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COVID-19 survivor , Sasheena Douglas .
Photo: Contributed

Sasheena Douglas admits that she knew the coronavirus (COVID-19) should not be taken lightly, because of the toll it takes on the body; however, she was not prepared for the impact it had on her mental health.

The 29-year-old Kingston resident, who works out five days per week and maintains a healthy diet, had to put up quite a fight with the virus.

Ms. Douglas, who works as a communications officer, tells JIS News that it all started when she began to feel ill in mid-August of last year.

“I got tested because I had some symptoms, but I thought it was a sinus infection. My sinuses drained for the entire day, but then, my body just felt strange. It felt like a sinus infection with something else,” Ms. Douglas says.

She adds that things took a turn for the worse when she started feeling pain in her eyes, muscles and joints.

“I could distinctly feel the pain in my eyes differently from the one in my head. I said to my sister, ‘I don’t feel well, but it doesn’t feel like a normal [illness]’. She told me to take some medicine, which I did not do, and then the following day the pain in the eyes came back, and the pain in the muscles and joints were very mild at this point; this was on Wednesday,” she notes.

By Saturday, Ms. Douglas says that she her sense of taste and smell had vanished, “and that was when I knew I needed to call the Ministry of Health and Wellness. I contacted them and took it from there”.

She tells JIS News that when the results of her COVID test came back positive she was not surprised, as she was experiencing most of the symptoms associated with the virus.

“I was feeling very fatigued, so I was just falling asleep at the drop of a hat. I was in a lot of pain. I was also having difficulty breathing and this chest compression, this pain that felt like it came to take my life, in the centre of my chest, that was the worst part. The only symptom I did not experience was vomiting,” she says.

“I just asked those [Ministry of Health representatives] what I needed to know, how to treat it and how long I needed to stay in quarantine,” Ms. Douglas shares.

She says that she quarantined at home with her sister, who had also contracted the virus, which took a toll on her mentally.

“I didn’t realise how taxing it would be mentally. It was not something I considered. I think if my sister wasn’t quarantining with me, I would have lost my mind, because as much as I don’t consider myself to be charismatic or to be a people person, I do have my days when I want to be around my friends and my family, and I wasn’t able to do that for a little over two months. So the isolation, it gets to you,” she says.

Ms. Douglas explains that it took her a while to tell her friends and family, as she is not one who revels in pity.

“I kept it mostly to myself and when I felt ready, I shared it with my family. I didn’t say anything to anybody when I was experiencing the symptoms, only to persons with whom I was in close proximity when I started experiencing the symptoms, so they could also get tested. Thankfully, none of them tested positive for it; I was the only one,” she says.

She notes that when she told her family members, who are devout Christians, she became the subject of many prayer meetings.

Ms. Douglas adds that her mother was distraught when she was made aware of her daughter’s diagnosis.

“My mother cried because she is a ‘helicopter parent’, so even though I am almost 30 years old, my brother is a married man with children and my sister is in her late 20s, she still insists on parenting us and being there when we need her, which I love,” Ms. Douglas says.

Ms. Douglas admits that even after recovering from the virus and testing negative in October, and while her mental health is better, she still has residual physical afflictions.

“I am still experiencing the pain in the chest, and every now and then the shortness of breath. Mentally, I am fine, I am now in a position where I need to educate people, hence me sharing it on my ‘Sash and Sher’ YouTube channel, which I did after the fact, because I didn’t want to be bombarded with questions, so I detailed it there,” she tells JIS News.

“I wanted people to understand that it affects everyone differently, because I work out five days per week, and I eat relatively well. My sister does none of that, and I got the virus full blown. The only thing that did not happen was for me to be put on a ventilator. But for her, she only experienced the headache, the pain in the eyes and the fatigue and this happened for literally two days,” Ms. Douglas outlines.

Her biggest takeaway from the experience, she says, is how the isolation impacted her mentally.

Ms. Douglas adds that she goes out even less than before. “I have started to schedule my errands, so aside from having to still go into the office, if I have anything to do on the road I will do it on the days when I am working…. just to limit my exposure,” she says.

She notes that she continues to practise proper hand washing, sanitising and wearing a mask, and encourages friends and family to do the same.

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