By Nickie Karitas
On June 10, 2021, when Jim Patrick Wasswa arrived at the northern Uganda district of Yumbe to start his university internship, he had many ushers. In addition to the officials with the Uganda National Roads Authority who brought him to the work experience, Covid-19 was on hand to welcome him.
Being diagnosed with the virus came as a shock to Wasswa. But he had a shock absorber – his mother, who is medical worker with a hand up on health needs. Wasswa quickly made arrangements to return to his home in Kampala, more than 300 miles away.
When he gathered the courage to inform his parents about the new development in his life, he was in for another shock. They, too, had been diagnosed with Covid-19.
“All my life, I had been the strong one holding other people in tough times, but with Covid-19, I felt defeated,” recounts Wasswa, a fourth-year student studying for his Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Uganda Christian University (UCU).
With an internship curtailed, Wasswa found his once joyous home was charged with tension and an awkward silence. For once, he understood the meaning of seeing no light at the end of the tunnel as he saw his life, his family’s and all his dreams crushing.
Around that time, Uganda had just declared a second lockdown due to an increase in the number of infections and deaths. At the time the government declared the lockdown, the Covid-19 positivity rate in the country was 17%.
As all this was happening, Wasswa sought solace in the Bible, specifically Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
That is where he drew the energy to carry on. He regained strength not because he was feeling any better but because his emotional attention was diverted to his parents’ situation.
At the time, some of his friends were losing their parents to the pandemic, a rude reminder that erased Wasswa’s audacity to assume that everything would be alright. For his case, some of the stop-gap measures he came up with were to try as much as possible not to sleep at night, for fear of not waking up. Sometimes, he succeeded; other times, he crumbled upon the sleep debt that he had.
The memories of the first night his father was rushed to hospital are still fresh in Wasswa’s mind.
“That was the darkest night of my life,” Wasswa said. “As the car sped off, my thoughts ran to my four-year-old brother. I could see the life of my father, the pillar of the family, going down. I could hardly believe what was going on.”
Social media was another source of misery for Wasswa. Each time he logged in, he met news of people who had succumbed to the pandemic. He shut himself off social media as he worked to recover.
When his twin sister, Angella Nakato, succeeded in convincing him to join her for a daily jogging routine, it marked the turning point in his life. Wasswa says he started feeling much better and more energetic.
Allan Otim, a friend of Wasswa, helped with the psychological aspects of Covid-19. He offered the emotional support that he felt Wasswa needed by constantly keeping in touch with him.
Wasswa’s other friend and course mate, Cedric Mutayisa, says although many people were succumbing to coronavirus, more were recovering and he believed it was just a matter of time before Wasswa recovered.
“I often called him to cheer him up,” Cedric said. “Sometimes, all he needed was courage.”
Wasswa, who was never hospitalized, credits the recovery of himself and his parents to God for taking over the battles he surrendered to Him. Wasswa recovered towards the end of June and for his parents, their recovery was a month later. His father’s bout with the virus was most dire, requiring his hospitalization until recovery, while his mother spent two weeks in hospital.