ON Jan 10, I received a phone call from a doctor who told me what anyone who has ever gotten a Covid-19 test dreads to hear: I tested positive for the coronavirus.
I am part of a team of journalists at The Star covering the pandemic since it started early last year.
Now that I had officially become a Covid-19 statistic, I was about to find out what it is like to be infected.
I got tested at a private hospital on Jan 8 after my wife was confirmed positive a few days earlier.
My wife and I, both in our 40s, had a recurring mild fever and flu-like symptoms. My 13-year-old daughter had no symptoms. She has been tested twice and is not infected.
The doctor who called, asked me about my symptoms.
He told me to stay at home and wait for my district health office to contact me and my wife so that we could be taken to a quarantine and treatment centre.
I was asked to call the Health Ministry immediately if we developed severe symptoms such as breathing difficulties.
I felt a mix of fear, panic and guilt. I feared that the infection would get worse for my wife and me.
Each time I felt like a cough coming on, or a sore throat, I panicked.
I felt guilty thinking whether I had infected our daughter, other family members or friends.
These feelings are hard to navigate and overcome but support from family, friends and colleagues helped a lot.
It is when you realise you are not in this fight alone that your mental state shifts from being on the verge of a breakdown to being hopeful that you will pull through.
Since our symptoms were mild, all we needed was fever medicine.
What did not help was my doom scrolling – consuming a large quantity of negative online news at once.
I had this uncontrollable urge to Google my symptoms, including those I did not have.
Pretty soon I was reading about very disturbing things that made me even more worried.
I was diagnosed at a time when the Health Ministry had yet to implement the new system of allowing some people with mild or no symptoms to self-quarantine at home for 10 days while being monitored by health authorities.
However, I also read social media stories alleging overcrowding and poor conditions at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) quarantine and treatment centre.
I am not saying everyone should only say nice things about the treatment our Covid-19 patients get and sweep any problems and issues under the rug.
What I would like to say is that it is scary to read unpleasant stories about the MAEPS facility when you are waiting to be sent there!
For perspective, The Star has interviewed several of the patients at the MAEPS facility. They debunked some of the allegations, which turned out to be false.
And, as it turned out, I was never sent to MAEPS.
My symptoms cleared up, as did my wife’s.
A doctor from my local district health office eventually called and asked me to go to my district’s Covid-19 assessment centre instead on Jan 18,10 days after I took the test that yielded a positive result.
There was a big crowd at the assessment centre housed in a community hall in Subang Jaya, Selangor. After about an hour, I was checked by a doctor. I was then given a letter saying that I no longer had symptoms and could return to work.
As I stepped out of the hall, I realised that the doctors and staff at the assessment centre had to check and process hundreds of people each day.
How do they do it without breaking down from exhaustion or the worry that they would get infected?
As much as I have been through, it still pales in comparison to what our frontliners have to endure each day of this pandemic as they risk their lives to save ours.
Razak Ahmad is a news editor at The Star.
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