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Experiencing Covid in a Remote Area

It was the beginning of the new semester. The junior high school had just started their programme at this foundation. Everyone was enthusiastic about how it would go. The foundation had already prepared the books, clothes, and other student needs. The students looked very prepared and everyone was smiling. The teachers were prepared with their teaching materials. It couldn’t have been any better.

But only until one of the students and our cook were starting to have Covid symptoms. Not long after that, nearly half of the villagers started to lose their sense of smell and half of them were having a fever. At that moment, I knew that it was only a matter of time until Covid would reach me.

First Week

2-3 days after the first symptoms, I suffered a high fever and a light headache, but I wasn’t exactly sure if it was Covid until I was gradually losing my sense of taste. It was an awful feeling combined with a severe nausea. I was having problems to eat anything, and even if I tried, it was uncomfortable [MF1] because I also suffered from diarrhea. Thankfully, it was a holiday season so I was not disturbing any classes.

Second Week -1

I couldn’t properly sit straight anymore and started to hallucinate. The foundation thought it would be better for me to be in a hotel isolation where I could get a better service, and most importantly, not spread the virus any further. So, I complied and moved to the city. It was not only me, 3 out of 4 teachers were positive with Covid, so we all got separated for isolation and the school activity was in a freeze for about 2 weeks.

Second Week -2

I felt like a walking corpse and it was getting hard to breathe even for a 3-5 meters walk. I hallucinated seeing diamonds and lights when I turned off the light. All I was able to do was watch the ceiling and wait for the food that the foundation prepared to make sure that I eat properly. Every morning, I always sat in front of the room trying to look for sunlight, although I was also disturbed by the smoke of my neighbor right beside the hotel burning their trash every morning and afternoon.

I said that I felt better when the foundation asked about my condition, but in reality, when I think again right now, I didn’t. My mental condition was improving, but without question, my physical condition was deteriorating. I knew that now was the time for me to go to the hospital.

One might ask, why I didn’t go to the hospital sooner. Well, one of the reasons was that I was influenced by many people, but the real reason lies in what happens here, things that I saw and experienced firsthand. What kind of things? Things like the fact that some teachers don’t know how to write properly (in Indonesian) and others don’t really understand basic math. These facts are actually true. It’s not a tale, it’s still happening, and those very teachers got their certification to teach.

What’s the correlation? Well, if someone can get a teaching certification without having the ability to back it up, could it also mean that medical practitioners and doctors may have the same problem? Although my concern right now does not lie in education, but the legitimacy of every certification including for people who work in the hospital. Yes, I’m worried about the medical practitioners’ and doctors’ legitimacies. In other words, I doubt the doctors’ capabilities in this region. Would I get the right treatment? Would I get the right medication? Would it get worse or would I get better?

I might have overreacted, but with my life on the line, I couldn’t think as clearly as I normally would. However, in the end, I choose the option where I could get a higher probability to survive, which was getting a treatment from the hospital.

Third Week -1

I shared my thoughts about wanting to go to the hospital with my colleague and after that she tried to contact the hospital. They said I would need a recommendation letter from ‘Puskesmas’ (a smaller health institution) if I wanted to get a hospital treatment for Covid. Not wanting to make the wrong move which would slow down the process, I went through this procedure. Yes, it worked, but it still took about 1,5-2 hours for the hospital ambulance to get me from the Puskesmas to the hospital which made me angry, because the actual distance is only about 2-3km. In those 1,5-2 hours, I felt like losing consciousness and more than that, I was strictly instructed to wear a mask. So while already having a hard time breathing normally, I was still ordered to wear a mask. Well, I know it was for the good of others. But I was actually hoping to be provided with oxygen instead of torturing me who was having a hard time just breathing normally to begin with. Because of that, after the ambulance got me to the hospital, I couldn’t stand on my own, so they carried me and finally I arrived at the hospital. The only Hospital in this district.

But wait, apparently, the building which specialized in Covid was currently full, so I was placed in an emergency room and was not registered yet as a hospital patient. There was a lot of confusion when I entered the emergency room. The nurse was having a hard time, there were people with various illnesses, some of them in danger of dying, while the nurse was trying to give me a proper infusion. It took her 3 failed attempts where she had to pull out the needle again and again and finally push it with the palm of her hand to correct the wrong path of the needle. When she finally succeeded, 2 hours had passed. I was grateful she gave me oxygen before that attempt, and I thank her for that.

I would like to emphasize that these failed attempts were not entirely her fault, the situation in the emergency room was terrible. I could clearly see that there was blood everywhere. On the floor, on the curtain, even on the nurse’s clothes. I suppose, the room could be easily mistaken for an ER if not for the room sign. There were people coming and going while she was the only nurse available. I could see her running here and there. I tried to ask why she was the only nurse and she told me most of them were suffering from Covid and she was the only available person right now.

While I was waiting for my room, I thought it was perhaps a good time to give some news to my friends and colleagues at the school. But when I opened my phone, there was no internet connection at all. Since I already sent them a message not long before the ambulance took me, I thought it would be fine not to write at the moment. Well, I would have if I could have, but it was impossible. I would just have to wait until the next day when I felt strong enough to walk outside the building to inform them that I was okay. Meanwhile, because there were no news from me and I was not registered yet in the hospital, they thought I was already dead and that they needed to inform my family. It turns out I caused an uproar because of my inability to inform them. I still feel it’s weird for the hospital not to have any signal and that patients have to go outside the building on their own to get a signal.

Drinking water

Finally, in the evening, I moved from the emergency room to a regular room with 2 other patients. There was no air conditioner and there were cracks in the walls and on the floor. The first thing I received as a patient was food and medicine, but it came without any water. Thankfully, I had spare water from the hotel. But it would only last until the next day. The only way to get water was from outside the hospital, but there was no signal, and no people were allowed to get inside the Covid patients’ building. The only way was to ask for help from my colleague to buy a water bottle outside and deliver it to the medics in front of the building. All that trouble just to get a drink as a patient. I don’t know the exact reason why the hospital didn’t provide any water for their patients. At first, I thought it’s just me. But, it turns out other patients too, didn’t get any water from the hospital. There were times when I got scolded by the nurse for not eating the food and taking the medicine they gave me, but at the same time, they didn’t provide me with any water so I had to wait for the water to be delivered from outside the hospital. I felt confused and mad, but there was nothing I could do.

Roommates and Nurses

One of my roommates was having mental issues, he sometimes pulled out the needle of his infusion and sat in the hallway to the only toilet. He would cry and moan the whole night. The problem was, no family members were allowed inside the room or inside the building, and there was no special treatment for patients with mental issues. It usually lasted a few hours until one of the nurses helped him back. It was horrible, I didn’t know what he would do to me if tried to get past him, so I waited until he was no longer there to go to the toilet.

My other roommate was a Covid patient that almost constantly needed oxygen. I think he was in a worse condition than me. But almost every day, the electricity was down for about 30 minutes. In those moments, I was worried about the other patient who needed oxygen. Would he survive? Would the nurse be available at that time? Because, you need to know, the room doesn’t have a button to call the nurse, we had to go to the nurse’s office to ask for help. E.g., when the infusion’s fluid was running out, I had to go to the nurse’s office to ask for a new one, even when I was in a critical situation. I don’t know if it was because there were so few nurses or if it normally is like this. But what I do know is, that this was torturing the patients a bit too much.

Not only patients with mental issues. The hallway too was a place to pray for the dead patients before they got buried. Almost every day people died because of Covid. It was a depressing atmosphere just to be there at that moment.

What about the doctors? They checked the patients every 1-2 days. Sometimes, they would instruct the nurses to report to them via Whatsapp. For the first 3 days, I personally felt like the treatment was very poor and only worsened my condition.

Third Week - 2

7 days had passed in the hospital with many services and treatments. I just failed to understand why the hospital had a very poor standard in how they treated patients. I even think people could actually have died because of the poor services they gave. Nevertheless, my condition actually got getter, up to the point where I could walk for several minutes, while still having trouble to breathe somehow. But I read that it was normal for post-Covid patients to have symptoms even after Covid was gone, so I guess it was not a big issue. I lost some weight too, around 5-7kg. At this point, I was just glad I survived from that horrible virus and was able to go back to Sawinggrai.

Yes, everyone has recovered from Covid and now we are gathered again in Sawinggrai and have resumed our role as educators here. The children and the villagers seem to have gained a herd immunity too. It was a bad start for the school and a bad start for all the teachers but we all came back safely, we all survived and we continue our activity. That was my first experience with a serious illness far from the city, far from a proper medical institution. Allow me to give you some advice, before you go to a remote area: prepare your body, make sure you are healthy and take vitamins too. It would not harm to take extra care when it’s about your own health. Have you ever experienced a serious illness when you were in a remote area?

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