COVID CENTRE HELL – by Laura Miti

I’ve written a number of posts touching on Covid now, and I try to keep up with the current state in Zambia, but this text here hit me in the gut:

By Laura Miti,

“I write this post for those in charge of the COVID response.

Having spent 10 days running around to save a friend, I discovered a disturbing situation that I am convinced administrators have no idea of.

It is that we are losing people to COVID in two ways:

  1. The illness itself – medical staff try their best to save a patient, but fail.
  2. A total breakdown of care when patients are hospitalised. Patients die from neglect, not COVID.

It is the latter I want to bring to light.

When a COVID patient is admitted, they are essentially taken into secrecy.

No one can see what is happening because COVID guidelines prevent the bedsider, that rock that holds up the Zambian health care system.

No visitors are allowed either.

I will speak of the Bauleni COVID Centre and Levy Mwanawasa High Cost – because those are the two I experienced.

The two centres are critically understaffed. There are times when there is one exhausted nurse for 20 – 30 critical patients.

They can’t cope.

So, other than oxygen, a patient can get next to zero attention.

In Bauleni, power goes. As in they get loadshedded.

Shockingly, relatives are not told that a simple extension cable that connects oxygen to the genset, can save their patient’s life.

By the time we discovered the vitality of the extension cables and delivered them, our patient’s oxygen saturation had plummeted multiple times.

His saturation fell from the 99 he achieved when he was first connected to the oxygen to 82, then a second time to 46, then 56.

He never went back over 80.

But that’s not what’s giving me hell.

It is that as his energy waned after the multiple times off oxygen, he begun to send texts begging me to get a nurse to feed him, give him water, pain medication. To help him wear something warm.

In desperation, we moved him to Levy Mwanwasa High Cost, hoping for better basic care.

Oh, the relief, when we left Bauleni.

Things got no better.

I’m thirsty, please get someone to give me water.

This message comes as you are stuck at home or outside. You can’t go in.

You shout at the door for a nurse to come. No one does. You call the number of a nurse you managed to get, they don’t pick up.

They are overwhelmed.

In the end, panicked out of my mind, I got myself a PPE and went in.

But I was too late.

He was thirsty, hungry, weak, in pain.

He needed to be at least on a drip.

But nothing.

I gave him water, fed him.

At some point, I noticed his oxygen bag was not inflating.

A nurse sitting by the bedside on the next bed (specially hired I think) tried to help while I searched for the nurse on duty.

A nurse on duty with 30 maybe 40 odd other critically ill patients, on the night.

The nurse finally came, but it took a while to discover that whoever had put more water in the oxygen gadget, had left it loose.

By the time the oxygen was reconnected, it was just a matter of time.

We lost him…not to COVID perse.

Please allow bedsiders. Dress them up in PPEs.

Hire nursing assistants to feed the patients. To give honest information to familes. To take medicine and food from relatives waiting outside, quickly.

It can take you an hour to get food to your patient.Then they are not fed immediately or at all.

Hire assistants so the nursing staff can concentrate on medication.

So our loved ones do not have to die unnecessarily painful deaths.

Oh God, it’s better not to know how your person died in a COVID centre.”

When covid hit Zambia there was so much talk about covid relief, money set aside from the national budget, millions of dollars pledged. Where is that money? Why are we failing so completely? And where are the vaccines? And the information campaigns (about 1% of the population has received a jab)? Our leaders seem more interested in winning the upcoming elections than saving the very people they are meant to serve.

Vaccine for the rich – third wave for the poor

It is now very clear to anyone following the latest Covid updates that Zambia is heading at full steam into the third wave of this pandemic. We recently watched the news in horror about the dire situation in India, now it seems to be Africa’s turn with several countries experiencing an explosion in both case-numbers and hospitalizations. Meanwhile we are seeing how Europe, country by country, and the US, is beginning to open up again. We read about the number of vaccine doses administered, 70 million doses administered in the UK, and over 6 million doses administered in Sweden just to mention two. Unfortunately we are not seeing these numbers in the so called third world or global south, in other words the poorer parts of the world got left behind in the vaccine race. When the first vaccines were launched it was every country for them self. It was a true display of pure capitalism; no money? No medicine! If you didn’t have the money; it was ‘get to the back of the line and kindly wait for handouts’. The fact that this whole third wave, predominantly hitting poorer countries that are already on their knees, could have been stopped if the will had been there is mindboggling and infuriating all at once. The governments of the richest countries, along with UN and WHO, could have made sure that the patent for the vaccines were made free, that the distribution of the vaccine wasn’t going to be based on who has the dollar but who has the most vulnerable populations, taking health care infrastructure in to account. Instead ‘big pharma’ were allowed to make a killing (no pun intended but hey) out of the vaccines. And the global south has no other option than to wait patiently for a handout from the Covax fund and others. But time is not on our side as numbers are multiplying as we speak. We hear reports of hospitals filling up fast in Lusaka, and lots of patients needing oxygen. As I’m writing this my family has been in isolation for a week as a family member tested positive for Covid, in fact it is a major outbreak on the farm with probably about 50% of the staff testing positive. Had we been on par with the richer countries that grabbed more vaccines than they needed, most of the people here would have had their second jab by now, instead it’s only a few of us (who ran when opportunity was given) who have received our first dose. What we have witnessed in the last six month is a true display of how the world is run, where rich countries grab what they want, poor countries are left behind and then indebted to the donors. It’s ironic that what we saw in the very early days of the pandemic, the stock piling of toilet paper, was more than just poo-paper-panic, it was a sign as to what lay ahead of us, where you grab more than you need and care less about what’s left for the less fortunate.

Zambia has become the country with the highest bi-weekly increase in cases in the world, as many of these figures are hard to get your head around I can highly recommend following the facebook page “Lusaka helps” (or join the group) as they do a great job in breaking all the numbers down. If you’re more of a number geek go to Reuters Covid tracker for all the latest global statistics. And if you too think it is wrong on so many levels that we have a vaccine for profit rather than a vaccine for the people go to Oxfam’s page to read how you can help and join in the action.

A hairy reality-check

Scroll down for an update!

Right now my hair is quite long and sits in a tight pony most of the time, but I’ve had it in all kind of lengths including a number 2 (as in 2 mm)! As I was looking for photos of myself in these different hairstyles, to try and decide what to do with my hair next, I found it quite entertaining looking at a younger me. It’s such a cliché but time does fly, look how young I was, 27 year old mother of two! I usually ask for input regarding what hairstyle I should go for and then do something else all together. People (including my kids) often tell me to keep my hair long, and this time I’ve kept it long for a while, but I’m getting bored now and it’s time for change. I really don’t understand how you can stick to the same hairstyle/length year after year! The fun part about hair is that it grows out again, so what’s there to worry about? Try something different next time you get to the salon, what’s the worst that could happen? Ok, they make a mess of it and you end up shaving your head as I did two years ago, but hey it grew back! Now you can tell me which one in of these styles I should go back to (I’m leaning towards 27 yr old me) and obviously you can’t say 38 yr old me…

And this one’s from that time I wasn’t happy with my cut and my husband helped me ‘sort it out’…! >>

Update: I finally got to a hairdresser a couple of weeks ago >

V for Vaccine!

Just got vaccinated!

When, about two weeks ago, Zambia finally launched the Covid vaccination with vaccine received through the Covax fund I thought to myself that we (non risk group) will be waiting long before getting a chance to receive the first of two jabs. But soon after the official launch and about a week of vaccinating health- and other frontline workers I started hearing about the drop-in clinic in Lusaka’s main hospital, apparently anyone could go. Soon after that it was announced that the vaccine would be available to anyone above the age of 18 even in Kabwe. Unfortunately from what I’ve heard the vaccine has been made available for anyone because too many are reluctant to go, even, or especially, those in the risk group (everyone over the age of 65, and people with pre-existing conditions). Come to think of it it’s no wonder, after all many still doubt that covid-19 even exists in Zambia at all, and in that case one wouldn’t see the benefit of a vaccine. I can understand why someone far out in rural Zambia would think like this, they haven’t perhaps seen the direct impact of the pandemic, but there are also many fairly well educated, exposed and “woke” people out there that are reluctant to take the vaccine because they’ve ended up going down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole (and man, that’s a deep hole!). Facebook friends sharing one article more outrages than the other. Anything from masks being the beginning of a totalitarian society to the Covid being part of a de-population plan! You can’t believe that the Covid pandemic is a hoax AND that it is man made, at least stick to one! It also doesn’t help that the Astra Zeneca vaccine (what’s used in Zambia at the moment) has had it’s challenges with reports of blood clots. These are however extremely rare (20 cases in every 1 million for people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Abut 10 cases in every 1 million for people in their 50s and 60s, then about 5 cases in every 1 million for people aged 70 and above) and the risk of getting a blood clot from covid is in fact twice as high as getting it from the vaccine, also for people aged 25-55 the risk of dying from Covid is about double that of the risk of suffering severe complications from the vaccine, for people over 55 that number is 200! (yes, you are 200 times more likely to die from covid than having severe complications from the vaccine, read that again!)

Another point made from skeptics is the issue of “big-pharma” making a killing out of this, and yes, they are obviously laughing all the way to the stock market. But I’m not the one to believe they some how created Covid to make money from a vaccine. Guess I still believe in humanity too much for that. I do however think this should have been controlled by an authority such as the WHO or the UN in a way that every country could get enough vaccines fast enough. Now look at the horrific situation in India, this could have been prevented if vaccines had been made more accessible to the “global south”, instead we had to wait for Europe and the U.S. to eat, and they stuffed their faces, at the table first.

For us to stop or at least slow the continued spread and consequences of this pandemic we need a large portion of the population to get vaccinated. We don’t need to think only the risk group needs it, if enough of us, healthy people in their 30s, 40s and 50s, get the vaccine it will help, because it is largely spread by people in this group. I therefore think it is our responsibility to do our part and get the jab! I got mine on Tuesday this week. I went, together with my husband, to the Mahatma Gandhi clinic in Kabwe. We waited about 10 min for our turn, then a lady took our details and filled in a form before a nurse gave us the jab in the left arm. It took us all in all about 30 min. The side effects came at night as we both felt like we had a bout of malaria with joint/muscle ache, fever chills and just discomfort, already in the morning we were feeling better albeit tired. And the older you are the less likely you are to suffer severe side effects.

Let’s put the conspiracy theories aside and hold on to science, it’s the only way out of this pandemic. Get vaccinated!

Shifting gear

As someone passionate about photography I know how easy one gets caught up in the “gear race”, constantly looking at what the more established photographers use or what’s the latest release. Well, I’m no different, though I care less about what others shoot with and look more at what suits me. My Nikon D7100 has and is still serving me well, but it’s heavy with my 24-70 mm 2.8 Sigma (my all round event/wedding lens), so mirror less sounded like a more handy alternative. I’ve never been the brand loyal type and I wanted to get myself a Fujifilm, mainly cause it’s not as mainstream and it also stubbornly keeps to cropped sensors, but also because it’s almost like working with an analogue camera, more dials, less menus. As I found myself with some Swedish kronor in my account while we were in Sweden, I ended up getting myself the Canon Eos RP. The little sister to the R5 and R6. Perhaps not the wisest to change system so drastically, if you’re a Canon shooter you can use all your old lenses with the adapter. Now, here I am with only the 24-105mm it came with. But it’s a brand new day. I feel like I’m having fun, even just around the house. The colours are great and the camera is so light I keep checking my bag if the camera is actually in it! Next week I have a wedding shoot (yay, my first since before the pandemic!) and I think I will bring along the Canon, maybe play a little Nikon vs Canon by myself…! Here are a few shots from around the house:

Kabwe in deploring state… again

What is happening with kabwe town centre? It is turning in to a dump! Streets are nearly impassable where vending has taken over to the extent of leaving little more than enough space for a car to pass, on a two lane main city street. And garbage is being disposed of in the “back alleys” (service lanes), soon we won’t reach our shops, trucks going to off load are already failing to pass as there is not only garbage heaps but airtel and mtn boots everywhere, many just seemingly abandoned by these multimillion companies, not their problem it seems. In the middle of a pandemic, that can be slowed down by simply keeping enough distance to anyone around you, we are forced to jump around like fools over goods, garbage, and it is hardly possible to keep at arm length from others. Kabwe municipal council should be ashamed of themselves! Unfortunately this is not the first, and probably not tha last, time I write a similar post (click here for older post). A couple of years ago we had reached a low point in regards to street vending, dirt, lack of general order, and dignity to be frank. That time it took a cholera outbreak to get our leaders to do something. Now with a global pandemic spreading, that’s killing people daily, we see nothing from the political top. What will it take then for people to wake up? Being an election year I have no doubt we will see a clean up campaign in a few months time, but that will at best be temporary, we need long term solutions. Not political games played for personal gain.

Square one

It is exactly three weeks since my last run or any form of exercise. The days that followed I had a slight headache, nothing too bad I thought, though I dont often have persistent headaches. I kept thinking “I’ll be better tomorrow”, but my positive thoughts had no effect and by the following Monday I had a high fever, chills, sore joints and bones and other things I don’t need to mention, and I fainted as my blood pressure has a habit of dropping when I’m unwell. Seeing these symptoms I started a malaria course straight away. Usually you feel an improvement within the next 24-36 hours, however two days after I had completed the course I was still feeling miserable. By then I had passed at the hospital for a covid test, a rough experience to say the least. Two days later I got my results, negative (did the lab get my test mixed up?). I could by then see that it had turned and I was slowly feeling better, but before long it was my husband’s turn to go through almost the exact same chain of symptoms. It took me another week to fully get back, I slept hours and hours and still felt exhausted. (My husband is now in the exhausted stage).

So today’s workout was an achievement. I decided to start slow with a gentle 35 min yoga (Yoga with Adriene 30 day challenge on YouTube). I felt about as flexible as a fridge. Then to add a touch of cardio I skipped for just 30sec x 6, I felt like I was about to have an asthma attack! (And I don’t even have asthma). Lastly for a little strength I flipped my tyre 10 x 5 with 5 push ups in between each set. Incredible how much stamina you lose in a few weeks especially when the body has been busy fighting illness. Talk about being back on square one!

Our trip to Sweden

Yes, despite the current global conundrum we made it to Sweden for a much longed for winter trip. Christmas in Gotland with my parents and siblings plus the two new family members ❤ then new years in the north (Västerbotten) with my husband’s sisters and families. In Gotland we had lots of quality time and as the weather was rather wet we spent a lot of time in the house, the boys spent a lot of time in the garage/workshop making random things. As I already explained in the previous post it was a bit different on this trip. We hung out with the closest family, the people in our “bubble” and didn’t properly meet a lot of other friends. Gotland was very wet and the chances of snow were slim, however on Christmas day we had just enough for the kids to get excited, run outside mouths open and they even managed a small snowball fight and to roll up enough for a snowman that survived a couple of days. Christmas eve (which is the main day of celebration in Sweden) was spent in usual manner with lots of gifts, too much food and some afro beat (ok, that last one was me and my husbands contribution, it won’t hurt to switch up the traditions a little…!). Just in time for new years celebrations we made it up north to where two of my sister in laws live, the third sister had made a special trip just to see us. Our kids were now the little ones to be pampered, in Gotland they had two baby cousins to look after. Up north we had a proper winter experience, the kids got to try it all. Skiing round the house, ice skating in the park and going down the little hill side on a mat or whatever got you down. Unfortunately I got sick and had to be isolated until I could get a covid test done, thankfully it came out negative. But I missed an outing where the kids went ice fishing and just having fun in the snow, it was however -16 on this day… Despite or perhaps thanks to all the circumstances we felt that the holiday really became about having bonding time with our closest family. The kids got to know their new little cousins and hang around the big cousins and just have fun. I look forward to the next time we travel, hopefully things would have gone back to normal in some ways by then. Here are a few photos, if you want to see more go to my facebook album.

No hugs from Sweden

After 8 overcast days we were treated to a few hours of sunshine!

It is already a week and some days since we arrived in Gotland, Sweden. After a journey without hiccups (wasted so much energy being nervous!) we came to a rainy, chilly, and wet island. And dark. By 3pm. As expected, everything is affected by the covid pandemic, we knew there’d be restrictions, but these restrictions kept getting harder. We didn’t travel here to go to malls and day trips to indoor entertainment areas, we came to see family. But even that has changed. People didn’t pop over for coffee once they knew we’d arrived. They waited until we had shown no symptoms. We won’t have extended family over at Christmas. We don’t take the kids to the shops. And people don’t hug. Swedes hug, swedes are huggers rather than cheek kissers. And when you meat an old friend or relative you greet with a big warm hug. So when you meet and keep at a safe distance it feels like you didn’t actually meet, and I’ve come to realise that the hugs serve as an ice breaker as well. With no hug you just kind of stand and look at each other and the whole scenario just becomes stiff. We met a few family friends the other day when we went to look at a Lucia (who’s Lucia?) procession on horse back in town (a village really). Instead of hugging and asking each other about regular stuff in life we just kind of greeted and well, looked at each other. I never knew that such a brief embrace made all the difference. Sweden is much worse affected by covid compared to Zambia and it has really been an eye opener to see how things have had to change here. Once the vaccine is administered en masse I hope Swedes will go straight back to hugging! It’s just not the same without!

We have made the most of the drab weather and few entertainment options by taking the kids to the sea for little outings or just short walks in the area. Here are a few photos!