At-Risk Patient Recovers After 8 Days in the Khartoum Isolation Centre

Wednesday 22 September 2021

In the last days of June, Kamal*, 70, contracted COVID-19 and felt some of its most severe symptoms: sharp chest pain and difficulty breathing. Kamal’s age and underlying chronic conditions placed him in the at-risk patient group, who are often left with slim chances and hopes of fighting off the aggressive virus. Today, he is home, he is fully recovered, and he is telling us his story, after receiving treatment at the Khartoum Isolation Centre, funded by the Sudan Humanitarian Fund (SHF) and supported by Save the Children.

Kamal’s story in his own words:

With sharp pain in my chest, shortness of breath, muscles aching all over my body, and each step becoming increasingly heavier than the last, I found myself overcome with a sudden sense of dread. I dreaded the prospect of making my way back home on foot from a marketplace not far from my home in Umbada. A distance I would routinely walk with relative ease, now seemed more impossible with each step.

It was 20 days before Eid Adha when the symptoms started. They were all too familiar: abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, high fever, and frequent coughing -- all seemed to converge on my senses at once. At this moment I honestly felt like I wasn't going to make it. I have never felt so helpless and afraid; I thought to myself the only people I knew I could count on were my family at home. When I went home, my family couldn't believe their eyes when they saw the condition I was in. I had to interrupt concerned family members as they gathered around me., Fearing that they, too, would become infected, I immediately asked for a room to be prepared for me to quarantine in.

Bedridden, my condition steadily worsened over the next seven days, and with the aid of my wife Amani* and son Mohannad*, I found myself in an ambulance on the way to the Khartoum Isolation Centre. A doctor named Amaal received me and I was immediately put on a ventilator and had both my blood pressure and blood sugar measured. I was too disoriented to make out any faces or accurately articulate what I wanted to say; Amani informed the doctors that I already struggle with my blood pressure and diabetes, and the doctors took note of that and started the recommended COVID-19 treatment protocol.

A week later, my condition improved. I was overwhelmed with support from everyone in the Intensive Care Unit. Not a single staff member's support came up short – everyone did their absolute best to keep our spirits up and make sure we were looked after in every respect. They cared for me as if I was part of their family, they routinely ran tests and closely monitored my condition.

What stood out the most to me after spending 8 days in their care, was the positive atmosphere they created for us! I was so scared when I first came and that fear and anxiety gradually faded, thanks to them. To be surrounded by so many kind and goodhearted people, what's better than that?

Prior to this experience, I admit that I had been sceptical of the prevalence of COVID-19 and the measures recommended to protect ourselves against it. In the days after I was discharged from the isolation centre, I began sharing my experience with everyone I came across in my neighbourhood and community. This prompted an air of caution in spaces where just a couple of weeks ago, rumours attempting to discredit the existence of the virus were coming up in every conversation. To anyone who makes light of this illness, and who is not taking the precautions seriously: I swear by God Almighty that COVID-19 is real, and I wouldn't be here without the help of the doctors whose advice I – regretfully – I ignored in the past.

Amani’s thoughts:

When I saw the condition he was in, I feared for his life, and I feared that he would leave me to take care of our family alone.

We refused visits from anyone the moment that he came home ill. This was a bit socially awkward, to say the least, but with his condition being the way that it was, we didn’t want any of our neighbours to get sick. We were and still are thankful no one else in the family was infected.

Waiting at home while he was being treated at the Khartoum Isolation Centre was difficult after seeing him in such a state, but the staff kept me updated on his condition the entire time, and that gave me the strength to hold on through this traumatic experience.

News of his recovery filled me with joy and relief as I anxiously anticipated his triumphant return home! My beloved husband, and the father of my children, was not going to leave us just yet, I have to thank everyone that tended to him for that, and I have to thank anyone supporting the isolation centre to help patients recover.

*Names were changed to protect the participants' privacy.