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COVID-19 patient urges voluntary status disclosure

Staff Reporter

A Bloemfontein woman who is recovering from COVID-19 has urged people who test positive for the coronavirus to voluntarily disclose their status to allow for easier contact tracing and minimise the continued spreading of the disease.

Thandiwe Jeru, who was interviewed on the Free State provincial government’s Facebook page Thursday afternoon, said while most people choose to keep their COVID-19 status to themselves for fear of stigmatisation, disclosing the results could significantly help save lives.

Jeru, who is an assistant director in the provincial Department of Human Settlements responsible for skills development, said people should learn to be open about the disease if the country is to make significant strides in containing it.

“The starting point for me is we must know the people who have been affected by this thing . . . people that test positive for COVID-19,” said Jeru, who appeared in the live interview with a nasal cannula running from her nose to help deliver supplemental oxygen.

“That’s the first journey that we need to understand because right now people get tested and people are reported to be positive but we don’t know who they are,” she told the host, Laila Nnyane.

Jeru said as a result of the cloud of secrecy around the disease, people could be interacting with those who have tested positive for the disease, thereby allowing it to continue spreading.

“People do not want to come out and say ‘I have tested’ because they’re worried they could face stigmatisation,” she said.

“There is a lot of work that still needs to be done. We still have to fight vigorously.”

Jeru said because of this shroud of secrecy around the disease, her own contact tracing has not been conclusive and her source for the coronavirus infection remains a matter of speculation.

She said she started feeling unwell while recovering from an operation at home.

Doctors had told her she should need about six weeks to fully recover from the operation, but to her surprise, her condition started deteriorating in the fourth week.

“The symptoms were not clear at first . . . but as I was taking the medication, I felt like the body was saturated with medication. I felt as if I had too much acid in my body,” she explained.

The unusual feeling was initially dismissed by her family as possible after-effects of the operation or just a flu bug and she started taking some homemade concoctions.

This did not seem to help as she started losing appetite and felt dizzy.

She eventually asked her children to take her to hospital when she felt her condition was worsening.

“I was losing touch with my body,” is how she summed up her condition at that time.

At hospital, Jeru was diagnosed as having pneumonia and was immediately put on oxygen support.

She was also told she would be tested for COVID-19.

“At that point, I will be honest with you, it never crossed my mind that I could be positive for COVID-19,” said Jeru, adding reality only kicked in after she got her results which confirmed she was positive.

She has had an underlying health condition of high blood pressure for several years but it has been kept under control by the medication she takes for that.

According to Jeru, the biggest battle against the coronavirus is fought in the mind.

“If you decide to give up, you will just die. But if you decide to live, your willpower will push you through,” she said.

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