Stigma in Quarantine: M2M Graduate Virginia Tells her Story about confronting Covid-19 in Malawi

On 9 April 2020 Thursday I woke up so courageous and determined that I was going for follow up on people who were suspects of Covid 19 as well as to do health education on Covid 19 at Kang’oma […]. Upon arrival we found the suspect in the car, and was very sick and vomiting, had high temperature. ‘’This suspect is very sick needs admission’’ I said, the lab technician took the samples for Covid 19 and other test […]. Finally we managed to put patient in isolation room, immediately I started attending to him, while I was in my PPE (personal protective equipment) […]. I explained to my colleagues that I saw a certain patient who I feel had Covid 19. Around 9 o’clock I was called that the patient was a confirmed case of Covid 19. Immediately was advised to go back. The ambulance came and took me to where the patient was. I joined the nurse to take care of him. Till the following day evening when another clinician and nurse came to rescue us. The following day the patient passed on. Hence we were put on quarantine for 14 days. 

After the patient was diagnosed with covid 19, I became stressful than ever before. Suddenly I rushed to the toilet and my whole body was if someone had poured cold water on me. A lot of questions started lingering in my mind. Will I manage to take care of the patient? Will I manage to protect myself without contracting the virus? Will the patient survive? 

Newspaper featuring Virginia's story

I thought quarantine might be fun, you have nothing to do, no work, away from people and you are always resting. Somehow I could think that you are relived from pressure of day and day life. As a health worker and a clinician I knew that I might encounter a patient with Covid 19 one day. But I never knew when, and how will it happen. Though I also said I will try everything possible to protect myself.

To say the truth quarantine isn’t an easy thing as it seems to be. Here are some of the experiences I had:

STRESS

After the patient was diagnosed with Covid 19, I became stressful than ever before. Suddenly I rushed to the toilet and my whole body was if someone had poured cold water on me. A lot of questions started lingering in my mind. Will I manage to take care of the patient? Will I manage to protect myself without contracting the virus? Will the patient survive? 

FEAR 

Fear took grip of me, what if I contract the disease, will I go through the same process as the patient was going through? Will my body be able to fight the corona virus? Will I die as other health workers who have died in other countries? The fear of leaving my family, my kids, and my husband was too much. I kept asking God to forgive my sins so that when I die, I should have eternal life. 

DEMORALIZATION 

I was demoralized with how our government was handling the Covid 19 issues. With political tension, there were a lot of stories from social media. People thought government was just creating Covid 19 cases.  The government also, was not responding fast fto the issues pertaining Covid 19. They are shortage of PPEs, small risk allowances for frontlines, no insurance for health workers. Since I took an oath to save the human kind, I pray every day that God should help all health workers to go through this pandemic period.

STIGMATIZATION 

I felt bad, when people even our fellow workmates were running away from us. Some of them they could speak ill of us who we were at quarantine. Sometimes when they are bringing food to us, they could just drop it somewhere and call us to go and collect it. On top of that the guards could refuse our families or our colleagues from work to come and see us, it took us negotiating with them that we were not prisoners and if they come will do all safety measures to protect them. 

The maids, the drivers sometimes they could refuse to give us their services since they were afraid to contract the disease from us, though seemed to be understandable.

PSYCHOLOGICALLY AFFECTED

To say the truth emotionally I was completely disturbed. I had insomnia, I could find myself wondering at the middle of the night, trying all means to make myself fall asleep but I could fail till am hours. Sometimes I could start crying loudly in my room, anyway it was good since after the cry I could feel better.

LONLINESS

I felt so lonely, no entertainment. Yes I could watch movies from my laptop but that was not enough since I needed more airtime bundle for me to download them or to stay on internet, there was no wifi hence we were using our own money to do that. Missing my family, my little kids. Anyway I had to be strong for me to finish my 14 days quarantine. 

Thank you Lord Jesus for protecting me, I tested negative for Covid 19, and went back to my family. It’s not about me and the safety measures I used, since still a lot of health workers are dying. But I feel it’s the God’s grace. 

All in all, I felt so much encouraged when I was helping my patient being the first clinician to attend to a Covid 19 patient in Malawi. I felt somehow my fellow colleagues will learn from it, that it’s necessary to help than running away from it. The patient kept saying ‘’thank you, you have helped me, others were just abandoning me and when am discharged from this hospital I will come to visit you at your house’’.  I was very happy and encouraged since I felt that we did instill hope in him and showed that we were still there to care about his life.

Until he died. May his soul rest in peace.

Virginia is a Clinical Technician working at Lilongwe District Hospital. She graduated in 2013 from Malawi College of Health Sciences. She was supported through her studies by Medic to Medic. Medic to Medic is a UK-based charity which supports healthcare students in Malawi.

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