Positive

11 02 2022
The lateral flow (antigen) test result

It’s the fatigue and coughing that are the most annoying. I’m bored of Facebook, bored of YouTube and certainly not in the mood of doing any programming on the wages app I’ve been writing for work. It’s mostly functional anyway – it just needs testing against the existing app for accuracy and work on printing out reports which is deadly at the best of times. So here I am, writing up a blog on my Covid infection, the fourth day in.

Monday was an average sort of day for a Monday. I managed to get to the gym and do a programme that hopefully wouldn’t wind-up my left knee which was having a bad-knee day i.e. deciding whether to be debilitatingly painful or just painful. It’s amazing how much pain an artificial knee can generate though in the words of the Cape Town surgeon whom I consulted a few years back; “Welcome to the world of knee replacements. There is nothing wrong with your prosthetic but as a disabled person you are going to have more bad days than most people”.

Monday evening I was unusually tired and coughing a bit, the dry cough that is characteristic of a Covid infection. It did occur to me that it could be Covid but I’d go to bed early and see in the morning.

Tuesday I felt fine, got to work early as I had a personal trainer coming later in the morning to see if she could do something about my deteriorating mobility. Sometime later this year I’m going to require lower back surgery as two discs have collapsed and are putting pressure on the nerves to my legs but in the meantime I want to try something less invasive and anyway, it’s a Christmas gift from Marianne.

By the evening I’m coughing again and have a sore throat. I’m tired and go to be early. Part of me wants this to be Covid so that I can get it over with. That’s a bit of a weird attitude as I know that it doesn’t mean immunity to future infections. We know a couple of teachers at a local private school who have a Golden Retriever puppy with whom we arrange play dates for Themba our Rhodesian Ridgeback and they have had Covid infections several times. They are fine but others we know who’ve had the infection are struggling with the so-called long Covid. There are no guarantees.

Wednesday morning and the sore throat is still there as is the coughing. I try taking my temperature with a digital thermometer that Marianne was given some years back. Apparently I’m either hypothermic or a corpse but decide I should get checked out anyway.

There’s a clinic that’s opened up within the last year just five minutes from where we live. Marianne took the gardener there when he had Covid last month and was impressed – no queues and cheaper than going to our GP. No waiting for an appointment either.

We arrive and are the only people there. After signing all the required forms we are weighed and blood pressure taken. My systolic pressure (the first one) is a bit high but no figurative eyebrows are raised. Then we are shown through to the doctor’s room.

Marianne doesn’t think she has much of a case and indeed the doctor agrees there is nothing further to be done. He listens to me as I say that if it weren’t for Covid I’d write off my symptoms as just another cold. I can’t read his expression – the mask sees to that – but he thinks a antigen or lateral flow test, as it’s sometimes known, would be a good idea. I don’t have an elevated temperature.

I’m sent to the nurses’ room where I’m told I’m getting an antibiotic injection. We didn’t agree on this but I go along with it. Little do I know but he’s also written out the prescription for the cortisone and rest of the antibiotic in pill form. It seems the antigen test is a formality. A laboratory technician takes the swab for the antigen test from the back of my brain, well that’s what it felt like, but my eyes are running too much too see if there’s any brain tissue on the end of the swab. The test results arrive as I get to work and I’m not surprised to see it’s positive. I get some information off the computer in my office and head home.

By the time I get home Marianne has moved me into the spare bedroom and I have exclusive use of one of the bathrooms. Given that I’m nearly two days into the infection I probably only have another day or so where I’m infectious but we have to play it safe. Marianne doesn’t seem overly concerned. I sleep most of the afternoon. Themba, our Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, is delighted to have access to a bed with me on it. He’s not normally allowed onto the bed in the main bedroom if we are on it as Roxy, Marianne’s Ridgeback, has determined that it’s her territory and will tell him so in no uncertain terms which causes a lot of yelping from Themba and anxiety from Marianne. I do notice that he’s farting a lot.

My throat is sore but ordinary supermarket throat lozenges ease the symptoms. The coughing is another issue. I must not start. If I do a coughing fit follows and it takes a lot to control it. My asthma pump does ease the symptoms but it can be over-used and will cause tachycardia (a racing pulse). I’m well aware of this from many years ago when farming in another part of the country and eventually the local GP had to put me onto cortisone to control the asthma. At the time he told me that the area was known to be bad for asthmatics but I wonder in retrospect if it had something to do with the chemicals we used to spray the flowers. It’s best not to start coughing if I can, but lying down seems to aggravate it.

Thursday I manage to achieve nothing which is just as well as that’s what I feel like doing. I don’t feel bad, I don’t feel great. I’m eating normally so it’s just as well my taste is unaffected by the virus. I have no desire to drink any alcohol. By late afternoon I’m feeling tired again but no so much so that I cannot help with Themba’s training. He’s coming on really well and will sit, stay, lie, jump up on a log, recall, touch a hand, leave a treat, look at my eyes on command and is walking well with Marianne. Treats are necessary to ensure compliance though. No treat = not a lot of interest. I suggest we start teaching him to track.

Thursday night starts early again. Themba decides at 4 a.m. that he needs to go outside with lots of restlessness and theatrical yawning. It doesn’t bother me as I can catch up on sleep anytime and Marianne would prefer he did his business outside whatever the hour. We go back to sleep after the interruption – at least it’s take care of the farting for the moment.

This morning the sore throat is gone. A pity in a way because I quite liked the lozenges. I seem to recall as a child stealing them out of the medicine cupboard at home in place of sweets (candy) that was strictly rationed. The lethargy (or is it fatigue?) is still there and the coughing is no better. I will go back to the clinic next Wednesday which will be the requisite 10 days after symptoms started and get another antigen test done. If it’s negative I should be able to get back to work. In the meantime I have my phone and can get messages delivered via one of the foremen who stays in a room on our property. I’ve noticed in the past that the business runs just fine without me provided there are no emergencies such as broken boreholes and pumps. Even those I think can be dealt with remotely if I have to.

Themba is still farting. It’s amazing the volume of noxious gas a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy can produce. Well, he’s not that small anymore at nearly five months old. I sincerely hope he grows out of it.

Themba – more gas than a blimp




The covid is back – this time it’s for real

7 01 2021

Phil is a big man, in all senses of the word. He farms chickens just up the road from my work and pops in regularly to buy seedlings for his veggie garden. I’ve never seen him in anything but a buoyant mood. He was slightly less so on Tuesday morning as the conversation veered to the current resurgence of the covid-19 in Zimbabwe and the newly enforced lock-down.

Zimbabwean ingenuity (or rule flaunting) at work. Petrol being offloaded at as small local filling station, sans safety procedures. The regular fuel tanker had broken down so they “made a plan” Zimbabwe style. The box in the foreground is an old petrol pump, pumping out of the bowser, stripped of its calibration equipment and metering. This to me epitomises the Zimbabwean attitude to rules.

“My father-in-law is in a bad way with covid” he said. “He’s got a heart condition that needs treating in South Africa but travel is out of the question now. I’ve managed to find 20kg of oxygen that should last 5 days or so but basically he’s waiting to die at home. He is 80” he added with a shrug.

In the first wave of covid Zimbabwe emerged mostly unscathed. The truth was that testing was sparse and deaths from the disease largely unreported but I couldn’t find anyone who knew anyone who’d died from the disease or contracted it. Conversations with my staff about 6 weeks ago yielded a complete blank. People were blasé – masks were badly worn if at all, social distancing was ignored, the curfew disdained. The government followed the South African lead almost to the letter and after three programmes of progressively more relaxed restrictions allowed life to return to near normality. We thought we were out of the woods or at least could see the beginning of the treeline. We were wrong.

Towards the end of December last year the indicators started to creep up. I don’t follow the local news and anyway, as I said earlier, testing is sparse, but reports of clinics and hospitals filling up with covid patients emerged on the social media. We ignored it and had a few guests around on New Year’s Day. We relaxed – the tier lock-down system in the UK that my brother and cousin were having to endure seemed very far away. It was a nice sunny day.

On Sunday afternoon the government Minister of Health (who is a former army general and not noted for his rationality) released a statement saying that as of Tuesday 5th January we were back into a 30 day lock-down. All non-essential businesses were to close and others to stay open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (agriculture was to continue as usual so my business is unaffected). Monday was a frenzy of shopping to make sure we had enough fertilizer and chemicals to at least last the next 30 days. A borehole switch control box had been hit by a power surge and needed replacing. It was easily replaced but expensive at US$280. Fortunately there was no damage to the motor.

The first day of the lock-down seemed like business as usual. There were just as many vehicles on the road, just as many people not wearing masks at all (or badly), the tyre shop at the local service station was open as was the taco trailer in the forecourt. The hardware supermarket across the road was closed in the morning and open in the afternoon. Soldiers at the local barracks were slashing grass outside with masks around their chins. Zak, my Rhodesian Ridgeback dog, needed to go to the vet around 10 a.m. Traffic was not light and the vet practice was busy. He’d had a bit of a cough and we were worried that his bone cancer had moved to his lungs as it can do. The X-rays were clear and we kept our social distance. Ant, the vet, snapped his mask on and off his mouth several times and said “I struggle to breath through this thing” but left it in place.

Yesterday I read my staff the riot act. Keenly aware that a similar lecture back in April had in time rung hollow, this time around I could say I knew someone (almost true) who was dying of covid, citing Phil’s father-in-law. They were suitably sombre. I emphasized that if anyone got the disease medical help would not be at hand. Government hospitals are under equipped and under staffed and nurses are recruited voluntarily to nurse patients. They are not forming queues. Private hospitals are full and beyond the pocket of the majority of Zimbabweans. Media reports tell of people with good financial resources who cannot find oxygen for any sum of money. This time the threat is real.

Arriving home for lunch yesterday Marianne told me that one of our guests on New Year’s Day had tested positive for the covid virus. A bit of basic maths and internet research (Harvard Medical School website) indicated that she’d likely been infectious on the day. I’d had no contact with her but Marianne had. A phone call to our doctor and we are now on Ivermectin, vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc and are under instruction to self- isolate. Ivermectin use as an anti-viral is controversial but it’s regarded as a very safe medication and our doctor who is self-isolating as a result of one of her domestic staff developing covid is also taking it.

At the moment we are both fine and whilst Marianne works from home I am house-bound and writing a blog post though I have plenty of other projects to fill the time for the next week (the control box for the borehole motor is already fixed). Vaccination is a non- starter, not because I don’t want it (I do) but because Zimbabwe is utterly broke and the corrupt politicians who rule are far more interested in plundering the state coffers than running the country – they no doubt are hoping for a donation of vaccines so that they can continue looting. It looks like the way to herd immunity will be the natural route with lots of casualties along the way.

Phil, the chicken farmer, claims to have had covid. Some 6 months ago he told me that he’d just finished a lock-down as both he and his wife had contracted the virus. It transpired that actually his wife had submitted a test and received a positive result, Phil had declined to spend the US$65 and just assumed that feeling lousy for 4 days was the result of the disease. I’ve never seen him wear a mask since. He claims “I’m cured”. I keep my distance from him.