Khartoum Isolation Center: Patient and Musician Othman Mohialdin Othman Fights the Battle of COVID-19 With His Violin

Wednesday 27 January 2021

Last November Sudan was hit with the second wave with COVID19 that affected thousands of families and led to the death of many, the capital Khartoum was among the affected areas in the country. Before he was diagnosed with COVID-19, and admitted to the Khartoum Isolation Center in November, Othman, 50, violinist and founder of the Magic of violin Musical Training Centre for Music and Art, dreamt of visiting isolation centers around Sudan to play the violin for patients.

In his daily life prior to the diagnosis, Othman says that he and his family have been cautious. He recalls that his son, Abu Bakr, 7, was constantly reminding him to wear his mask to the store, or to not touch the staircase railing, and to always spray sanitizer on surfaces and his hands.

However, during Sudan’s vicious second wave in November, Othman started feeling symptoms that resembled the typical warning signs to look out for; severe headache, fever, dizziness, and muscle aches.

He immediately isolated himself from his wife, Omaima Abdel Rahman, and his three young children AbuBakr, Lareen, 4, and Akram, 3 and started the COVID-19 recommended protocol.

On the family level, Omaima informed us that telling children the truth about a family member having COVID-19 is challenging – but it is a must and it has to come gradually, as not to scare them. She considers that children overall should be informed of the virus and the standard protocols so they can take care of themselves and understand their role in raising awareness as well.

Othman’s case worsened and he started having trouble breathing. When he did a chest x-ray results portrayed typical virus-infected lungs. The hospital recommended that he tries to get admitted to one of the isolation centers. His brother took him straight to the Isolation Center in Khartoum, which was, fortunately, not at full capacity at the time – and he was admitted.

“A group of doctors came and checked my report and status – and they immediately started the treatment,” he recounted. “My case was considered mild; because I saw severe cases and death on my floor. In about two nights, I started becoming more stable.” Although he still felt ill, he knew he felt better than most – and this is when he decided to see how he can help other patients in the Isolation Center.

He would make rounds around his floor and talk with other patients, assuring them that they will beat this disease, “This is when I started playing my violin. I did this for the patients because the music they love will make them feel better, but beyond that, I knew if a video of it came out, it would raise awareness about where we are, and it would garner more support for the center.” Said Othman. 

In the course of his treatment, Othman said that at the Khartoum Isolation Center, he received fixed rounds from medical staff, received his medications on time and was advised on the nutrition system he needed to follow. In addition, he received visits from a psychiatrist who would ask him and other patients how they are feeling and how they are tackling the illness psychologically.

After being discharged five nights after his admission, Othman knew that there is still a lot of room for awareness. “There are people who still believe corona doesn’t exist in Sudan,” he stated. “We find it hard to isolate and social distance, and that’s why having isolation centers and those centers being supported with an even stronger management system is a must.”

He believes artists and media personalities have one of the most effective roles in doing so, through songs, news outlets, and social media tools. “I am not a doctor, I can’t give a patient a needle,” he said. “After being diagnosed and receiving the necessary treatment, the medication I can offer is my word of mouth and my music. This is the part I can play in fighting the enemy [coronavirus] and helping all of us win the battle against it.”

Save the Children, in coordination with the State Ministry of Health, and funding from Sudan Humanitarian Fund and European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, are supporting the Khartoum Isolation Center, since May 2020. It is operated by 128 staff, and has the capacity of 60 beds and 14 Intensive Care Unit Beds, in addition to providing dialysis and ambulance services. In the months of November and December of 2020, more than 150 recovered patients were discharged from the center.