Covid-19: The first 100 days in S'pore

'I was shocked and cried non-stop': Unemployed 58-year-old mostly stayed at home before testing Covid-19 positive

in the fight against Covid-19, including sharing her experience and urging others to stay home.
in the fight against Covid-19, including sharing her experience and urging others to stay home. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Nearly a month after testing positive for the coronavirus, Madam Sylvia Sim is still unsure how she caught it.

The 58-year-old, who is unemployed, mostly stayed at home before her test results were found to be positive on April 6.

She says: "Never in my life would I have thought I would get it. This virus doesn't care if you are rich or poor, young or old. I could be out for a walk, and I wouldn't know if the person beside me has it."

In the weeks before her symptoms appeared, she did not travel overseas, and left her three-room Yishun flat only to shop for groceries nearby, renew her husband's long-term visit pass and borrow books from Ang Mo Kio Public Library.

On April 4, she developed a fever. The next day, she lost her sense of smell and taste, and went to see a general practitioner.

The doctor referred her to the nearest hospital, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH), where X-ray checks and swab tests were done, says Madam Sim. However, she was sent home as her lungs were clear.

But two days later, a nurse called in the morning to say the test results were positive.

"It was shocking and I cried non-stop - I was more worried for my family," recalls Madam Sim, who rushed to pack notebooks, clothes and toiletries before an ambulance arrived within an hour.

Her household - including her husband, 78, brother, 60, and their 37-year-old domestic helper - was quarantined until April 20. Fortunately, none of them contracted the virus.

The first week in hospital "was the worst", says Madam Sim, whose fever remained. She had head and body aches that were so bad, she could not eat and drink.

Thankfully, most of her symptoms cleared after about a week.

She was hospitalised in a four-bed cohort ward at KTPH for nearly two weeks. During that time, she acted as an interpreter for three patients who did not speak English.

"Each time they needed something, the nurses had to put on full personal protective equipment before coming in. So I thought I should help," adds Madam Sim, who used to work as a customer service executive.

A typical day in the ward would see her reading the Bible, journaling her daily activities and calling home a few times.

Being away from her family was not easy: "I missed them so much."

Madam Sim is grateful to the KTPH medical team, who left her a thank-you note for helping her fellow patients.

"Each time the healthcare staff and cleaners came in to help us, they were putting their lives at risk," she adds. "Even though they would perspire under their gear, they still continued their work."

On April 19, she was well enough to move into D'Resort NTUC, a recreational complex with chalets in Pasir Ris that has been converted into a community isolation facility. Her room had a balcony where she would often go to get some fresh air.


She was discharged on the morning of April 25, after almost three weeks in isolation. "I was so happy. I took a taxi straight home and gave my family a surprise. I cleaned myself and my stuff, and gave my husband the biggest hug."

Since then, she has been spending time with them and whipping up Peranakan dishes such as ayam pongteh (chicken stew) and itek tim (salted vegetable duck soup).

While she has regained her sense of taste, she is still unable to smell anything.

She is also thinking of ways to help in the fight against Covid-19, including sharing her experience and urging others to stay home.

"If I need to go out to buy things, I'll bring extra masks and give them to those not wearing one.

"I want to help in any way I can."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 03, 2020, with the headline ''I was shocked and cried non-stop''. Subscribe