by Yokany Oliveira

“IT’S quite an emotionally draining thing to be by yourself the whole time, but I didn’t want to expose my kids.”

Doctor Willie Bruwer

Windhoek-based pulmonologist Dr Willie Bruwer says the time he spent in self-isolation after testing positive for Covid-19 was frustrating, but it had to be done.

Frontline healthcare workers such as Bruwer put themselves and their families at risk every day to save the lives of people who have contracted the novel coronavirus.

The specialist, who recovered from Covid-19 last month, says his case was not severe and he recovered within 10 days.

As per regulations, Covid-19 patients recovering at home are advised to have a separate bedroom and bathroom to self-isolate.

“Even before I got the test results, I isolated . . . I basically locked myself in the bedroom with an en suite bathroom and stayed there for the whole 10 days,” Bruwer says.

After some of his co-workers at Lady Pohamba Private Hospital tested positive, Bruwer got tested despite having no symptoms.

On 11 August, his results came back positive late in the afternoon after getting tested earlier that day.

“In retrospect, the Sunday before, I had quite a severe headache, which is a common occurrence for Covid-19, but at the time I didn’t make anything of it,” the doctor says.

Bruwer says after taking paracetamol, his headache eventually went away, but on Thursday, two days after he tested, he noticed symptoms, though not severe. These symptoms included a tight chest and shortness of breath with minimal activity.

He became tired when getting out of bed and walking a few steps, for example.

Bruwer also experienced a loss of smell and a mild fever until Saturday, but did not lose his sense of taste.

He could feel he was not well, he says.

“I regularly monitored my [blood-oxygen] saturation and pulse rate from the time I was diagnosed, and by that Thursday, my pulse rate went up,” he says.

“By Sunday I started feeling better, and by Monday I was asymptomatic again,” he says, adding he considers himself fortunate.

On day 10 Bruwer tested negative for Covid-19 and has since fully recovered.

Apart from using a saturation monitor to check his blood-oxygen levels, the doctor says he also consistently took Vitamin C, D and zinc supplements prior to contracting Covid-19.

“During the time I was sick, I also took some anticoagulants. There isn’t a lot of evidence for [using them], but given that I had some risk factors, I don’t know if I would do it again given the minimal symptoms I had,” Bruwer says.

HOW COVID-19 AFFECTS LUNGS

The doctor says Covid-19 is a spectrum of diseases and not everyone will get a lung infection.

LUNG INFECTION … In some cases, people who contract Covid-19 can develop severe pneumonia that can be fatal.
Photo/Graphic: Visual Capitalist

He says the novel coronavirus is an upper respiratory-tract infection, which in some cases results in a sore throat, a loss of smell or taste or a blocked nose.

In other cases, it causes inflammation of the lungs or a pneumonic process.
his is when the lungs’ ability to transfer oxygen from the air to blood vessels becomes impaired.

“This could be due to fluid collecting in the small airspaces of the lung and even, in some cases, the clotting of [blood in] the small blood vessels that collect the oxygen from the lungs,” he says.

Covid-19 often presents late, the doctor says, with a slow onset followed by rapid deterioration.

Therefore patients can become severely ill within a few hours of contracting Covid-19.

Bruwer says patients should monitor their pulse and breathing rate over a short distance.

“If they start realising they were able to walk 10 steps easily but now are breathing faster when they are walking short distances, that’s when one should go to a healthcare worker to be assessed,” he says.

This may be an initial symptom of infection, he says.

Bruwer says certain factors put people at higher risk of infection, including diabetes, chronic lung diseases, asthma or previous structural lung diseases (tuberculosis). People with chronic heart disease, cancer and those who are overweight are also at risk.

Health professionals monitor these patients closely. He says initially, the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention classified people with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 as high risk, but later lowered this to a BMI of 30 and up.

“It seems most people who get infected do develop an immune response that makes it less likely to, at least in the first few months, get reinfected,” he says.

The doctor advised the public to take the necessary precautions to curtail the spread of the virus.

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