Staying Covid-19 positive a pandemic task

April 6, 2020 | 04:04 pm PT
Contracting Covid-19 does not always mean death, and if we in Vietnam remain patient, we can beat the disease.
Cap Thi Yen

Cap Thi Yen

Sometimes I wonder, what are those viruses doing in my body? I’ve been experiencing a little pressure in my chest, you see.

Would they attack and damage my lungs? I’ve been reading stories of foreign patients with Covid-19, telling how they had suffered fever, coughs, breathing difficulties and pain all over their bodies, many having been killed. "Will tomorrow feel worse than this?" I asked myself.

It’s been ten days since I flew back to Vietnam from the U.K. on March 22 and entered quarantine. This is the first day I started to show symptoms.

Previously, I was totally fine. Without the test, I would never have doubted I had been infected.

It was around dawn of March 27, when I was officially confirmed Covid-19 positive – "Patient 155" in Vietnam.

That evening when I had been transferred from a quarantine camp to Bac Lieu General Hospital in southern Bac Lieu Province, a wave of messages arrived. Many of my friends and acquaintances sent me screenshot photos of the news they had seen, asking me if it was true. "Is this really you, Yen. How come you got infected?"

Yes, yes it’s me. But why me? That flight carried 300 passengers and only a few got infected, including me. I burst into tears, feeling nothing but fear.

When the epidemic broke out in the U.K. and kept spreading, I did not dare go anywhere rather than to school and supermarkets. I always wore a face mask when going outside, keeping the alcoholic gel with me and at school. I regularly went to the restroom to wash my hands with soap and water. In many cases, I even used a napkin to cover the knob when opening a door.

When returning to Vietnam, I wore a face mask at the airport. I even wore gloves and kept washing my hands whenever I could. By the time it was announced I had contracted the new coronavirus I still felt totally healthy.

But those messages kept arriving to my phone, bearing tons of questions. They did not help though, I was shocked and worried.

At the time, sitting alone in a hospital room of 12-square-meters, I was frightened of those messages even more than the virus, well aware they only revealed how much people cared for me.

I called my parents and kept crying as I talked.

By the time I wrote these lines, I had stopped counting my days in quarantine.

Vietnamese Covid-19 patients take a group photo as they are released from the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi, April 1, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

Vietnamese Covid-19 patients take a group photo as they are released from the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi, April 1, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

A day as a Covid-19 patient at Bac Lieu General Hospital starts at 6 a.m. for me.

A nurse wakes me via phone, asking me to collect my breakfast and new clothes. After, I make my bed, complete my morning hygiene routine and eat. The nurse then sends a message to a group chat of Covid-19 patients, reminding us to check our own temperature and get changed so staff could pick up our old clothes to wash.

Today, April 1, my temperature is 36.3 degrees Celsius. I have not run any fevers but started to notice some fatigue, chest pain and an uncomfortable feeling in my nose.

Past nine o’clock, doctors come to check my blood pressure, gather blood samples as well as throat and nasal swabs for testing. I’ve always been a fearful person, so the first day my blood was drawn, I screamed and cried so loud doctors and other patients rushed to check on me.

"How are you feeling today? Do you feel any sore throat, chest pain? Do you cough or sneeze?" are routine questions. Following my answer, doctors always tell me: "That’s good. Keep fighting!"

"Do you lack anything? Is there anything you need?" nurses ask. But I know how hard they are working so I remain content with what I have.

For medicine, I take two pills twice a day.

After lunch and a nap, I feel a little less tired. The afternoon is for studying. I am a student at the Foreign Trade University in Hanoi. After completing my junior year, I accessed a transitional program (top-up) to study at the University of Huddersfield in England. I had been at Huddersfield only two months when the school announced temporary closure and a switch to online classes until the end of July. During this period, students will have a three-week Easter break, starting March 30. After July, students will commence summer break before starting a new semester in September. As such, I do not have to go to school for five months and with the lockdown about to be applied in England, I had decided to go home, as soon as I can.

Back in Vietnam, the Foreign Trade University in Hanoi did not have an Easter break yet it had already started a new semester, so I registered for one subject, and today is my first online class. Studying online is not a problem for me since I have been doing so from high-school. The class today was great, the teacher had such as good sense of humor and getting the chance to interact with others really lifted my mood.

I receive video calls from my parents, other family members and friends every day. Everybody tries to cheer me up and make me feel better. I also entertain myself by watching funny videos, laughing by myself. Yet when the sun goes down and there are no more rays of sunshine slanting through the window and the canopies behind the patient rooms, when the dark arrives and covers everything, I feel homesick.

Right after returning to Vietnam, I had been transferred to a quarantine camp in Bac Lieu, which is almost 2,000 km (1,242 miles) away from my hometown in Hung Yen Province of northern Vietnam. I used to wonder how I would return home after everything is over and was worried because flights and traffic have been limited. But now, I have stopped thinking about that because I know I will have to stay isolated at hospital for weeks to come. When my parents suggested they would come visit me, I told them they should stay where they were to curb the infection spread. Besides, even if they were in Bac Lieu, they could not meet me directly. So I’ve been telling myself to be stronger, because what if one day I am all alone in the U.K. and get sick there?

In the past few days, I’ve tried to make myself look good, even when there is nobody watching. I wear some lipstick, so that when I look into the mirror, I would see a prettier me and feel more confident and cheerful.

I’ve been wearing my blue patient uniform every day and letting my hair down as it is supposed to, but today, I’ve decided to do up my hair, changing it a little. Not bad at all, I told my reflection in the mirror, and noticed my face had got a little fatter.

Then I grab a bottle of water and drop some on the rose flowers in the room. I look at them for a while and smile to myself. Out there in many other places in this world, there are a lot of people who have already contracted the new coronavirus but have been told to quarantine themselves at home, and there have been people who recovered from the disease on their own without any help from doctors and nurses.

I am young, I have a good immune system and until recently, the only symptom I have experienced is the pressure in my chest. I HAVE TO STAY STRONG.

I’m writing these words not to fool people into thinking Covid-19 is not scary. In fact, everybody should know by now the disease is super contagious and has taken the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world in a short period of time.

But if you are unlucky enough to contract the virus, please do not freak out. It is not really that terrible. For me, I’ve been feeling good thus far. And more importantly, if being pessimistic is no help, why not be optimistic?

*Cap Thi Yen is a 21-year-old Vietnamese woman who lives in Hung Yen Province’s An Thi Town. She is a student at Huddersfield University in the U.K. On March 22, she landed in Can Tho on Vietnam Airlines flight VN50, seat 2K. She showed no symptoms when quarantined at Bac Lieu Province’s Military School. Once her samples tested positive, she was transferred to Bac Lieu General Hospital for treatment. The opinions expressed are her own.

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