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For the first time in my life, I can say that I know what solitary confinement is like.
No, this is not a joke.
This isn’t clickbait.
And although my current situation is unexpected and less than ideal, it could be much worse. Keep reading to get all the deets about how I was taken from my quarantine hotel, rushed to the hospital and was not allowed to return to get the rest of my belongings.
Tuesday, 1.12.21 – Day 5: Not the average day
I started off the day keeping track of my previous quarantine chronicles diary and routine.
8:24 – Breakfast delivered
9:44 – First visit from the temperature fairy
11.10 – Lunch delivered
Noon – I haven’t been to sleep since my nap yesterday. I’ve been reading, studying and listening to audiobooks. Netflix worked for about 40 minutes and then was gone again. I’m not saying that I give up, but I am saying that it’s less of a hassle to just stick with my downloaded media on my devices.
I was a on roll. Simply logging the blissful events of that quarantined day.
Since I was (and still am) experiencing jet-lag, I decided to take a little nap.
4:24p – I received a phone call from the hotel doctor (by way of the bilingual operator) saying that I needed to go to the hospital because my blood test came back positive but the rest of my test were negative. I was assured that the hospital only needed to run a few tests and that I’d only be gone for 1-2 days, then I’d return to the hotel. I was told that I needed to pack up what I could and that the ambulance would be shortly arriving.
Still groggy from a much-needed nap, I asked the operator to explain to me once again what was going on. After her careful repetition, I politely informed her that there was no way I could pack up anything in that amount of time – I mean, I literally just unpacked 35% of my luggage the day before for the sake of settling in for the next 10 days (which I sooooo regret doing now! ?).
We agreed on a time of 6p but the ambulance arrived around 5:40p and I had to leave at that time. Since I didn’t know what kind of facility I’d be going to, I took another cherished hot shower, grabbed what I could fit in my tech bag (another big regret because I should’ve packed all of my tech gear – not just my gear for the project I’m working on), and was out the door.
But it was no biggie since I’d be back in 1-2 days, right? ??♀️
5:42p – I enter the lobby from the elevator and can see the ambulance lights flashing all the way from driveway. I mean, this is a whole production going on! Everyone outside has on their hazmat suits and one of the responders kindly ushers me to the back of the wagon where I’d ride for 30 minutes or so, bouncing around the back of the vehicle like Ace Ventura Pet Detective in When Nature Calls.
The ambulance ride
The responder (lady) was courteous and in broken English, she began to ask questions required to complete the hospital intake form. When we finally pulled up to the hospital, I remembered that in China, clinics are often referred to as hospitals. I was initially concerned to go to a hospital where a lot of people would be so imagine my surprise when we pulled up to a clinic with no one in the waiting room except the nurse manning the front desk.
The ambulance responders dropped me off and left me there with the nurse who didn’t speak English so we communicated through translation apps.
She began asking for cash or WeChat Pay to pay for the tests.
“Wait…I have to pay for these? I didn’t come here voluntarily. I was told to come here.”
And I could feel an overwhelming sense of frustration building pressure within. This wasn’t her fault so I shouldn’t take it out on her.
Trying my best to stay calm, I called my HR representative and let her work her communicative magic.
After about 30 minutes of having tests done, talking to a woman from inside a computer monitor and getting a CT scan (had no idea a CT scan had anything to do with COVID ?), I was taken to another building where I was to wait for 1-2 days for the results to come back and then be released to go back to the hotel.
The holding room
The room was a cross-breed between a hostel and a medical ward in a third world country like most that are portrayed in movies.
There was no toilet tissue, soap or water. Thankfully, I had soap sheets with me and I was able to buy tissue and bottled water from the canteen.
I asked the nurse who came to take my temperature what would happen if my test came back positive. Her response was, “we’ll take care of you.”
I wanted to clarify what that meant and asked if that entailed me receiving the vaccine. She said that they didn’t have a vaccine yet but they would treat me with medicine.
Then she closed the door tightly.
And locked it.
I mean, literally locked the door.
Wednesday 1.13.21 – Day 6: Just waiting for my results
Sleep wasn’t an issue for me last night because I was dead tired. Considering that I hadn’t slept except for only an hour or so the day before, and none at all the night before that, my body didn’t care where it was. She was getting those Zzzz’s!
I woke up to a special gift from my HR rep – this ginormous box of mixed nuts and fruit for breakfast. 12 Not to mention, another one of my colleagues has been incredibly hospitable, and helping me manage all my work tasks that I’m unable to complete during this period.
A new nurse came in the morning to do the NAT test in both nostrils and another oral swab. The oral swab was so thorough that I gagged. She laughed as she talked me through the process telling me to calm down in Chinese. She got what she needed and left.
An hour or two later, she came back after to do the same tests again!
I said, “No, thank you; I already took these this morning,” but she wasn’t trying to hear it! ?
She collected the samples again. As she was putting the samples in the vials, she told me that if the test came back negative this time, my lockdown would be lifted and I could return to the quarantine hotel after the results came back.
Since the results wouldn’t come in until the evening, I’d be stuck in the room but I had a gorgeous view of the city so I had no reason to complain.
My HR rep had dinner delivered to me and I happily gnawed on these little KFC chicken wings (my favorite in China!) and watched the beautiful sunset.
To say that today was pleasant may sound crazy but I don’t know…it just was. It could’ve been worse but it wasn’t.
Besides, I get to go back to the quarantine hotel tomorrow so I’m in high spirits!
Thursday 1.14.12 – Day 6: The day it all came tumbling down
6:30a – I’m super excited because today is the day that I get my test results and can go back to the quarantine hotel. I’ve been up since about 5:50ish, getting myself together because I was told to pack up my things (not much that I brought with me) and be prepared to go upstairs to get a treatment before going back to the hotel.
The nurse on-duty came to get me and as I grabbed my things, she told me to grab my blanket and pillow.
Unsure of why I needed them, I complied and followed her to the elevator.
As we waited for the elevator, I smiled at the beautiful, bright shining sunlight beaming past the window pane and onto my face. It felt so good to be outside of that locked room.
We rode the elevator to the 12th floor.
Once we got off, we had to find the nurse who’d administer my treatment and then I’d be on my way “home.”
Or so I thought.
The moment it all came crashing down
The nurse brought me into a new room. It was a bit smaller than the other but 10 times cleaner and more sanitary.
At this point, I’m thinking that the treatment is probably going to take a few hours, which explains why the nurse told me to grab my blanket and pillow.
I sat down on a stool as the new nurse pulled out several documents from her medicinal tray for me to sign.
As I started reading the first document, I noticed that it was an admission form stating my consent for treatment which would take 10 to 14 days.
It was starting to get hard for me to swallow because that proverbial lump in the throat started forming.
I read it again.
Silent tears began to fall uncontrollably down my face, soaking into my mask.
I couldn’t sign it.
I won’t sign this.
What is this?
What is happening?
I need to call my HR rep NOW.
I made the call but couldn’t get a hold of her (it was still early) so I called my colleague who’d been communicating with me since my arrival.
Concerned because she could hear the anxiety in my voice through the few words I was able to sputter, she told me to pass the phone to the nurse so she could find out what was happening.
It was happening.
I think I scared the nurse in the beginning because my head was down as I looked over the document and she heard my sniffles while seeing tears fall from my face. She bent down to see if I was, indeed, crying.
She began consoling me in Chinese while giving me the most awkward, yet comforting patting rhythm on my shoulder.
There was nothing I could do.
“What about my things back at the hotel? I need to get them because I can’t leave them there since I’ll be here longer than the rest of my stay there. May I at least leave to get my belongings and luggage?”
Answer: Nope. Not allowed to leave this room until after 10-14 days, depending on my recovery time.
Friend, I promise I tried to keep it together with every bit of strength that I had within me, but it failed.
As anxiety and panic set in about my expensive tech gear that’s laid out on the desk, my belongings that were neatly stored in hotel drawers and closets, the extended dates that I would have to stay in Xiamen – because now instead of leaving on Friday, January 22nd and making it back to my apartment by Friday, January 29th, I’m told that I’ll now have to stay here for 10-14 days, then go to a hotel to quarantine for 14 days in Xiamen, then go to Dalian and quarantine for another 7-14 days depending on the rules at that time – what would happen to me if my residency permit expired while I’m in Xiamen since it seems like I won’t be back in Dalian in January, and more, I just couldn’t stop crying.
The events that happened throughout the rest of today involved a special call from an agent with the CDC, accepting new friend requests from several nurses and doctors on WeChat, getting more tests done, uncontrollable tears off and on, and being added to 5 group chats – 3 for hospital patients in the isolation ward, one that’s a support group for my entire process of finally making it back to my apartment in Dalian, and another that I have yet to figure out its purpose.
I had a nice chat with my program director as he reached out to me after hearing the news. We were able to briefly catch up. The HR director also reached out to me and told me to see this as a good thing because my body is strong and will recover quickly.
I was given pajamas to wear but, listen, the way these hips are set up – I obliterated these little jammies. The top fits perfectly fine but the bottoms?
So I had to get a little creative to create a skirt with another top and I used the pants to make a head-wrap.
I was given medicine to take and taught how to “smoke” with the nebulizer. That was pretty interesting.
I was shown the itty bitty transfer window where things would be exchanged like medicine, deliveries, documents, urine and poop sample collections…you know, all the important stuff.
This day has just been too emotionally draining for me. I’m calling it a night.
Friday 1.15.21 – Day 8: Am I ready to tell my family?
Still in disbelief.
And feeling a ton of regret.
Why didn’t I just leave the suitcases packed up like I had originally planned??? I would’ve been able to bring everything with me without having to stress over someone from the hotel damaging my expensive gear or goods that I brought from the States that I can’t get in China. When did I get infected? Was it when I was on the plane? Was it some time after that when other people were helping me with my luggage without gloves? Was it from someone delivering the takeout? Or did I get it at the airport in LA? What will the treatments be like? Why can’t I leave now? WHY DID I UNPACK THE SUITCASES?!?!
This morning I had to submit urine and ? samples.
The doctor says that she wants me to continue my normal routine. HOW, DOC? I’M LOCKED UP WITH NO WINDOWS, MIRRORS AND NO HEAT…
Sorry for the outburst. I’m calm again.
Now, I’ve become the temperature fairy ? ?♀️. I have to check my blood pressure, heart rate and temperature three times a day and post it in the patients’ wechat group. I didn’t know what I was doing the first time today, but after seeing the other patients’ posts in the chat, I think I have the hang of it.
The nurse recommended that I drink warm water with my medicine because it helps it to digest better so I’m putting this kettle to good use.
I started feeling myself get overwhelmed again with all of the questions ruminating in my mind so I read several biblical scriptures on peace of mind to help me regain strength for the journey ahead.
The two scriptures that called my attention the most were Isaiah 26:3 and Job 22:21-22.
These two scriptures comforted my discouraged heart in such a way that instead of simply reading them, I started meditating on them. And it helped to calm me down and stop the impending anxiety attack that on the rise.
As I felt better, I finally told my family what was going on in our group chat. I have the best family ever. They’re supportive of me and have never tried to discourage me from embarking upon any adventure – no matter how off-the-wall it may seem.
We had a great chat before I finally called it a night.
Saturday 1.16.21 – Day 9: Things are looking up ?
Today was a pretty good day!
It started with an overview of my financial budget for 2021. After reviewing my avenues of income and expected monthly expenses, I was able to make a financial plan for the year.
Next, I created an in-depth document for the quarantine hotel with photos showing where my items are located to ensure that none of my belongings are left behind as the pack them up.
Believe it or not, this document took almost 5 hours to create! I’m almost done with the Chinese translation but I’ll finish that tomorrow because I absolutely must finish writing this article that I’ve been piecing together since Tuesday.
I took a nap.
Friend, I still haven’t gotten enough rest yet. I don’t know what it is but my body has been in a constant state of exhaustion. My dad and one of my mentees said that I’m supposed to use this time to rest now. My question is, “what does rest even look like? Is it sleeping all day? Reading a book? Taking a walk (indoors around the bed)? Binge-watching Netflix or downloaded videos?”
Speaking of mentees, I just finished my evening with a much-needed call from one of my “弟弟” (Chinese for little brother). I can’t believe we spent an hour and a half on the phone having one of the best talks we’ve had in a while.
Wanna know something even more interesting?
The last time I physically saw him was a year ago as I was leaving China to travel to Ghana! He helped me pack up and take down my Christmas decorations so the 阿姨 (Auntie = cleaning lady) could help me clean my place before I left.
I don’t like coming back to a disorganized environment so I made sure everything was spotless and in order for my return.
Chiiiiiiiiile, I had NO idea that the next time I’d be back in my apartment would be in 2021, not in February 2020! ?
Boy, am I glad that we cleaned up really well that day!
Even with all of the reasons I could find to legitimize being frustrated and discouraged about being locked up in a room with no windows, mirrors, television or heat, I still choose to be positive.
Like I said before, this situation really could be much worse but it’s not.
And that’s more than enough to be grateful for – even while in solitary confinement. ?
All positive thoughts and prayers are welcomed my way as I learn how to make the most out of this season of isolation. ♥️ ?