I thought I had vertigo, says Covid-19 patient
Case 38 on her NCID stay and the stares she got when going home in hospital garb
"You have been tested positive for the coronavirus."
These were the words spoken by a doctor over the phone to Case 38 on Feb 8 in an isolation ward in the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), where the patient was warded for 10 days.
Wanting to be known only as Ms Jo, she told The New Paper that she visited Tan Tock Seng Hospital on Feb 7 due to dizzyness and breathing difficulties.
Ms Jo, 53, who works for a non-profit organisation, said: "I thought I had vertigo. I never thought I would have Covid-19."
After being referred to NCID, she was immediately warded when they found she had pneumonia. She tested positive for the coronavirus the next day.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced her as Case 38 on Feb 8, one of the eight infected in The Life Church and Missions cluster. Seven have since been discharged.
Contact tracing by MOH investigators led to 15 of her friends being quarantined. She joked about how friends would send her text messages, afraid they had developed symptoms.
"Suddenly, I felt like I was a doctor," she said.
Ms Jo said none of those contacts contracted Covid-19, despite being around her.
The 10 days of isolation were made easier as other isolated members of the church banded together and formed a WhatsApp support group called Swab Club, in jocular reference to the painful nasal swabs administered to them daily.
She told TNP: "Nurses had to insert a nasal swab up my nose so deep that tears would flow. By the seventh day, the nasal cavity was so traumatised, there was blood."
Despite the pain, she volunteered herself for NCID's coronavirus research, doubling the amount of nasal swab tests and requiring her to go back to NCID even after her discharge.
To keep her spirits up, Ms Jo said caring for others helped her forget her own situation.
She helped the nurses lighten their load, making requests only when they came in for checks.
On Feb 17, she was told she had tested negative for the coronavirus.
Unable to wear the clothes she entered in, Ms Jo was discharged in hospital garments.
She said: "A lot of people stared at me. Being in hospital clothes, I was afraid people would stone me. It was surreal."
To her surprise, a Grab driver welcomed her even after she told him she was a former patient.
Once home, she was given a bottle of Dettol by her family as a welcome gift, Ms Jo said, laughing.
Ms Jo has since returned to The Life Church, which resumed services on Sunday.
She said: "People are worried about returning to church, I understand the decision to attend church is a personal one."
Since her discharge, Ms Jo has resumed work from home.
"I am thankful to be well and also mindful of the prejudice I could face. People can do hurtful things when they are in fear. Nurses there shared with me how they were treated.
"We have first-world healthcare, but there is still much discrimination. I hope our mentality will also be first-class."