Dubai: For Suman Manning, the last week has been quite surreal. For one, she and her husband tested positive for the Coronavirus. But while her husband showed clear symptoms and had to be hospitalised, Suman had none. The 45-year-old is currently self-isolating herself in her home with her triplets and her sister who is taking care of the family now. The rest of the family members have all tested negative.
Talking to Gulf News over the phone, Suman explains how many of us could be walking with the virus and yet be totally asymptomatic. ‘Social distancing and staying home is the only way to break the cycle,” she confesses.
It was the weekend of March 13. The Mannings had a socially active weekend planned with a food outing. They had reserved seats for both lunch and dinner at restaurants. The weather was great that week, Spring Break was on and the family had decided to make the most of it. They sat in a group of five or six, washed their hands, and sanitised their table and the kids had a great time.
On Sunday, March 15, the family joined three other families and went to Hatta Dam. They kayaked, walked and enjoyed the outdoors.
The next morning, her husband, Shane woke up with sore throat, cough, body ache and fever. He spent the day sick in his room, while Suman had to rush her mom to the airport to take the next flight to India before the borders closed as part of the COVID-19 precautionary measures.
On March 17th, Shane went to the local clinic and did a flu test. The doctors gave him a drip to bring the fever down and sent him back. The next day he felt better, and rested a bit more. On Thursday, March 19, the family decided to go for camping, thinking that some fresh air would be good for them. They drove from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, almost 4 hours, and camped overnight at a remote island. There was forecast of rain the next day, so they decided to get back. On the way home, a friend called Suman and informed that her husband had tested positive.
“The next day, March 21, things took a turn for the worse,” says Suman. Shane woke up very sick. He had high fever, severe body ache and a horrendous cough. “It was as if he was hit by a truck. We rushed him back to the clinic and went over the tests that were already done. The doctors earlier had not checked my husband for COVID-19 as he didn’t have a travel history, neither did we meet anyone who had travelled or was sick. But this time around I did tell them about my friend’s husband testing positive and the fact that we had met them the last weekend. They now took us to a separate room and tested us for Coronavirus.”
Both Suman and Shane were tested and when the test results came back on March 22, they were both positive.
“The DHA called us to inform us of the results. It was a hugely confusing time for us and the next steps were not clear. There were so many thoughts that crossed my mind. Where would they isolate us? Would we see our children again? Would we be evicted from our home? It was clearly an uncertain and intimidating time for us.”
But very soon officials from the Preventive Medicine and Public Health Protection under the Dubai Health Authority got in touch with the family and advised them to immediately isolate themselves in separate rooms. “They were very helpful and were constantly in touch. It was very reassuring to have a dedicated person call on us to check on my husband’s fever and other symptoms. Even though I did not show any symptoms, I isolated myself in a separate room and the kids and my sister were told to stay away from us. It was a particularly trying time as the kids had just started the first week of remote learning and needed some kind of support. We also had to break the news to our respective families and check on my mother who had gone back.”
They take him away
On March 23, my husband’s health deteriorated and he had to be hospitalised. “The ambulance guys didn’t really rush into the house with their hazmat suits. We were careful not to scare the kids. So they patiently waited at the door, as my husband walked in and then they drove him to the hospital.”
It’s been a very hard week for Suman as she has not seen her husband in person since then. “But we talk on the phone and Zoom each other and he gets to see the kids as well. But all my focus has been on him every single minute. I know people have called up to check on me and they tell me ‘get well soon’, but I don’t know how I can do that as I clearly don’t have any symptoms.”
Suman agrees that finally it is our immune system that’s our best defence. “Your immunity is your best friend right now and stress, and lack of sleep can compromise it so keep that in mind. Eat well, rest and keep in good mental health,” she advises.
You can be a carrier
She has an important message for the community: “People may be able to pass on the coronavirus without showing any symptoms, so it’s all the more important to stay home now and protect the community. I am happy that the UAE government has this lockdown in place and has closed the malls and beaches and parks. Had it not been so, many people would have taken advantage of the great weather like us and wandered off to distant places. I have complete faith in the system and now in hindsight I wish the stay home order could have come earlier.”
She says that she uses her time in self isolation to rest and connect with friends and family through Zoom. “The kids can speak to me from the door (anyone with symptoms should keep at least 2m away from other people in the house), and even though it’s claustrophobic, I am sticking to the rules as that’s the only way to break the chain. The kids and my sister have all been tested and the results thankfully have come back negative.”
Suman advises families that it might be lonely even to be in a houseful of people, but “keep yourself busy with resources available online. It doesn’t matter if your kids have more screen time now, and it doesn’t matter if you have a messier than normal home, just think of yourself as a possible carrier and stay home to protect everyone else.”