Wed | Feb 24, 2021

Garth Rattray | My fight against COVID-19

Published:Monday | September 21, 2020 | 12:08 AM

My symptoms began with an itchy throat and a dry cough early one morning. I thought that I was having a post-nasal drainage because the cough was not frequent or debilitating. By mid-afternoon I was feeling lousy. I was still coughing and had minor chest restriction on deep inspiration. I am asthmatic and I noticed a little wheezing.

I began feeling fatigued and discovered that my temperature was 38.8 degrees Celsius (101 degrees Fahrenheit). I immediately isolated myself and called it in. I was fortunate to get a PCR test the following day. By that time, I was sweating easily and profusely, I was coughing a little and the chest tightness was barely discernible. I had flu-like feelings with minor aches and pains.

The days crawled by slowly, I remained on Panadols to keep the fever away, the cough and minor wheezing decreased and stopped after three days. My mind was fully occupied with questions of what this could be. I always wore an N95 mask and a face shield at work and an N95 mask and goggles on the street. I only went to buy petrol approximately once a week and I went to a large hardware store once. I visited no one and no one visited me at home.

Patients are screened with 19 questions at the door; temperature checked, must have a mask fitted (or we supply one), and their hands are sanitised with 60 per cent or stronger alcohol. I have not seen the faces of the staff since March because they wear masks all the time. I sanitise my hands very frequently, objects and surfaces are wiped down with alcohol many times during the day. I saw nobody with any symptoms suspicious of COVID-19. I felt very safe.


But I was unwell; something got by all my barriers and precautions. Perhaps I was infected by an asymptomatic individual. Perhaps a mask slipped below someone’s nose and released the virus into the room. Hearing, “It’s COVID-19” was mind-numbing. Although I’m not diabetic, I’m almost 65 years old, ‘plus sized’ and asthmatic. Taking my age into account, I have a total of seven pre-existing conditions that put individuals like me at very high risk of dying a horrible death if they get COVID-19.

When I realised that the dreaded virus was inside me, I felt as if my blood turned to ice. I felt as if I could not breathe. I wanted to jump out of my body and run away. I realised that if I worried too much it would weaken my immune system and put me at even greater risk of suffering horribly and die gasping for air. I was at the mercy of this very dangerous and unpredictable virus … it could do anything to me. I was totally helpless. I had to calm down and pray that God would take me through this because I had absolutely no control over it – my faith was severely tested.

The following days dragged by in slow motion. I exercised, rested, ate properly, prayed and meditated, and eagerly counted down to the time when it would be unlikely for anything catastrophic to occur … I longed for day 15 to arrive. My wife and the office staff were fine. Thank God, I came out the other end of COVID-19 okay. People with my profile tend to do badly, I consider myself extremely blessed.

Our population is ageing; pre-existing conditions and lifestyle modifiable, non-communicable diseases are not uncommon. Controlling COVID-19 is straightforward. Sanitisation, distancing and, once outside our homes, we must wear properly fitting masks to protect everyone else. No one has to become sick or die from COVID-19. If everybody practises source control, the virus will have no place to go, fade away and disappear.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and