Outbreak 2021: Part 2 Unexpected COVID19 Scare At The Office

COVID19 Alex

Continuing from Part 1 where one of my colleague who got COVID19 infection, the good news is he and his wife were got discharged from the hospital after got clearance from the doctor. He shared his experience and the nightmare of being infected with COVID19.

Note: The below story is reproduced verbatim but with spelling, grammar and structure changed for clarity.

Pre-infection

I have considered myself very discipline in my movement and interaction my contact, other than family, colleagues, neighbours & few very close friends, I always keep a distance away from others.

First Detection

I felt whole body ache & tiredness starting from 24th December 2020 and when I reached office around 9.30 in the morning, I suddenly felt sleepy and started to doze off a few times. Hence I decided to go home and get a couple of Panadol and have some rests.

Before that, our neighbours both have complained about having fever a few days earlier and on 25th December 2020 morning, their 2 daughters had also developed a fever. This rang the alert bells in me considering that both of my left & right neighbours have now a different form of sickness.

I quickly ask my wife to bring the kids along to the nearest clinic to do the COVID19 tests and also urged my neighbours who are not feeling to do the test as well (just to make sure).

There are 2 types of tests available – the first one is the Rapid Antigen Test (RTK) and another is the PCR SwabTest. The RTK is a very quick result test that cost about RM135 and the result can be obtained within 30 minutes and accuracy is 60-90% accurate.

We did the RTK test first and if the RTK test is positive, we will have to do the PCR test to send the sample to the lab for further detail test that will take 2 days. With the RTK test doctor stuck the long test stick to our nostril to gather the sample and place on the test palette

Thankfully, both my son was tested negative / not detected with the COVID19 strands with the RTK. My wife and I were not so lucky though – our RTK test confirmed positive infection. In view of this, we are now required to do the PCR Swab to reconfirm the infection.

We need to be swabbed again with the test stick to our nostril & throat (this time even deeper) and after that, we are been told to go home directly to self-quarantine until the PCR swab test results available. The doctor also mentioned if our PCR swab test is positive, we will be picked up in a Government ambulance and will be sent to the Sg. Buloh Hospital for quarantine & further observation.

Suspicious of the source of infection

Me & my wife both very cautious with people we interact even with workmates and we hardly dine out. For lunch at the workplace, I had always been eating alone to minimize interactions with the office colleague.

Having dinner daily with my mom has no longer a normal practice and I have started to cook from home as the children are stranded from online learning and at home since October 2020.

However, our interaction with our neighbours has increased tremendously with daily meetups for tea & coffee at night at our respective neighbours. It has become almost a daily routine – we got “too close” and from there we started to let down our guards. We never know where / who they had interacted.

My other neighbour and I suspected that we must have gotten our COVID19 infection from an older couple who is also one of our neighbours as they always spend their daily activities at the market place.

The husband would always go to the wet market, his seafood factory and coffee shop for beers with his social circle. I am not pointing my finger to anyone on this but the painful lesson that I have learned is “I might be disciplined of who I interact, but I would not know who he might be interacting with”

This neighbour of mine then organized a birthday party for her wife and invited us over for dinner and drinks. Unfortunately on the same day as the birthday party, he has already shown signs of discomfort, coughing & running nose and we don’t really pay attention to it.

Waiting for the results

Since our 2 kids were not infected based on the RTK test, both of us have completely locked ourselves in our room.

The wait was torturous especially when we are waiting for our test results. On the 26th evening, the call on the test results finally arrived but the result was not favourable to us – the result was positive. We were confirmed infected with COVID19. We were informed that MOH will be calling us in the next few days on the arrangements for the hospitalisation.

Warning to neighbours

Despite the results of the test, we remained calm and started to make the necessary arrangements for our hospitalisation. Whilst my wife & I acted fairly swiftly to get the COVID19 PCR test done and warn others, we noticed that some of our neighbours were still in the denial of the situation and only proceed to do the RTK test.

I urged them all to do the PCR test so that we can confirm the severity of the infection but it is obvious that most of the neighbours not prepared to accept the fact that they may be infected with COVID19.

We then decided to report our case to our Resident Association so that they can warn others and take precautions. However, the Resident Association committee members asked too many questions to a point when got fed-up with the queries.

However, in view of the gravity of the issue and as part of our neighbourhood obligations, we remained patience and committed to alerting others. Soon our situation was posted in the social media namely Facebook and the whole residential area was alerted.

Admission to the hospital

On the 27th morning, we receive a call from MOH that an ambulance is on its way to pick us up and will be sending us to the Sg. Buloh Hospital. We quickly rushed up to pack our stuff and ensure we brought enough for our time in quarantine in the hospital. We were however worried about the crowd of patients at the hospital considering the spike in the recent number of infections.

We waited since early morning in our living room for the ambulance which only showed up at around 6 pm in the evening. We quickly boarded the ambulance as our neighbours came out from their houses to watch us.

Soon we were on a mad rush to the hospital – the ambulance driver was driving like a madman. However before we reached the hospital, the ambulance went on to another 2 places to pick up more patients in the area of Kepong (1 Chinese elderly uncle who operates a restaurant and a Malay girl).

COVID19 MOH 2021

We then reached Jalan Duta and stopped in front of a construction site “The PARQ” to be transferred to another vehicle. It was a van and it was already crowded with 16 other people and there were 2 foreigners as well in the van. We were lucky not to be placed in a bigger bus which is filled with foreign construction workers (more than 20 of them). It was torture waiting for the van to move – in a closed non ventilated van and still with the mask on.

Shortly after that, we were transferred to the quarantine facilities in Sg. Buloh which was not in the hospital itself. Some of us were transferred to the Nurse’s Hostel and myself & my wife along with others to PKKN (Pusat Kawalan Kusta Negara) which was the Leprosy Control Center.

Hospitalization

It was already raining by the time we settled down at our beds in the quarantine centre. The time showed 8 pm at night and I just realised that we have yet to take our dinner. The fact that the quarantine centre was clean and tidy helped to lift our spirits to an extent.

I am surprised with the tidiness and how well organized this facility was and the goods were abundance beyond my earlier expectation. I was asked to change to the “uniform” provided by MOH and soon a doctor interviewed me over the phone. This was my Day 1 of the quarantine and I had a long way to go.

On Day 2 of the quarantine, we all woke up around 5.30 am for various types of tests such as blood test, blood sugar test, blood pressure, blood oxygen test, etc. In addition to the food supplied, we are also allowed to order online from Grab or Food Panda and other sundry items.

The area that I was quarantined had about 20 beds and most of the patients here had symptoms like dry cough, running nose, loss of taste or smell, etc. Some of them were coughing very badly and they were soon transferred to another facility.

Unlike those quarantined in hotels, there was not free internet here and we had to use our own mobile data to get ourselves connected online and get some form of entertainment. We only had tests done but no medication provided other than the standard cough syrups and tablets for colds.

COVID19 2021 Bed

Most of the patients here also went for blood sample test & X-Ray but I was not asked to do the same as I did not have severe symptoms like others. During the oxygen test, we were asked to do a two-minute exercise of sitting and standing up before the MOH staff measured the level of oxygen concentration in our blood.

We need to have a reading of above 96 to 100. Any reading below 94 is considered bad and it is possible that the COVID19 had infected the lungs and caused inflammation. These patients would require different types of treatments.

On Day 2, I have developed a total loss of smell – I lost the ability to smell food like McD prosperity burger with a lot of black pepper, lemon juice, mint, and even “very fishy” fish. Thankfully my sense of smell came back on Day 5 of my quarantine.

The food served here was very light and controlled and thus nothing to shout about. I ate very little but I drank a lot of water and also plenty of vitamin C & zinc to boost up my body’s immune system. One thing of having COVID19 is that you will always feel tired and always feels sleepy. I could have easily fallen asleep and can sleep for cumulative 15 hours or more.

Children & Family

Because my children are close contact to us, they were classified as high risk and thus required to perform the test at Batu Muda test centre which incidentally the same test centre where my office mates were required to do their COVID19 testing. Unfortunately, the results came out as positive as well and thus need to be quarantined like us.

At this point, my wife had a mental meltdown and a sheer panic attack as we did not know what and how our kids would be picked up and quarantined. We did not get sufficient information from MOH which proved to be frustrating to us as parents.

I had to make a few calls to get information and finally were made to understand that our kids would be sent to the Sg Buloh hospital as well and not some other faraway hospitals. This helped to reduce the anxiety that my wife was having.

However, this was not the end of the nightmare as we were not sure exactly the quarantine centre where they would be placed. This meant another rounds of calls to get the details and even asked if the kids could be placed in the same place as the parents. This request was turned down due to the severity of the conditions that we had.

Both my sister and mother also went for the test as we all had met up on 21st December for Winter Solstice dinner. Thankfully their test results turned out to be negative.

Discharging

After a long few days in the facilities from 27th December 2020 to 3rd January 2021 – a total of 10 days which has been the longest days of my life – the doctor decided to discharge me & my wife. My wife was discharged in the morning and myself in the evening.

I received my notice of release on 2nd January 2021 where it was mentioned that my blood is “clean” hence I can be discharged. Whilst I was waiting for the necessary paperwork, I asked the duty doctor on what are the key things I should be paying attention to in relation to COVID19.

The doctor informed that the COVID19 will, unfortunately, will remain in my body system but it will not be infectious to other people. But then again, our body immune system has dropped significantly and thus can easily be attacked by common illnesses such as flu, cold, cough and such. The low immune system also meant that it will not be easy to recover from these sicknesses. It will take time – in fact, a few months to rebuild our immune system.

In the meantime, we were advised to remain cautions interact with people, not because we are going to infect other people but instead being infected by other people.

Final Advice

  • Don’t be in denial on the possibility of infection
  • Be aware of your close contact’s activities & their whereabout
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing
  • Don’t treat flu, cough, sore throat & tiredness lightly – you might have been infected
  • Drink plenty of warm-hot water.
  • Not go to a crowded place – not even your neighbour house. As little as 6 people will also affect you.
  • Take vitamin C 1000mg daily as much as 3 times a day and also take ZinC
  • Don’t go for group lunch (well not to be anti-social)
  • Sleep more
  • Don’t over trust your neighbour or your close contacts

All of us has been discharged, including the boys on 6th January 2021 together with most of my neighbours. Overall there were about 12 people from my residential area that was getting infected and admitted.

Are we all recovered? Not entirely – two of my neighbours still have not regained their sense of smell & taste. I still feel very tired – if I woke up at 7 am, by 9 am I am already feeling sleepy again and this goes on for the rest of the days. This means the COVID19 virus is in our system and it will be with us until an effective vaccine comes along.

The past 2 weeks really put me & my wife in high stress and both us are mentally disturbed.

Extra things

I managed to make some new friends during the quarantine – people from different fields and from different walks of life – one was a Tan Sri, one an MRT contractor, restaurant operator, retired special branch Police officer, etc. Ironically, it was a bad time to foster good relations.

Oh, don’t ever sanitise your house! You will regret it because all the residue of the virus will really make us crazy. It is all over the place, glass, windows, cups, plates, sticky & slippery floor, the LCD screens – basically everything! You cannot be able to clean all at once.

Note – the story and photos used with permission from my colleague, Mr Alex

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