I got Covid in Bali, here’s what happened.

By Sarah Dougherty.
I almost didn’t take the test. I had flu symptoms but none of the classic Covid symptoms; no fever or aches, I could still taste and smell but just in case I took the test and was surprised when it came back with a positive result.  I tested my staff, and everyone in my house, and the results showed they were negative. I alerted everyone I had been in contact with, one of the hardest things throughout this whole process and they all agreed to test, some chose to isolate as well. Thankfully, they all tested negative. 

A private clinic came to my house to do the test, they were very efficient and well prepared. The communication was excellent as was the response time. We all did an antigen test firstly, and when mine came up positive I asked for the PCR to be done straight away. Then I waited; it takes around 48 hours for the lab results to come back.  Before the definitive result, I went through where I had been, who I had seen and started letting them know. The hardest thing was dealing with the fear you have spread it to others.  My closest contacts followed up with another test to be safe; all remained negative.

Reporting your diagnosis.

While I had a lot of people urging me to keep quiet about my diagnosis I really didn’t see the point in that. As a journalist, accuracy and truth have been drummed into me (don’t laugh, it’s true). I also follow the Covid-19 updates page put together very efficiently by Jackie Pommeroy and there was a disturbing lack of foreigners showing up in the stats. Whether it’s because they get counted under local transmissions or not, I’m not sure. But the day after the lab tests came in and I gave the doctor permission to report my diagnosis I checked the stats and there were 290 local transmissions and 1 foreigner. The system works I thought! 

Once my case had been reported I had a message from the Kuta Health Contact tracers, Satgas, the people in charge of my area in Seminyak. They asked if I wanted to go into quarantine, I said no. They then informed me an officer could come to my house and “take” me to quarantine. I wasn’t sure I liked the sound of that but in hindsight I think it might have been a language issue.  

Isolation or quarantine? 

The day after I was diagnosed two quite-young girls showed up at my house by motorbike. They were lost and asked me to come out and find them. I informed them that I was in quarantine and that wasn’t a good idea. I live in a compound and by now the whole village knew there was a Covid case. I put on my mask and popped my head out the door and they were there.  

They asked me again about quarantine and I told them I was happy in my house. They seemed impressed by my lodgings, and I told them I would need somewhere at least as nice if I were to go. I was resigned to perhaps having to leave but they informed me that the quarantine hotels were full in any case. The doctor who prescribed my meds had told me the same thing the day before, so I’m not really sure what that was all about. In any case, they asked for my passport, my landlord’s contact, and a stat dec was created saying I would isolate at home for 14 days.  

Meds and Vitamins.

I was already taking Vitamin C and Zinc and had started on Vitamin D supplements as well. Friends who had tested positive had advice from their doctors to take Azithromycin, Zithromax, and the doctor attached to the clinic agreed.  I also had ventolin at home, and I did use it a couple of times, friends loaned me an oxygen metre, which I watched often in fascination. The levels were good so it calmed me a little. 

 I’ve known my insurance agent for years and knew that she had also had Covid. With her existing medical conditions, she was admitted to hospital and has now recovered. I let her know and was surprised, and happy, to discover that I was covered for the testing, the medications and the vitamins. A little ray of sunshine.  

 Grossly ill-prepared for the diagnosis, after months of avoiding large gatherings, close contact and wearing a mask; the first days after my diagnosis were a bit of a head trip. Not only was I completely alone in my house, I was waiting for the symptoms to get worse. I walked around the empty house smelling things and checking my oxygen levels. Thankfully they didn’t get worse. The head trip was the worst of it, worrying about everyone I may have been in contact with, wondering if I’d get sicker or go mad from the deafening silence.  

 The first week I still felt like I had mild flu, so I slept a lot and watched TV and made myself eat as my appetite wasn’t great, food did taste a bit bitter, but without food all the vitamins and antibiotics made me feel queasy. So I cooked and ate pretty bland food.  

 The second week, I started to feel better, got back to work and was surprisingly productive. I was definitely feeling better. On about day 8 I suddenly felt very hungry and considered that to be a good sign.  

 I’ve just turned 60, I smoke and have a history of respiratory tract infections and considered myself to be in the medium to high risk category. It could have been so much worse and I was grateful. My family called me a lot from Australia, being cut off from them for over a year has been hard and never harder than now. They were worried and feeling helpless, and I understood that.  

 My housekeeper, Komang, almost had a nervous breakdown, not because she was scared of Covid but the social stigma was really tough for her, despite the fact she had tested negative twice. I was upset for a moment that she wasn’t here to help me but I had to accept that there is a lot of fear around Covid, I had felt it myself.  

 I was able to test on day 10 and the result of the antigen test was negative. That made me very happy but I also took another PCR test and waited for the result to come back from the lab before I ran squealing into the public areas around my house. I considered going shopping, all by myself.  It’s surprising how small your world becomes after just two weeks of isolation.

 The reactions I had from people have been so varied. Some accepted it’s a virus and you can only catch it from coming into contact with me. Others think I’d release it into the atmosphere to be carried into their homes and take their children. The fear surrounding this virus can only be truly understood when you personally deal with the reactions. Cafes stopped ordering my cakes, in case they were infected. A quick dash out to take my laundry off the line was reported. By whom I’m not sure as I saw no one on my brief foray out of my front door.  

 Quite a few people who I didn’t realise had already had it sent messages and advice. I heard that others I knew had also tested positive and were isolating. No one I know suffered too badly. Not to downplay the seriousness of it, I was worried, but I survived to tell the tale.  

 There is some great information out there about what to do if you have Covid, some I posted on my Facebook page. Most agree that Vitamin C, D and Zinc play a role in supporting the immune system. Quite a few suggest Zithromax and others add NAC, an antioxidant that helps clear mucus from the lung. I’ve ordered that. Breathing exercises are recommended although I came late to the party, but I’m trying to keep them up.  

 Like everyone who has been living through the Covid nightmare, whether you have it or not, keeping up good habits is a challenge. Getting up, taking a shower, getting dressed, doing some exercise ( very poor show on my part I will admit), and trying to keep busy, along with a positive attitude are all as important as medication.  

 Here in Bali I do believe that the sunshine, the warm weather and the time we spend outdoors are good indicators for surviving the virus. The numbers are up here and increasing numbers of people are catching it. I read the hospitals are full, they are empty, I have no real idea, but if I had to go for medical reasons I would have gone and feel fairly confident I would have good treatment.  

 There were a few things I had to do before I was able to venture out of my endlessly quiet corner. I needed to wash the red X off my front door ( OK, I’m kidding but it did feel a bit like that). I needed to make sure I can’t infect people, which involves a trip to the government hospital to check my CT levels (viral load), although I am fairly confident that is not a problem as no one has caught it from me that I am aware of, sorry if you’re out there! I had been staying close to home before my diagnosis, because I didn’t want to spread what I thought was the flu, and there aren’t a lot of social events happening right now in any case, but I did have two outings the week before my diagnosis. 

 I sent my negative certification to the Covid Tracers and then got back to living, very grateful that I was only statistic for a day on a Facebook site and won’t be forever remembered as the one who went down from this virus.  

 My advice to others who get it is to test early, follow up with your contacts, follow the simple medical advice out there, take care of your mental health as well as your physical health and report. Much of the stigma and the misinformation out there is because people are afraid to say they have it. Go public, I did and I don’t regret that. It was, if nothing else, good to experience firsthand the efficiency that surrounds your diagnosis here in Bali. The systems are working.  

As this virus has now been affecting our lives for more than a year, with no end in sight, despite the promises of vaccinations, I do feel that fear is the gravest part of the disease. I endlessly researched treatments and found quite a few, including the breathing exercises. I had resources from friends who sought out international medical advice and most of the recommendations were the same: rest, top up your vitamins, take the antibiotics and check your oxygen levels. The media can be a good thing but the news is a nightmare and I switched off some time ago, it was way too stressful to watch the continuous coverage of death with barely any coverage of treatments or the huge percentage of people who have recovered.

 I’m grateful for all the messages, the phone calls, offers of food and the limited human contact that made such a difference. I managed to catch up with lots of friends over this time that I’ve previously just been messaging and promising to phone or zoom call. I finally had the time and it cheered me up enormously, just knowing the world was out there waiting for my comeback. I’m back!  

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