiness is positively correlated with generating wisdom.
They found that participants who took measurable steps toward enhancing their skills tended to feel better about themselves than those who gave up. Silence emerged from the coronavirus crisis both smarter and happier.
He was encouraged by people who kept checking on him from time to time to see whether he needed anything, and some people dropped supplies outside his home.
5. Going forward – believe in full recovery
We should learn to live with the virus whether we are covid-19 positive or negative. Building immunity and resilience is important till the day scientists discover a vaccine.
The only vaccine as of now is our body’s immune system. it is important to keep a thermometer, an oximeter device at home ( a device that measures how much oxygen your blood is carrying).
Silence warn patients to avoid too much exposure to news and he encourages them to take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see negative images repeatedly.
Finally, wearing a mask and following all hygiene/sanitation protocols. Staying indoors, reading a book or writing something and supporting someone who needs help is important.
Silence said in closing ‘we should also keep in mind that many covid-19 patients are testing positive daily and millions are recovering, and some have recovered, so stay positive and strong. We will defeat Covid 19’.
Ndaba Ndhlovu is an avid reader and follower of The Sunday Express. He is an advocate of positive news, and an expert on development. Gumishave was on Hot Seat as Guest of Sunday Express.
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