2013 Tutu Fellow Catherine Constantinides offers her experience with COVID-19 as a cautionary tale. She was young, healthy, and with no comorbidities, and when she caught the virus in July it almost killed her. She describes her difficult recovery as a nightmare. She shares her experience in the hope that people will take the necessary precautions against spreading or catching the disease.

The pandemic has affected everyone, but it is often the personal stories of those known to us that inform and shape our behavior regarding COVID-19. As the months of social distancing, handwashing and mask-wearing continue, pandemic weariness is setting in. 

Catherine says, “For weeks I was too scared to fall asleep as I just couldn’t breathe. The idea of falling into a deep sleep and never waking up again terrified me. There is nothing more frightening than gasping for air and feeling as though your lungs are trapped in concrete."

"The most scary part is that five months after contracting COVID in July, there are days that my lungs still feel encased in concrete and I just can’t take in oxygen.”

She was isolated for 24 days as she attempted to recover. Aside from not being able to breath, her worst symptoms were physical body pain and exhaustion that for weeks left her unable to get out of bed. Other symptoms included her hair falling out in chunks, dizziness and blackouts that came along weeks after she was no longer positive.

Months later, she must still take heart medication for complications as a result of COVID-19. She counts being able to start walking again.

Catherine says that “what makes me so angry are those people who are so nonchalant about this virus as if it is no big deal. Who think they can keep meeting with people, going to restaurants, gathering indoors and thinking it will never affect them. Even if they are lucky enough that it doesn’t, it is so easy for them to carry Covid back to their families, their parents and grandparents who could actually die."

You can read a full acount of her struggle to recover from COVID-19 at the Independent Online.

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About AFLI



The African Leadership Institute (AFLI) focuses on building the capacity and capability of visionary and strategic leadership across the continent. Developing exceptional leaders representing all spheres of society, the Institute’s flagship programme is the prestigious Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellowship. Offering a multifaceted learning experience and run in partnership with Oxford University, it is awarded annually to 20-25 carefully chosen candidates, nominated from across Africa. Alumni of the African Leadership Institute form a dynamic network of Fellows passionately committed to the continent’s transformation, bridging the divide between nations and ensuring that Africa is set centre-stage in global affairs.