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Saigon family shares Covid-beating strategy

By Hai Hien   July 28, 2021 | 03:31 am PT
After recovering from the coronavirus, Thuy Lien shared her family of four's strategies to outsmart Covid.

Lien did not think Covid-19 would hit her family so quickly when all five members tested positive in just a few days.

"Even though I appeared calm on the outside, I was emotionally torn inside at the time. My only thought was that I should remain optimistic so I could fight the virus and take care of my family," the 27-year-old in District 10 recalled.

On the evening of July 5, Lien developed a slight fever and body aches. She guessed she had contracted Covid since her uncle, who lives in the same house, had tested positive and been sent to a quarantine facility. The next day, her mother and grandfather developed similar symptoms, prompting Lien to inform the ward medical station.

Rapid test results confirmed all three contracted the virus, with only Lien's father testing negative. Due to the large number of patients and no reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test results, the whole family was asked to self-quarantine at home.

The whole family of Thuy Lien is waiting for Covid-19 quick test result on July 5, 2021. Photo courtesy of Tien.

Thuy Lien’s family await their Covid-19 test results on July 5, 2021. Photo courtesy of Tien.

For Lien's family, with both the healthy and infected forced to live together, self-isolation proved difficult. On one side was a grandfather with poor eyesight and on the other, her father who had not been infected but suffers a disability, impeding mobility.

The thought of protecting her father against infection troubled Lien, the main source of income for her family.

After a discussion with her mother, Lien decided to use the living room as an isolation zone. She and her mother stayed at the back of the house while her father and grandfather stayed in the first two rooms at the front of the house. Everyone communicated with each other entirely by phone. In the early days, when her mother was still healthy, she cooked meals for everyone and placed them at fixed points in the house. Her dad would later come to collect it himself.

Furniture and appliances in the house were also clearly divided. Before use, everything was thoroughly washed with boiling water. Mobile phones were also disinfected with alcohol. Though at home all day, everyone wore face masks, except when eating and bathing. Lien regularly talked to people to confirm their physical and mental state. She knows that when someone is infected, fear and insecurity would increase, making the psychological impact of the virus even greater than the disease itself.

"Be calm, everything will be fine," Lien regularly told everyone.

The days waiting for the results of the PCR test were as long as a century. In addition to fever and headache, Lien also experienced a loss of taste and smell, accompanied by constant insomnia. With the guidance of the ward doctor, she still tried to eat to boost her immune system, drank lots of water and did not abuse fever-reducing drugs.

"Despair is the scariest thing, especially in the face of illness. If you feel anxiety, don't let despair take control of your mind. Calm is the key to escape the tragedy of fate," she wrote in her diary.

But deep down, she worried about what could happen and how they would manage if everyone got separated.

On July 9, while preparing a meal, her mother fainted and fell to the floor.

"It was the scariest moment I've ever experienced. I thought I was going to lose my mother at that moment," she recalled.

When ward medics came over to transfer her mom to the emergency room, she still couldn't stop crying.

"Mom, trust the doctor and medical staff. You will be okay and return home in a few days," she told her mother right before the ambulance drove away.

The next two days were the hardest for Lien. She was constantly nauseous. Her throat always felt soar and eating or drinking was painful. Afraid of not being able to supply her mother and grandfather in the hospital, on July 11, she sent her relatives' phone numbers to friends on social media, telling them what to do, in case her health worsened.

At midnight, Lien was taken to a field hospital in Hoc Mon District with another Covid patient in the neighborhood. After examination and classification, Lien was allowed to stay in the field hospital for showing mild symptoms.

"The first night in the field hospital was the longest t I've experienced. But I had to encourage myself not to let the virus beat me," she said.

During the days at the Covid field hospital, Lien maintained the habit of washing and cleaning the rooms and shared toilets. Photo courtesy of Lien.

During her time at the Covid-19 field hospital, Lien maintained the habit of washing and cleaning rooms and shared toilets. Photo courtesy of Lien.

Although she was being tormented by Covid-19, she was worried about her family. Lien's grandfather and mother were sent to another hospital in Go Vap but needed ventilation support, with her father staying home alone. The only consolation at the time was that her symptoms gradually improved. In addition to her loss of smell, Lien's health gradually returned to normal. "It seems my hardest time was over," she said.

But two days later, when she called home, Lien's father kept saying he was tired. Via a video call, the first image she saw was her father's red face and gasp for air. At this time, the number of Covid-19 cases in the city was continuously increasing, so it took one day for the ward doctor to come and test her father. When he received his positive result, Lien no longer had the strength to cry.

The next day, Lien's father was transferred to a hospital in District 10 from where she lost complete contact. The next day, recovered a little, he took the initiative to call his daughter and tell her his fever had subsided.

"The darkness that enveloped my family was dispelled. We are lucky, the symptoms have not grown worse and no one’s in danger any longer," she said, noting her mother and grandfather no longer need ventilation support and her father was later transferred to another hospital for treatment.

To receive an update on everyone's health, at 9 a.m. each morning, Lien would pick up the phone and called her parents for a few minutes, mainly to keep in touch and give them encouragement. On July 23, both her mother and grandfather tested negative for the second time, awaiting discharge while Lien and her father were still positive for Covid.

"Since my health was fine, it's just a matter of time before I got a negative result," she said.

During her days at the field hospital, Lien did not forget to thank her relatives and friends for their support. She recalled how people would constantly send food and fruit to her family. Neighbors, even those unknown, encouraged and cheered them on as they battled the virus.

"My family was able to survive the crisis thanks to the trust and support of many people. We are not alone in the face of the pandemic," she said.

Lien also thanked the staff at her ward medical station, the district health center, as well as the doctors and nurses who tested and treated her and her relatives.

"The love people have for me makes me very happy. That is the charm of Saigon," Lien said.

Lien's intention after getting discharged from hospital is to spend time with her family and pay more attention to the health of her loved ones. Lien also wants to give advice to help infected patients like herself combat the virus.

After sharing her Covid-19 battle on her social media account, she realized "life is impermanent."

"What I pursued before is no longer important. My only wish now is the health of everyone in my family and for myself," she wrote.

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