Coronavirus

Here’s What It’s Like to Have and Recover From Coronavirus

Park Hyun, a recovered coronavirus patient, said he was "stupidly overconfident" for thinking that he wouldn’t catch the coronavirus.
12 March 2020, 9:44pm
south korea coronavirus experience recovery
Photos courtesy of Park Hyun

The novel coronavirus continues to spread globally with 127,863 cases and 4,718 deaths as of this writing. The World Health Organization has also officially declared it a pandemic.

One of the countries most affected is South Korea, which has one of the highest number of infections outside China. Many are still worried about the outbreak, even though the South Korean government has managed to maintain the fatality rate at a minimum. As of March 9, data showed that most confirmed cases around the world recover.

Wanting to shed light on the issue, recovered coronavirus patient, 48-year-old Park Hyun, has opened up about what it was like to have the disease. He shared his experience in a series of Facebook posts, urging others to be more vigilant.

“This might be my last post for a while as I still need to focus on recovering my body damaged by coronavirus and side effects of the medicine,” he began his most recent post.

Park warned that he still contracted the coronavirus even though he lived a healthy lifestyle. He exercised in a gym five times a week, washed his hands frequently, and even “overused” hand sanitizer. He also lived in a coronavirus-free area. Because of this, he was lax in taking precautions and called himself "stupidly overconfident."

The Symptoms

It started with a mild sore throat and dry cough on Friday, February 21. “[This] was usual when I was tired under the dry winter weather,” Park said.

He thought simply drinking water would cure it. It turned out that on the same day, the first coronavirus patient was confirmed in his city of Busan. He soon felt pressure on his chest, which persisted for days. Three days after the initial symptoms, he could no longer breathe properly.

The coronavirus emergency hotline he first called was busy, so he turned to a local government health centre. They said there was a low probability of him having the virus, so he was only tested after his third call.

Getting Tested

Many others were getting tested when he visited the hospital. “There was already a very long queue even [though] it was early morning,” Park said.

He was told to wait for four hours, but after 30 minutes in line, he had shortness of breath again and passed out, hitting his head on the ground. He was treated for the injury and tested for the coronavirus.

While waiting for the results, Park quarantined himself in his room, informing everyone he was in close contact with from the previous week about his possible infection.

The Diagnosis

On Tuesday, February 25, Park received a message saying that the test came out negative. But, just as he thought he was in the clear, the health centre called him and said that they sent the wrong message. He was, in fact, infected by the coronavirus. The health centre said he needed to wait 24 hours before he can be transferred to a hospital due to a lack of available rooms in the quarantine area.

Later that day, a representative from city hall asked him about places he recently visited to identify individuals he was in contact with. Realising that Park was in bad condition, the representative called the health centre to prioritise his transfer to a hospital.

Close to midnight of that day, Park was admitted to a negative pressure room in the quarantined section of a hospital’s intensive care unit. There, he underwent further testing and was given medicine and oxygen supply.

What It Felt Like

“I felt a bit better to breathe, but [it] felt like having [a] heavy metal plate on my chest,” Park recalled. “My chest and stomach [were] burning after taking the medicine.”

His condition fluctuated but his vitals started to improve. The side effects of the medicine were very bad for the first two days, but eventually, his body adapted to them. Park said he had no choice but to take what was given to him despite the effects, since there was still no cure specifically for the coronavirus. He also felt mentally unstable while isolated in the ICU.

The Recovery

On his eighth day in the hospital, Park tested negative for the coronavirus. This was also the time doctors stopped giving him medicine. He tested negative again the following day, an indication that he had fully recovered.

He was released from the hospital on Day 9 but doctors advised him to stay quarantined at home for an additional 14 days, because some discharged patients have ended up testing positive again.

Park is doing much better now but told VICE that he is still focusing on his recovery. While some accused him and his family of putting their community in danger, Park learned that times of crisis can also bring out the best in people.

“When [my mother’s neighbours] heard that I was kept in quarantine in a room after being released from the hospital, they put some food on the door handle. I really appreciated it,” he said.

He advised people not to overwork their bodies and to avoid crowded places. For those who have already contracted the virus, he said:

“Stay as positive as possible. Eat, drink, and sleep well. Don't read confusing articles from the press for a while. Trust your medical team and recover. Please stop thinking about your friends and family that were around you. They are strong.”

“You can recover as I did. Together we are stronger,” he added.

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This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.