Staying positive to become negative
As part of my job as a journalist, I have interviewed many in the past months who were seriously sick with Covid-19. On all those occasions, at the back of my mind was always the fear that I myself might be infected one day.
Our work takes us to the frontlines of this pandemic. When the lockdown was imposed, I started working out of my home in Butwal. Regardless, I had to travel to nearby regions to report. And while I tried to follow all the necessary safety measures, I never really found out where I caught the coronavirus.
The infection hits patients with varying degrees of intensity. Some show severe symptoms, while others have milder ones, followed by a quick recovery. Mine were mild, and did not last long. I have since recovered.
I experienced those 15 days of isolation were different for me. As a journalist, I was constantly exposed to how the news, social media interactions and conversations with friends can affect the morale of those infected.
It was on the day of Bhai Tika on (16 November, 2020) that I started feeling lethargic and weak. By evening, I was running a slight temperature. This was not unusual, I often had fevers and they passed.
But these were extraordinary times, and I suspected it might be the dreaded coronavirus. So, I isolated myself at home.
I took a paracetamol and managed to get some sleep, but at 3AM I was wide awake with 37.3° fever. This was not high, but I had a hard time going back to sleep.
In the morning, I went to Lumbini Regional Hospital in Butwal for PCR test. At around 4PM, I received my report. I was confirmed Covid-19 positive.
I had been preparing myself for it mentally, so I took it well. I had no other symptoms besides fever. Once I took a paracetamol, my fever would go down, but it would return every six hours. This went on for three days.
I found my CT (cycle threshold) value to be at 14, which is considerably low, so I visited the hospital to get further tests done. The reports came back normal. After the third day I no longer had fever, but a blocked nose.
But it was after Day 6, that I started to experience a sore throat. Gargling with salt water and hot water steaming with a dash of sancho twice a day, helped gradually reduced the cold and the soreness by Day 8.
I had heard about how a positive mental attitude builds up physical immunity. From the beginning of isolation, I was careful not to let external factors influence me. I removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone, stopped checking online portals to keep myself away from news about Covid-19 deaths.
I had noticed that negative news made me anxious. It made me sweat profusely and I had difficulty breathing. Because my oxygen saturation level was normal at 97, I was clearly overthinking. It was my exposure to media that was affecting my physical recovery.
So, I tried my best to forget about my circumstance by watching travel and environmental documentaries. I listened to folk music and positive discourses. I took in the sun.
I asked my wife to forward to me any positive news she came across. Politician Chitra Bahadur KC’s recovery, and news about successful vaccine trials gave me hope.
Throughout my career, I have heard people complain that journalists only report negative news. As a Covid-19 patient in isolation, I realised how true this is.
Positive news is like the oxygen for those who are trying to recover from the coronavirus. Positive thoughts can be half the cure.
While recovering, there were many who tried to give me advice. Not all of it reassuring. “Can’t say anything with coronavirus, even the healthiest have died just like that,” said one friend. Another called to say: “You should have had severe symptoms, but you seem normal.”
Take it from me: trust only the experts.
Doctors confirm that the impact of the virus is stronger in people with weaker immunity. Many acquaintances have been severely affected. But because I was conscious about my diet and fitness, it seems I was able to fight back. More importantly, I was mentally prepared.
It has been a week since I tested negative, but my health is still not back to what it used to be. I feel lethargic and listless, and cannot concentrate on work. But I am getting there because to be negative you have to be positive.
Mukesh Pokhrel is the Himal Khabarpatrika and Nepali Times reporter based in Nawalparasi, covering the environment and development.