Quarantined for Swine Flu in Tutong Hospital, Brunei.
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I was an H1N1 victim
It never crossed my mind that I would be part of the statistics. Before my journey, I often read the papers and raised my eyebrows everytime I looked at the rising number of infected people in other countries. I was confident that if I was careful I wouldn't catch the virus. I got myself some masks to wear during my trips (which I never used) and promised myself to wash my hands everytime I use the toilets.
The day I went back to
The day before (when I was relatively better then), I was talking to my cousin’s sister-in-law. She was a Singaporean and she told me about her being quarantined – suspected of having H1N1 flu. She works in the airport and obviously her working condition exposed her to the disease. But then again, she was also in her first trimester of pregnancy – hence the cold. But the Singaporean authority was obviously very careful and put her in quarantine anyway for a check-up. She explained to me the details of her quarantine and check-up experience. The part of her story that I remember the most was that she was quarantined in an individual cubicle and that she was taken there promptly from the airport and the only thing she had then was her mobile phone with battery that was running low. No visitors were allowed and she was attended by nurses and doctors all wearing “spacesuit”. At this point, the first image that conjured in my mind was her strapped to the bed in a white well-lit room, wearing white clothes, attended by strange looking people with visor and white spacesuit. Scary image and I couldn’t picture myself in that kind of situation.
The moment I walked into the emergency room, my heart was thumping faster and faster. I saw the thermo-scanner sitting on a counter with a nurse all covered in a special blue suit sitting behind it. I was surprised that I passed the thermo-scanner test, so the nurse told me to proceed to the waiting area with the other patience. I had to fill in a form which asked for my details and my travel history. Some 40 minutes later, I was finally called up to be checked by the nurse. She took my temperature and was alarmed by the reading – 38.1! She read my form and asked me how I got there – By car I said. Apparently that was not the answer she was expecting. I was sick and the only thing that I could think of that second was to pray that I didn’t get H1N1. Then I told her that I walked passed the thermo-scanner and was directed to the waiting area. She took my temperature for the second time just to make sure but the reading did not improve at all. I could tell that she was an efficient nurse because a few minutes later I was in the H1N1 screening room. That was when I started to think – I’m too young to die!
The waiting area was vacant with the only sound audible came from the big fans hanging on the wall. The waiting gave the opportunity to all of the images of my cousin’s sister-in-law’s story to appear in my mind – The white room, the swabbing, the lonely feeling and the spacesuit. Some time later, a head with a green mask and a green shower cap appeared between the doors. He told me to get inside for a check up. A doctor and a nurse (all in spacesuit of course) were already waiting for me. I was swabbed in the throat and poked deep inside in my nose (trust me, its not a pleasant experience at all) by the doctor. It was all very technical and I remember feeling intimidated by the whole procedure. After the brief check-up I was told to wait outside for my medicines. My mind went schizo, bombarded by all the “what if” questions. The doctor told me to stay home the next day and was supplied with an arsenal of medication – supposedly to help me with the fever and cold. They told me that they would call to inform me of the test outcome. The waiting was nerve wrecking. The next day I was in room, self quarantined. My mask was on face all the time and I was getting paranoid with the things I touch. The day went by really slow and the needles of the clock didn’t seem to be moving at all. As night fell, I was slightly triumphant – “See, it was just a common fever after all”. By midnight, I gave up on waiting and went to sleep. Around 1 in the morning, my mother knocked on my door. The hospital called and I was tested H1N1 positive. Feeling sick, half asleep and shocked at the same time (with a tinge of anger because the late hour) I packed my essentials, keeping in mind that I need to keep myself entertained in the isolation room (after listening to my cousin’s sister-in-law’s story, who wouldn’t) – so I packed my phone charger, my broadband modem and my laptop. I was glad I did. I was moving on autopilot that night. Around one hour later, the hospital car (not an ambulance) came and I was taken to the
If you still can’t picture how I felt at this point of my story, try thinking of the X-Files series when Scully was abducted by the aliens and put on the surgery bed.
Getting inside the isolation building was like going into a prison (not that I have ever been in one). First we had to go through the security check-point. The guard talked to someone using the walkie-talkie to ask for some kind of a confirmation perhaps. We had to for a little while then and I could hear the hospital staff talking among themselves – “They should know that we are coming”. After passing the guard, we waited for the hospital staff to take me inside. I was wheelchaired to the elevator and finally was put inside Isolation Room 2. The room was sealed with double door and was very well ventilated – there were around six ventilation fans running 24/7. I was wondering if there would be enough oxygen left in the room for us to breathe. I was surprised that I was not alone in the room. There were four other people in there – a teenage boy, a teenage girl and another boy aged nine accompanied by his mother. “I hope I won’t be making them sick again” I said to myself.
It was around past 2 in the morning and they were sleeping when I came in. Moments later, a doctor accompanied by a nurse came into the room to check me up. Starting then, I was on Tamiflu and Paracetamol. I was in the isolation room for about four days, living on Tamiflu (twice a day) and Paracetamol (every four hours). I felt nauseated and my stomach didn’t feel very comfortable. The nurse told me that they were H1N1 symptoms but I should improve slowly after taking six dosages of Tamiflu. She was right. I did improve and by Saturday I was 80% myself – I still had a little cold, slight cough and shortness of breath but a lot better than when I was first admitted. The day I was discharged from the isolation room was the happiest of my life –
It has been almost a month now since this happened. Now I am 99.9 percent back to normal – I still have that yucky feeling in my nose which I hope to shake off soon. My advice to those out there who take H1N1 lightly, I hope that my story would make you think again about the precautionary steps advertised by the Ministry of Health. I’ve survived H1N1, but I also consider myself as lucky. Unfortunately, not everyone was lucky like me.