Kuensel’s Nima Wangdi spent 40 days in the quarantine and isolation
Testing positive for Covid-19 has more psychological impact than the virus actually does to your physical health. Once you know that you have the virus in you, mind makes up all the symptoms. You start to find them all in you.
Once a person tests positive he or she is put in isolation. Isolation facility could be any hotel in the place where you were tested positive. Isolation for me means being in a room with windows and doors closed throughout the term, which is for 21 days at least. The seriously ill may be taken to the isolation ward in the hospital where they will be constantly monitored. The less symptomatic are kept in hotels that serve as isolation facilities.
I was not that symptomatic. I had a mild fever, headache, and nausea the night before I tested positive. After my test result was declared, health officials through phone call asked about my symptoms and sickness. I explained them clearly. I was moved to an isolation facility the same day.
As I got down from the ambulance, quite old one, I don’t know how many patients it had carried already. But the dents inside the trunk and torn bench covers were the tell-tale sign of its long time service. In a way, a bench running through the sides and a stretcher in the middle made me feel like I was sitting in a small restaurant.
As I stepped out of the vehicle, I was led to room number 304 of the hotel. A dark tea table stood at the door, almost blocking my way into the room. I knew I would have to pick my food from this table during my time in the isolation. I checked in. I was still in some kind of trauma. I thought of my mother, son, friends and relatives. The thoughts made me more anxious.
In a short while, one of the newspapers broke the news online, saying a journalist has tested positive for coronavirus. That impacted me mentally. I was then worried that people I know might suspect me to be the one as if I was only the journalist in the team. We were five journalists in fact.
Soon after, people started calling me and messages flooded my inbox. Now my worried mind was in bigger trouble. I was unsure if I should answer them. Sometimes I lied saying that I was still negative.
The closed windows and door aggravated my agitation. Opening the window curtains completely is a crime in isolation. And I craved fresh air.
The isolation facility had a WeChat group through which inmates and officials communicated. I was added there and there were 29 in the group. There were nurses, desuups, hotel owner and cooks. Some more joined on the following days.
The first thing I was informed in the WeChat was the visitor’s timing if any of our friends and relatives were to drop some stuff for us. Visitors were allowed twice a day, once in the afternoon and once in the evening.
It was still afternoon, around 4pm, one of the desuups in the facility messaged detailing the dinner menu. The message read, Dinner Menu, Roti, Cauliflower fry, Dal and banana. I was not interested. I had lost my appetite almost completely and my throat would not allow any food in. I was still just horrified by positive test result.
My mind grew more troubled. Even a message notification tone on my cell phone would irritate and cause fear in me. What would happen to me in the coming days was unknown. The fear of dying and falling seriously sick requiring oxygen and ventilation was constantly there in me.
My colleagues and bosses called me. They asked if I tested positive. I said no. Because I knew they would not spare me if I told them the truth for it was news for them. I could not hide this for long with their repeated calls. Every time they called, they asked if I have tested positive and who was the journalist? Finally, out of agitation, I told them the truth and they wrote the news. The news came out the next day bearing this headline: “First journalist to test positive for Covid-19”. I was annoyed.
I asked myself if there was anything wrong at all with the news? My identity was concealed. I later realized that it was harmless. This news brought me more calls and messages in fact. Being a journalist, this also made me to reflect on some disgruntled news makers that I meet quite often in my profession.
As days passed, the number of phone calls and messages reduced. Now, my only worry was my mother. She kept on counting days there like I did here. My troubled mind had to manage lies so that she did not worry about me. Having heard the news of people returning from Bangladesh testing positive, she called. I lied. When it was 21 days she called, I still lied. It was easy for me to convince my illiterate mother.
My room faced hotel’s gate. And I could see people bringing parcels for the people in the facility. Desuups at the counter would receive them and deliver at the doors of respective inmates. They will ring the doorbell and leave the place quickly to avoid coming in contact with the positive patient.
On April 21, an inmate declared in WeChat group that he has completed reading a volume of domang (holy text) on his 14th day in the facility. I had completed 16 days by then. Dancers from Royal Academy for Performing Arts (RAPA), also inmates, sang melodious songs in the group.
The next day, all the RAPA team members left the facility, a total of 13, after testing negative. My test was four days away.
As the time went on, the degree of my stress reduced and I could eat well. I was recovering.
On April 26, health officials collected my sample for the routine-21-day test. The two ladies said they would notify me about my test result through phone call. I waited but they did not call me. In the morning, Desuup on duty called to say that I still tested positive.
“Sir you will be tested again in six days but don’t be stressed,” he said.
I called my friends from the Bangladesh trip in the next room. Asked about his result and he said he was leaving at 4pm that day. My other friend said he would be in quarantine until April 30. He told be to drink water.
The love from Their Majesties
One evening, doorbell rang. I pulled myself off from the chair and headed towards the door to check what is there at the door. A huge plastic package lay on the table. I picked it up and brought it to my room. Nobody said what it was and where it came from. When I was about to open it, I could see a piece of paper on which a special message was typed: From His Majesty The King and Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen. “Get well soon.”
Through the tears that welled up in my eyes, I read the message a few more times. The whole of my being could not believe that an ordinary person like me mattered so much. For the first time in a long time, I felt genuine care and love. I became emotional. My spirits soared. I was not scared anymore.
Their Majesties had sent us a sungkay, toothbrush and toothpaste, detergent for laundry, face soap, jinlap, T-shirt, blanket, and biscuits.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering had also sent us fruits and nuts while he was himself under quarantine.