My Experience with COVID and Going into Quarantine
Updated: Jun 13
Exactly one month ago, on the day of my birthday, I woke up to some interesting news.
My usual morning routine involves going through the notifications on my phone immediately after waking up. I would first go over my notifications from social media, and then go on to the less fun stuff like email, and messages from work. However, this time, there was this one notification that was staring right back at me, deep into my soul.
It was an auto generated email from Durdans Hospital where I did my PCR test the day before. Attached was a lab report indicating that I have been tested positive for COVID-19.
How did I get here?
Without going into too much detail, I was in regular contact with some people who had tested positive. By the time they got their results and told me the news, I was already starting to show mild symptoms. It started off with a cough and a mild fever.
I immediately booked an appointment for a Drive-thru PCR test at Durdans Hospital the next day. How was it you ask? It was not fun. Sticking something far up your nose to the point it feels like it touched your brain is not the greatest feeling. Rs 8,500 later, I cried like a little girl. Then I proceeded to sneeze the whole way through my drive home because of the thing that was inside my nose 10 minutes ago. Then I went home and cried like a big girl.
Yes. This means I had to disinfect the whole car after I got back.
By the end of the day, my symptoms started to become more apparent. I was coughing more often, and my temperature had increased to a point where it was very obvious that I’m starting to get a fever.
Because of that, the results of the lab report did not come as a shock to me at all. I was more worried about what would happen if the report came out to be negative!
In case you’re wondering, this is what a COVID positive report would look like!
About an hour after getting my report, I got a phone call from the hospital pretty much explaining what was said in the report. I was told that the Ministry of Health has been informed and was advised to get in touch with my local PHI. I was also told not to come to the hospital to collect my report. I wonder why.
Anyway, if you or a loved one ever tested positive; keep these in mind.
Take it easy, You will be OK. If you’re a healthy person, the chances of you going into a critical state is extremely low.
Even if you are asymptomatic, or showing mild symptoms, drink warm water regularly and do steam inhalations a few times a day.
Keep yourself healthy. Eat well and give your immune system a fighting chance.
I had a pretty chill attitude towards COVID, and didn’t feel any different now that I actually have it. At this point, I was more worried for my family and the people I was in contact with than I was for myself. I immediately began sharing the news with my family, close friends, and work.
People were more worried about me than I was about myself.
Well, some of them were.
The next few hours were absolute mayhem. I was getting calls from work regarding my quarantine arrangements (more on that later), people were constantly calling and checking up on me, not to mention the calls from the hospital and other health officials.
Let’s not forget. It was also my birthday! I was getting calls from relatives, some of whom already knew about my situation as word started going around. And you can’t forget those pesky companies calling you on your birthday to talk about the deals and discounts they’re having. All in all, it was very chaotic. It took me an hour and a half to take a shower (which I later found out was something I shouldn’t do) because my phone wouldn't stop ringing.
After getting your results, the first thing you must do is to contact your local PHI. You can find information about your local PHI here. I was given the option of quarantining at home, or going into quarantine at a government or private centre.
I opted to go into isolation at a private quarantine facility for the following reasons:
Because I can - YAY health insurance!
I didn’t want to risk infecting people at home.
I didn’t want to risk potentially infecting anyone from outside (Uber Eats drivers, etc.).
I would have quick access to medical care in an unlikely event my condition becomes critical (it didn’t).
However, the choice of going into quarantine is completely up to you. You can find more information about each of these options here.
If you chose to go into a private quarantine centre, take a look at this list of Intermediate Care Centres kept track by oDoc.
Getting admitted into a quarantine centre
Based on the options I had at the time, I decided to get admitted to the quarantine centre at Berjaya Hotel in Mount Lavinia, which was only a 15 minute drive away from where I live. It is managed by Hemas Hospitals.
You can contact these facilities over the phone and get admitted. However, the process of getting admitted was a lot simpler for me as almost everything was handled by my current employer (WSO2).
Once I notified my work that I have tested positive, the HR and Administration team at WSO2 went above and beyond to help me get admitted. No, seriously. I got my report at 6.15 AM, and I was admitted and settled into my own room by 2.30 PM on the same day!
An ambulance was arranged for me to be picked up from home and dropped off at the facility. This was the first time I have been in an ambulance as a patient. They were driving really fast and I was trying my best to keep myself and the suitcase from sliding around.
It was a day of a lot of firsts. This was my first ambulance ride as a patient, and the first time I have been admitted into a hospital. All of which happened exactly 26 years after I was born.
As a person who had left the house probably less than 20 times in the last year, this was a surreal experience. There were so many people going around wearing PPE. I suppose this would have become a regular sight to people working in the medical field.
After getting admitted, my suitcase and I were escorted into room 109, where I would spend the next 9 days in isolation.
My first day
When getting admitted, the only thing I was told was that I would be getting daily visits from the doctor to check up on my condition. Apart from that, I didn’t know how a lot of things should work now that I’m physically isolated from the rest of humanity.
When getting my information during the admission process, the manager of the quarantine centre noticed that it was my birthday. She felt bad about how I got to spend my day getting admitted into a hospital. Honestly, at least this birthday wasn’t boring.
My room was like any other normal hotel room. I had a TV, a bed (two actually), and all that good stuff. Like any other quarantine centre, the staff would bring me meals and some snacks for tea. A couple of hours after getting settled in, there was a knock on the door, and lo and behold, it was one of the quarantine staff handing me a birthday cake!
It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. These people have only known me for a few hours, and they went out of their way to actually get me a cake for my birthday! I couldn't manage to eat the whole thing, but I got through half of it during my stay thanks to the latest and greatest refrigeration technology!
I posted the story on Twitter and a lot of people seemed to appreciate the gesture just as much.
After some more time, one of the quarantine staff briefed me on what I need to do. I was given a menu detailing all of my meal options.
Food: the best part of quarantine
I would get a phone call in the morning everyday and the staff would ask me what I want as my meals for the next day. This was clearly the highlight of my quarantine! I actually get to spend the next 9 days having hotel food.
For each meal, the quarantine staff would knock on my door and leave the food on a table near my room door. Here are some of my favourite meals.
After finishing my meals, I would neatly keep the boxes in a corner of my room. In the morning, I would put all of the containers and leftovers in plastic bags that the quarantine staff provided, and leave it on the table outside my room.
My only complaint about the meals is that I wish they brought dinner a little bit later in the evening. Dinner was brought to my room at around 6.30 PM, which is very early for me. That would mean that I would have to either eat my food warm while I’m not hungry, or eat it cold when I was.
The doctor visits
Each day, the doctor and medical staff would visit me once a day. Usually in the morning at around 11.30 AM or evening at around 7.30 PM. He would ask me how I am feeling. Since my condition was very mild, the only problem I had was a bad cough. I was given medicine for my cough as well as some Panadol which I should take every 6 hours.
Apart from the medicine, the medical staff took my temperature (mine never went over 38 degrees) and blood oxygen level. At one point, my blood oxygen level went down to 94, which was fine, but a bit concerning as I was told.
The daily interactions with the doctor didn’t last more than 5 minutes. However, I also had on-call doctor and nursing assistance if I ever needed it.
How long do I have to keep doing this?
The duration of quarantine depends on the person and their condition. If you are showing mild symptoms and the medical staff deem you not to be high risk, you would have to stay in quarantine until 10 days after doing your PCR test.
I did mine on the 11th of May. Since I was not high risk, I was allowed to leave by the 21st of May. You can find more information on the discharge criteria here.
What did I do?
Being in quarantine means that there is not much to do around. But then again, I have been getting used to this for over a year. Not knowing how long I would have to stay, I brought both my work and personal laptops, my 4G router, and an HDMI cable being the stable genius that I am.
Given that my internet package has unlimited access to Netflix, I could hook up the hotel’s TV to my computer through HDMI and spend all day watching Youtube and Netflix on the TV!
Apart from that, although I was given the option of medical leave, I decided to work for the most part of my quarantine. I was going to be stuck here for I don’t know how long. I didn’t want to go crazy doing nothing the whole time! Since most of my coworkers were aware of my situation, I had a feeling that they avoided messaging me so that I could rest, which meant that I didn’t have as much work, which was nice.
Apart from my normal job, I was also a part-time lecturer and project supervisor. I spent some of my quarantine mornings evaluating Final Year Projects at IIT. So I had a lot of things going on to keep myself busy.
Other than that, some of my friends would often call me and we would spend hours talking over the phone, so I never felt lonely while being isolated.
10 days after my PCR test, I had a bit of a lengthy conversation with the doctor over the phone. I was asked about my symptoms initially and how I am feeling now. I was also asked a few questions about my medical history.
Once I was leaving, I was given a medical report and prescription for medicine to take in the next 4 days along with the bill. I had to keep my room key in a specially designated spot, which I’ll assume would get heavily sanitized later. After everything was settled, I thanked the staff, and off I went!
Life after quarantine
Sri Lanka had implemented a country-wide lockdown, or “travel restrictions” the day after I came back home. I needed to be in home quarantine for 4 more days, which probably wasn’t different from everyone else in the country at that point.
One of the toughest parts of life after quarantine is dealing with the stigma and fear associated with COVID. I used to get looks from my neighbours for standing in my own garden or rooftop even though I'm no longer contagious. In a way, it felt like a superpower because I could make people stay away from me.
Recovering from COVID does not mean that I now have complete immunity. Although the rates of reinfection are very low, it was still possible to get infected with a different strain of the virus. I am not a medical professional, this is what I was told. This meant that I had to follow the same safety precautions as everyone else. If I was eligible for the vaccine (which I am not), I should wait 2 weeks after recovery to get vaccinated since my conditions were mild.
The most annoying part of life after quarantine was having to disinfect everything I was in contact with. This meant that I spent most of my next 4 days of quarantine cleaning every possible corner of everything I touched.
As cheesy as this sounds, I would have never been able to get through this if it wasn’t for the people who were there for me. Although I had less than 5 minutes of physical human interaction each day, I had my friends and family, as well as my colleagues at work who were constantly calling and keeping me company.
I would especially like to thank the HR and Administration team at WSO2 who went out of their way to help me stay safe as much as possible. I cannot imagine any company going this far to help their employees!
And finally, I want to thank the medical and service staff at Berjaya Hotel, and Hemas Hospitals. These people are literally risking their lives and going above and beyond to take care of the patients. If you ever go into a quarantine centre, remember to be extra nice to these people.
If anyone reading this tests positive and has questions about what to do, do not hesitate to get in touch with me, and I will help you in whatever way I can.