UCU Law staff member shares story of Covid stigma

Andrew Ayebale is the academic registrar at the Faculty of Law at Uganda Christian University. Ayebale was diagnosed with the coronavirus in June at a time when Uganda was receiving a beating from the second wave of the pandemic. He narrates his story to Lule Eriah.

The biggest challenge people who contract Covid-19 have to deal with is trauma. Trauma from stigma as well as from the sad stories about the deaths and the suffering that people go through. The case was not any different for me. 

In fact, I had to temporarily go off social media, because there was an avalanche of negative stories about Covid-19. They only made me more depressed.

Andrew Ayebare (left) with the UCU Deputy Vice Chancellor, Finance and Administration, Mr. David Mugawe.
Andrew Ayebare (left) with the UCU Deputy Vice Chancellor, Finance and Administration, Mr. David Mugawe.

I contracted the coronavirus at a time when Uganda was just entering its second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Every time I was on my bed, my only prayer was for God to give me a second chance to live and serve Him. 

I watched helplessly as Covid-19 frustrated a lot of my personal plans and those of our department. We had planned a UCU senior staff retreat, for which I was the coordinator, but it did not happen. I was down. The country was plagued with both the disease and the restrictions on movement to reduce the incidences on infection.

The disease manifests itself
From May 29-31, 2021, I was feeling unwell. So, I decided to go to the Allan Galpin Health Centre (University Clinic). Surprisingly, the doctors diagnosed non-Covid infection and gave me medication.

On June 2, there was information that the University Clinic had acquired some Covid-19 vaccines and we were urged to get vaccinated. I did. As expected, I felt fever at night. Surprisingly, for the next few days, I would be fine during day and develop high fever at night. 

Could this be the after-effects of the vaccine? I asked myself. 

On June 3, I travelled to Mbarara in western Uganda, to play a football match, but I could not make it for the second half of the game. 

I was so dizzy, and developed flu. When I got home, I began to rigorously steam and drink concoctions because the Covid-19 scare was becoming more and more real. 

On the night of June 4, I got a terribly bad fever. It was worse than the ones I had been getting the previous days. However, by day break, the fever was clearing. Indeed, it cleared.  In a bid to self-medicate (something not medically recommended) I took painkillers and antibiotics. Later, the fever hit again, and it was worse this time round. I had just returned from a trip to Jinja in eastern Uganda.

I went to hospital three days later, to test, not for Covid-19, but other diseases. I was still in denial. The doctor warned that I was suffering from a strong virus. He could not name it, since the test was not conclusive. Nevertheless, he prescribed Azithromycin, an antibiotic. Thereafter, I took Vitamin C tablets. 

By June 10, I had lost the sense of smell and appetite. I was feeling so sick. And it was my birthday.

The following day, when I visited the University Clinic, I was given a referral to Mukono General Hospital. There, I found a long queue of patients and could not wait. I considered testing for Covid-19 elsewhere. The results were positive.

By June 12, I was coughing incessantly. I instantly began medication and got onto the recommended regimen of taking vitamins, eating a lot of fruits, sunbathing, strolling sometimes for about 4 miles, among others. Thankfully, I did not get bedridden. 

On June 18, I regained my sense of smell and was feeling almost normal. Around that time, my younger sister, too, and her four friends were battling the virus. Together, we built a support system – praying together and encouraging one another.

On June 25, 2021, when I was declared negative for Covid-19, I was on cloud nine. It felt like being born again. I, immediately, took a photo of the results and sent to my supervisor, friends at work and family. I also requested for a scan to find out whether all my body organs were functioning normally. And all was well.