From 19 to 28 October 2021, my whole family, with the exception of my daughter, was down with the dreaded COVID-19 disease. This post is my personal account of the recovery process and my reflections on it. Thankfully, the symptoms were mild as both my wife and I had received the vaccination, and my son was relatively young and was the first to recover.
In hindsight, I thought it will be memorable to recount the 10 days when we were placed under Home Recovery Program, which is basically Singapore’s default COVID-19 management approach to avoid congesting the limited ICU beds. I posted some of these updates on my Facebook, and here I am stringing them together to tell a coherent narrative:
Day 0, 18 Oct, Mon
I took child care leave at home to take care of my 10-year-old son, who has been tested positive on the ART test. Actually, it was more to make necessary arrangements at home, to isolate my son in his room with the domestic helper (also COVID positive), so that it will not spread to the rest of the family members.
It pained us to see him suffer under the effects of the illness, and not being able to hug him or feed him.
I took my own ART test in the morning and was tested negative. However, I began to develop painful coughing, especially at night. Could not sleep well. Slight flu symptoms also emerged.
Day 1, 19 Oct, Tue
“As of 19 Oct. there are 3,994 new cases in Singapore.” I was one of them.
Went to a nearby Swab-and-Send-Home (SASH) clinic with my wife in the morning. This time, we were both tested ART positive. We went home and waited for PCR results, which, unsurprisingly, was positive as well. Now with every other family member sick, my daughter who was the only ART negative member had to isolate herself from the rest of us.
I was truly grateful for the understanding and support from colleagues at school, and the outpouring of love from family, brothers and sisters from church, and friends. Fruits, supplements, masks, special meals were handed to us personally (outside the door, of course). Prayers and well wishes and encouragements really lift up our spirits.
Sleepless night from coughing and dry throat.
Day 2, 20 Oct, Wed
A representative from the Ministry of Health (MOH) called and, after verifying my details, declared that I am “deemed eligible for the Home Recovery Programme”. The congratulatory tone reminds me of a call from a timeshare company. Heh.
Symptoms came on and off. I can feel my whole mouth dried up 5 mins after drinking water.
Tried doing some work from home – this is after all a crunch time for result processing. But my colleagues had done most of the weightlifting for me. I owed them a big meal after this.
Day 3, 21 Oct, Thu
The dreaded covid symptom kicked in – I lost my sense of taste and smell. I ate a nougat and felt I was chewing on some tasteless, used chewing gum. I couldn’t smell the chicken that my mum lovingly sent all the way down. My son lamented that all the good food was wasted on me, and I had to agree, with great regret.
Let’s hope I can lose some weight here. #thinkpositive
Another sleepless night, this time thinking of how I can capture snippets of this peculiar journey. I thought back of all the prayers and encouragements that friends and family have sent me. How they made the effort to hand-deliver us food, medicine, masks, and supplements.
Sometimes in our moments of deepest pain, we experience love most deeply. For that, I am thankful to God. 😌
Day 4, 22 Oct, Fri
Symptoms seem to have gone away. Left with the regret of chasing after the lost sense of smell and taste.
How do I describe this loss of smell/taste?
There’s that tingling sensation at the nose. You get a fleeting scent of things. Then it goes null.
When you eat familiar food, eg. Kiwi, apples, your brain tells you this is supposed to taste sweet. But it doesn’t. At least, not as you remembered it. Cognitive dissonance. At first there is anxiety, then acceptance. Like the stages of grief.
Day 5, 23 Oct, Sat
Son finished reading the Chronicles of Narnia and started reading the Harry Potter series.
He’s becoming a serial reader.
Starting to feel tired again in the evening. We became a little concerned so we dialed up the telemedicine. The doctor assured us that it’s normal to have a recurrence of mild symptoms during the 10-day period, so long as it is not chest pain or breathlessness. Continue to monitor through the oximeter.
Day 6, 24 Oct, Sun
Dizziness strikes back. Could not sit up straight during the online service.
Thank God that daughter is still fine, tested negative in the evening. She’s looking forward to school the next day.
Day 7, 25 Oct, Mon
My son finally tested negative at night and can be ready for school the next day.
Still drowsy throughout the day. Wish I could do more reading and writing, but sleep takes up a big part of the day, and the quality of thought is terribly low.
The medication came after the telemedicine call on Sat – free of charge. Felt so privileged to be taken care of by the government.
Day 8, 26 Oct, Tue
My son came back from school and joked about being called the “covid boy” by his friends. I recovered a bit of the sense of smell and taste. Wife taught me this trick of smelling coffee – the aroma is supposed to stimulate the sense of smell. Headache in the evening after attending a zoom session to rehearse for the presentation next week.
Took another ART test just to be sure, and it looked almost negative – just a very faint line at the “T”. Can’t wait for Day 10!
Day 9, 27 Oct, Wed
The journey to recovery from COVID is marked with ups and downs. This day was down – I had this throbbing headache and can’t do much thinking or writing.
Day 10, 28, Thu
Finally, after a long-drawn battle with the disease, we were officially released (“discharged”) from our Home Recovery Program. Hooray!
Another thanksgiving: my sense of smell and taste had finally returned. #theregoesmyweightloss
This is how a Discharge Memo looks like (I edited out my name and ID). It says here that I don’t have to take any Pre-Event Testing for the next 270 days. Another perk of getting ‘covidised’ 😊
The first thing I did was to take a walk downstairs and… retrieve my letters. Okay, that wasn’t anything exceptional or outrageous. It was really practical – the mails have filled up by now. But I did pause by the scenery of the playground, contemplate the beautiful sight of the colorful structures against the backdrop of green grass and trees, and took a deep breath.
It is so good to be outdoor, and alive.
What I learnt from my COVID journey
1. Vaccination is really, really important
Being a minor, my son was not yet vaccinated, but the rest of my family was fully vaccinated. At the onset of the symptoms, we were concerned but not overly worried. This is because the symptoms remained mild, and cleared up after a few days (except for the loss of smell and taste, which persisted into Day 8).
One of my friends remarked that we should be thankful we were vaccinated – things might get a lot worse if we were not. And I couldn’t agree more. If this has happened before the vaccine, I’m not sure if any of us could have survived it, given all the news from US, Europe and India that we read about.
And talking about timing, I think Home Recovery is a better option because I have the company and support of family members, and the gifts from friends who sent their love.
2. Sometimes, God leads us through times of sickness and ill health
While the overwhelming majority of my friends and family were supportive during this illness, some of my acquaintances were wondering out loud why COVID happened to us. “How come your Jesus never protect you from COVID?”
That question has never crossed my mind, though I can understand why some would ask this question. Even though we are Christians, we live in a fallen, broken world. None of us are exempted from the effects of sin, which include death, suffering, and diseases.
COVID-19 is no exception. God allows His children to experience times of sickness and ill health, and many faithful, godly Christians across the globe have died from this disease.
Does that mean God is not powerful to protect us? Or that He is not loving?
No. It means that even in the midst of our suffering, God is with us and He enables us to endure it in faith and joy.
We are reading the Psalms as part of our family devotions. While there are psalms of stability and security, more often we come across psalms in which the psalmists expressed real struggles with pain and suffering. In one of our family devotions, we read Psalm 38, in which the psalmist David suffered from a debilitating illness, and was shunned by his friends. His wounds “fester and are loathsome,” (v.5) “There is no health in my body,” he laments in v. 7, and his back “is filled with searing pain.”
David’s sickness in Psalm 38 was a direct consequence of his sin, and his later restoration was a testimony of God’s mercy and grace. Psalm 41, on the other hand, expresses the assurance of a person who “has regard for the weak”, i.e. a righteous person. Verse 3 is especially comforting, “The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.” Our enemies may imagine the worst for us, “A vile disease has beset him; he will never get up from the place where he lies.” (Psalms 41:8) But God’s mercy will prevail (v. 10) and He will sustain us in His grace even when our bodies fail us.
Suffering and pain are no strangers to the children of God. But where God allows us to go through such times, He will supply the strength and endurance that we need. Most importantly, because we are reconciled to Him through Christ, we can know with assurance that He will never leave nor forsake us.
3. Times of sickness become God’s ‘enforced’ rest for our bodies and souls
Before COVID, I was feeling strained at work, these months being the crunch time for marking and result management. At the same time, I was preparing for a sermon on 17 Oct and a work presentation on 5 Nov. There were also some interpersonal issues at work and church fronts. All these tensions were mounting up, and, sad to say, my Sabbath rest was compromised.
So, in a sense, being down with COVID forces us to rest. God seemed to be telling us, in a way, that we shouldn’t ‘play God’ and want to manage everything. Not in our own strength. The sickness pushed a reset button in our lives, upending our plans and disrupting our routines. But it also frees us from external demands and expectations, as people gave us the necessary space to rest and ‘get well soon’ (they don’t have a choice, and neither do we).
After COVID, I was having a quiet walk with my wife, and I asked her what is the one thing she has learned from this illness.
“Nothing,” she replied. Then she laughed. “There wasn’t any great insight or inspiration from this whole experience. I just rest and rest and, learn to trust God that it will turn out well.”
And for all my propensity to intellectualise things, I had to admit that she was right.