What follows is one individual’s experience with the Covid-19 virus in Singapore, as told to a writer.
Though she was asymptomatic, and did not experience symptoms like coughing, fever or flu, it did not make her experience easy.
It is day 25 of Rhean’s experience of living with Covid-19. She has been in the isolation facility for two weeks, where she is regularly swabbed. She only gets to go home if she tests negative twice in a row. She has tested negative once already.
“That’s when I was really hopeful about going home,” she recalls later. “There’s no way I’m going to stay here any longer than this. I received a call from the lady who had my lab test results. I had first tested negative and then positive after. That’s the point when I broke down. Up until then, I was fine. I was pretty happy doing my own thing.”
When did she get Covid?
Rhean was studying in London until March 2020. Fearing not being able to see her family after the U.K. imposed its lockdown, she decided to return to Singapore. Upon arrival in Singapore, she had her first swab test done. She assumed the swab test was to be administered through the throat. It was only until getting in line when she realised the swab was through going through her nose instead.
“It really hurt,” she remembers.
Not too long later, the authorities called to inform her that she had tested positive. Rhean was beyond belief. She had taken every precaution possible — washing her hands and wearing a mask — whilst in the U.K. Yet she still had Covid.
She was given two hours to pack her bags and an ambulance came to take her to the National Centre for Infection Disease (NCID). Upon arrival, she was taken to a ward with a single bed and double walls for extra precaution.
“That was it,” says Rhean. “I had no introduction to the place. Nobody told me what to do, so I just sat there. A nurse came in, took my blood pressure and swabbed me. That was it. There was no briefing.”
She continues, “I felt a little bit disoriented because nobody told me what I needed to do. What to do with my clothes, where to put my food, whatsoever. It was also weird seeing my food delivered through an airlock sealed area. They would leave the food there, and you just pick it up, almost like a prison.”
What the ward was really like
Rhean was kept to a contained ward with the basic necessities – a bathroom with a shower – and she was not allowed to leave the room.
But she says she’s wasn’t fearful of Covid-19’s symptoms. In her early 20s, she knew she was young and healthy, and trusted that anything terrible would be unlikely considering her health status.
Days later, Rhean was transferred to another ward and placed with a female roommate. It was like going through the Circuit Breaker… with a stranger.
“It’s lonely being [isolated] with someone you know and who actually cares about you,” Rhean shares. “Even though you have a roommate, you barely know that person. They have different habits from you – they wake up at a different time and they talk to their friends at a different time, too. In the ward, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so lonely.”
After eight days in the hospital, Rhean moved to the community isolation facility called D’Resort in Downtown East, Pasir Ris. Compared to her time in the hospital, this was better, she says. Her family could start sending her food and other items. She also had a lot more space to herself compared to her ward at the hospital.
But she still wasn’t permitted to interact with other people. “I was not allowed to leave my room, and there was only one other person that I’ve roomed with,” she says. In those 32 days, Rhean didn’t leave her room.
When asked what helped her get through those difficult times, she revealed that speaking regularly to her family, reading and meditating aided greatly.
Nowadays, with the difficult experience behind her, she says she has greater appreciation for the simple things in life that makes her happy: exercise, meditation and “just being a living, breathing human being”.
Does she have any advice for people who have contracted the virus or, hopefully, are recovering from it?
“Hang in there. It is very frustrating. But there are people who care about you. Remember to practice self-care every day.”
Final words for those at or working in the hospital ward?
“Maybe strike a friendly conversation once in a while. That would have helped to make people feel a bit more human.”
By John Lim, October 2020 / Check out John’s blog about being a social worker in Singapore at savethesocialworker.com.
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