Credit: 123rf

Watching a recent TikTok video where Korean-American Diane Sung laments about being exhausted after her husband was diagnosed with Covid-19 struck a chord in me.

This probably wouldn’t have if I’d come across it last month.

See, my husband too tested Covid-positive barely two weeks ago.

In her video, Diane, a mother of two young boys, complains of exhaustion and laments, “What about me, y’all,” to the messages of concern that poured in for her husband.

In her own words, he “was thoroughly enjoying me being at his beck and call”, and “enjoying his alone time right now, with his cold-like mild symptoms”.

@invasian_

It is now day 5 \ud83e\udd72

♬ original sound – Diane Sung

Her situation might very well have been dramatised for content, but I could definitely relate to how tiring it is to care for a Covid-19-positive patient at home, while still attending to the needs of other family members.

With Covid-19 infection numbers in Singapore reaching record highs in late February, it’s a situation that I’m sure many others here are facing.

Thankfully, my husband’s symptoms were considered mild and he recovered by the seventh day of infection.

When he first tested positive at home, we allowed ourselves a few seconds to bemoan the fact — before contingency plans we had discussed were quickly put into action.

My husband self-isolated in our six-year-old’s room while the two of us slept in the master bedroom.

With my husband out of action around the house, I became the de facto cleaner, nurse, caterer and butler, as everything fell squarely on my shoulders.

We don’t have a helper so my husband and I would usually split the household chores. I cook on most days as well, which I continued to do for most of that week as our groceries were freshly stocked.

Added to the stress was the fact that my son was now confined indoors — we chose to keep him home due to the consecutive Covid-19 cases detected in his school since Chinese New Year.

So I could throw ‘playmate’ and ‘teacher’ into my mixed bag of roles as well, although if I were to be completely honest, those duties were mainly left to the TV.

As for the precautions I took, the most basic of all was placing a chair outside my husband’s door (just like at a quarantine facility) for contactless meal retrieval.

I also made sure to separate and wash his cutlery and dishes away from everything else, pouring hot water on the sink and cleaning it right after for good measure.

More than the physical labour though, what I found most tiring was the mental load one has to take on when someone at home is down with Covid-19.

It’s making sure my son keeps away from his dad’s quarantine room and the common toilet that he uses.

It’s also the constant washing of hands each time I bring my husband’s dishes back to the sink and thinking about proper steps to take — what should I do first? Should I be wearing gloves and a mask? I did, initially.

And let’s not even discuss separating the laundry or the disinfection process that came after he recovered.

Yes, I may be paranoid and doing more than I needed to, but I can attest that the state of hyper-alertness and -consciousness is absolutely exhausting.

“Did I…? Should I…?” ran through my head constantly.

In hindsight, the experience made me grateful for two things: that I’m lucky enough to have a spare room with a bed that my husband was able to quarantine in, and that I only have my son at home with me.

The situation would have been infinitely more stressful with less space in the house, or with more dependents who are at greater risk of catching the infection.

A friend of mine whose husband and two kids all came down with the virus did in fact had to sleep on the living room couch for a week, just like Sung.

I know of many others who had to make do with their living arrangements to the best of their ability when Covid-19 arrived at their doorstep. 

A good friend was staying at her parents’ temporarily when she caught the virus. She shared a room with her partner, who incredibly did not get infected throughout the week-long recovery. Both of them had kept their face masks on 24/7, even while sleeping.

Another married friend who stays in a three-room flat chose to ride it out as best as he could when his wife tested positive for the virus. She did not self-isolate as they do not have a spare toilet nor an extra bed. Miraculously my friend managed to come out of the episode without getting sick.

However, even when taking all precautions, getting infected is still the possibility. A Covid-stricken friend self-isolated at home and recovered on the eighth day. The next day, however, her husband tested positive.

These stories will probably resonate with many these past and coming weeks, especially with reports that the Covid-19 Omicron wave has yet to peak in Singapore.

With the rise in cases and the mutation of the viruses, it’s predicted that catching Omicron or other variants may only be a matter of time.

In my case, what helped alleviate the stress of the experience was being mentally prepared and having a plan. Talking about where you would self-isolate and knowing you have the necessary supplies (a separate rubbish bin and laundry bag, for example) help.

We were also extremely grateful for meals and necessities that were delivered to us by kind friends and family, especially when I didn’t feel like taking yet another Antigen Rapid Test (ART) just to step out of the house.

(Read also “The Best Ways To Help Your Family And Friends On Home Recovery“)

Although I’m certainly relieved that both my son and I came out unscathed from this episode, I know we’re far from being Covid-proof. But with this experience tucked under my belt, I feel better prepared for the next one — perhaps not if, but when it hits. This time, I might consider using disposable cutlery.

What to do if you test positive for Covid-19?

According to the latest Ministry of Health advisory, there is no need to see a doctor if you test positive for Covid-19 but your symptoms are mild.

Instead, one should self-isolate at home for the next 72 hours, and only emerge from isolation thereafter when your self-administered ART result is negative.

However, people who are immunocompromised, pregnant or have severe medical conditions as indicated in Protocol 2 should see a doctor even if they are feeling well.

Those who are below the age of three or 70 and above are also encouraged to see the doctor regardless of how they are feeling.

Still not sure? Utilise Gov.sg’s handy widget which will advise you on the next steps to take if you’re unwell or test positive.

This article was first published in AsiaOne.