COVID-19 survivor, US Army Master Sergeant Paul Ssendi speaks out

Parent Category: Carousel
in big

User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
 
Pin It
COVID-19 survivor MSG Paul Mujabi Ssendi

In Summary:  He turfed it out alone in his bedroom. He kept away from his wife and three children. It was a dreadful 14-day period of isolation. No medication. No doctor. Nothing! The physical and emotional pain was incomparable. But his faith kept him going. News of thousands of infections and deaths troubled him but never scared him. He believed in total healing; it was only a matter of time. Left to his own devices, he tripled down on all recommended home remedies to mitigate the pain, reduce the temperature, and help clear his congested lungs. Only God’s grace, he believed, was sufficient to heal him. And, indeed, the healing became manifest. After 14 days of self-isolation, writes Samuel Muwanguzi, the 55-year-old Ugandan born  US-Army Master Sergeant Paul Mujabi Ssendi tested negative of the dreaded  COVID-19 disease. Now a proven survivor of the coronavirus pandemic, Master Sergeant Paul Ssendi testifies with an extra dose of humility only akin to a re-born believer. Yes, reborn–a living person–Not a mere statistic!

JBMDL, New Jersey—The statistics are staggering. The COVID-19 has killed over 100,000 people in the United States, infected over  1.6 million and more than 300,000 recoveries have been recorded, according to the latest statistics released by John Hopkins University, which tracks the progress of the pandemic across the globe. In New Jersey, across the bridge over the Hudson River connecting the State to New York, the epicenter of the  Coronavirus pandemic, the death toll is over 11,000, infections close to 200,000, and more than 20,000 have recovered. Yet, there is currently no vaccine for Covid-19 and no confirmed treatment for the disease although several vaccines and drugs are being tested.

These are cold and glum statistics. They tell no human story. Yet, the two sets of statistics are as relevant to the state of New Jersey as they are to the United States government in informing their understanding, controlling, monitoring, and evaluation of the coronavirus pandemic. They provide some of the raw data used in the simulation of the now ‘popular if not infamous’ scientific (mathematical) modelings, reference points for governments to target, and devote resources to any geographical area in the management of the pandemic.

Coronavirus up close. Researchers have been tracking changes to the 'spike' of the virus.  (Getty Images)

Captured in those two sets of dreary statistics, the name of the 55-year-old Ugandan born  US-Army Master Sergeant (MSG) Paul Mujabi Ssendi is etched. But the trouble with figures and corresponding percentages is that they totally lack the essential depth to adequately put into perspective the severity of the novel COVID-19 disease on humanity.

As New York columnist Edwin Cooney recently perceptibly wrote, those statistics  “can't sufficiently grasp the sense of gasping, struggling strangulation, and constant pain caused by the COVID-19 disease to its hapless victims. The statistics can therefore easily indicate that since only 0.02  percent of the population in the United States have been fatally stricken if they would simply open everything up, the entire country would  soon be protected through national “herd immunity!”  How inadequate!

To that end, the now popular words; “data,  statistics, science, models, etc.’ appear not only to have captured the imagination of the entire scientific community but seem to have also become more relevant to the government than the people whose names (numbers), entered in systems to produce models are quickly forgotten. But, by the grace of God, Paul Mujabi Ssendi is no statistic.  While his name remains a permanent fixture into the annals of the USA and New Jersey coronavirus pandemic memorabilia, he has become a human face and surviving poster child of the pandemic; a proud husband and a happy father of three. Indeed, the now much-hyped data,  statistics, science, and models cannot capture the human story of Paul Mujabi Ssendi, the husband, father, son, brother, cousin, Ugandan-American, US serviceman, Christian, friend, neighbor, et al.

A healthcare worker wheeles the body of a deceased person to a make-shift morgue near a hospital in New York. But Health officials say the actual death toll is likely far higher than the recorded count. (BBC Photo).

Yet, as it might have been too a million others across the world, the disease that nearly claimed Paul Ssendi’s life came without warning. He even has no clue where he got it from.  “I have no idea where, when,  or how I contracted COVID-19,” the US army officer confesses. What he only recalls is the general period when it all started: “When an emergency order was issued in New Jersey and on our installation, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in March, most of us started working from home,” he says. At the same time, MSG Ssendi continues, “schools also closed, and our three children started doing their schoolwork from home.” The man in uniform added, “During that period, we only occasionally went out to the stores to buy groceries and supplies.” MSG Ssendi recalls that the only time he was required to go to the unit was to prepare for the impending mobilization to assist with the fight against COVID-19.

The Ssendi family with a friend

But on one fateful Thursday, MSG Paul Ssendi recalls, “I went to send a unit report and later swung by Costco to buy more home supplies.” “That night I noticed that I was feeling really physically tired,” he narrates.  “I went to sleep, but I woke up in the middle of the night feeling unsettled, feverish, and generalized body ache. I believe that I was woken up because I was laboring to breathe and I could not go back to sleep,” he narrates with a loathing memory. “ MSG Ssendi recalled that the following morning he decided to address the situation before it got worse. “I was scared by the fact that I could not go back to sleep all night. I called our treatment facility to see if I can get tested for COVID 19, but I was declined because my symptoms were not deemed serious enough to merit attention and I was advised to stay home and self-monitor,” he recalls with flashes of regret.

However, he said that the medics advised him to call if his situation got worse. He said that the next day he called the nurse's advice line because the treatment facility and testing site on base was not open for the weekend. “This time they relented and gave me a referral to go to Urgent Care,” he recounted with discernible relief in his voice. However, because there was a glitch in the pre-registration online system, He never receives a call to go to the clinic as his registration had not been effectively transmitted.

COVID-19 survivor MSG Paul Mujabi Ssendi

Undeterred, the next day, he called and insisted that he needed to go and get tested and was allowed to go in on Sunday, got his sample taken, and waited to receive his results on a Tuesday.

“When my results came,  they indicated that I was positive for COVID-19 and I was directed to go into immediate isolation at home and have the rest of my family self-quarantined in the same house,” he recalls. Cognizant of the morbidity and mortality track record of the disease, the Ssendi family knew that they had to take action right away, he said.

“Fortunately, my wife, a microbiologist by training and a healthcare worker took charge of the situation and an orderly isolation process prevailed,” MSG Ssendi said with a tinge of acknowledgment to his wife’s prompt and decisive action. He disclosed that even before his results were released, he had been isolated in his bedroom and separated from his family which was quarantined in the rest of the house. “I immediately started steam therapy and drinking warm drinks throughout the day including concoctions of garlic, ginger, lemon,  and honey. Severally, I gargled a mixture of warm water with sea salt to clear my sore throat,” he narrated. Clearly, left to his own devices, he tripled down on all recommended home remedies to mitigate the pain, reduce the temperature, and help clear his congested lungs. “I also informed my extended family and friends and requested for prayers,” the born-again Master Sergeant Paul Mujabi Ssendi said.

Wife of MSG Paul Mujabi Ssendi, Sonja Ssendi

He turfed it out alone in his bedroom. He kept away from his wife and three children. It was a dreadful 14-day period of isolation. No medication. No doctor. Nothing! The physical and emotional pain was incomparable. But his faith kept him going. News of thousands of infections and deaths all around him troubled him but never scared him. He believed in total healing; it was only a matter of time. Only God’s grace, he believed, was sufficient to heal him. And, indeed, the healing became manifest.

“In the meantime, family members both here in the USA and in Uganda including chaplain Joshua Sendawula, Pastor Daniel Nkata,  and Peter Magambo as well as friends including Pastor Kevin McClendon called and prayed with me and encouraged me,” disclosed the father of three. He continued; “My faith was steadfast that God was going to heal me and get me through this ordeal,” he declared. “Definitely God touched me,” he said, adding, “My symptoms never got worse and I kept getting better every day.”

COVID-19 survivor MSG Paul Mujabi Ssendi

After 14 days of self-isolation, the 55-year-old Ugandan born  US-Army Master Sergeant PaulMujabi Ssendi tested negative of the dreaded  COVID-19 disease. “The biggest consolation in this situation was that my wife and children never got infected nor showed any symptoms,” he said with a sigh of relief. As to how the family of five managed to survive the lockdown, quarantined, and isolation, he disclosed; “Fortunately we had stocked up on supplies and food in the house,” adding, “Whenever we needed to replenish on some food and other household items, we ordered some supplies online for delivery to our home.” He said the family was not able to order for such items as bread but one of their friends, “a fellow service member of African descent who frequently went shopping always picked up some items for us,” he revealed with gratitude.

However, MSG Paul Ssendi confesses that it was logistically and emotionally difficult to adjust to isolation from his family for that dreadful 14 days. “However, we all knew and accepted it as necessary until healing/recovery became manifest,” he said. “When I was finally declared virus-free and received my release from isolation on April 17, 2020, my family also received their release from quarantine at the same time,” the Master Sergeant said. “The simultaneous announcement of our release from isolation and quarantine respectively, triggered a sigh of relief, praising, rejoicing, and thanksgiving prayers to God for our deliverance,” he proclaimed.

The three children of Mr. and Mrs. Ssendi. etc

Asked as to why he had come out to speak openly about his infection with COVID-19  yet hundreds of African immigrants in the United States decide to suffer secretly with the disease in their homes for fear of being stigmatized, Master sergeant Paul Ssendi said the reason that compelled him to come out to speak openly about his experience with the COVID-19 was to give a human face to the pandemic. “Instead of succumbing to the stigma as some COVID 19 patients have done is because I never considered being quiet about my situation as a COVID 19 patient and recovery from it as advantageous to me or anyone else,” he disclosed, adding, “I thought that coming out to tell my story could help someone; if nothing else, just for people to know that this insidious disease is highly contagious, and anyone can contract it,” he said. “To-date, I have no idea how I contracted it and as to the best of my knowledge, I did not get close to anyone that was infected,” he said.

There are reports that hundreds of people especially within immigrant and other minority groups in the United States prefer to battle the infections within the privacy of their homes without going for testing or even informing members of their communities. This self-stigma has resulted in thousands of COVID-19 positive cases going unreported, casting a shadow over the validity of the total numbers of people who have been infected or killed by the virus.

COVID-19 survivor MSG Paul Mujabi Ssendi

As for Master Sergent Paul Mujabi Ssendi, he is all praises for his Living God and testifies that God’s power of healing is still available for any infected individual to claim. Additionally, “I also thank God that my family reacted rationally to my infection and eventual isolation,” he said, adding, “Initially, we were all surprised (incredulous) as to how it could have been! By the time I got infected, I was working from home for more than a week and our children were conducting their schoolwork from home for about the same time.”  He said that the family movements out of the house were limited to going to stores to get groceries and supplies and the three incidental trips he made to the unit/base for work could possibly not have exposed him to infection.

But that is now behind them. “Our newfound freedom after 2 weeks of isolation and quarantine was a much welcome change,” he says. He says that although they have resumed interacting naturally as a family, they are still cautious;  even when they went to the stores to replenish groceries and supplies, they remained vigilant. “Life is steadily returning to the new normal; keeping social distances, wearing facemasks, regular handwashing, etc.,” he said about the   changes, adding, “My wife, Sonja, who is an essential worker at the hospital has since gone back to work.”

But in other ways, MSG Paul Ssendi says there has not been much change since the lockdown; the children continue doing their schoolwork from home and he is also still working from home.


MSG Paul Ssendi with retired USA Surgeon General, LTG Nadja West during a Public Health Symposium in 2018.

Born and raised in Kampala, Uganda 55 years ago, Master Surgent Paul Mujabi Ssendi became a born again Christian and attended Makerere Full Gospel Church as a teenager before migrating to the United States. In 1989, Paul Ssendi moved to Florida, the USA for his college education.   He settled in Gainesville, Florida where he attended classes both at the Santa Fe Community College and the University of Florida. “It was at the University of Florida where I met my wife, Sonja. We got married in 1996,” he recalls with fond memories.

But their honeymoon was short-lived as Sonja enlisted in the United States Army in 1997. Yet, as fate would have it, while Sonja was still in Advanced Initial Training, her recruiter came for Paul Ssendi and in 1998, he too joined the Army. “Since then, I am still serving as a non-commissioned officer in the US Army, and now on my 21st year. I am at the rank of Master Sergeant (MSG),” he stated in a matter-of-fact tone assumed by men and women in military service. MSG Paul Mujabi Ssendi’s military occupational specialty in the US army is a preventive medicine specialist.

COVID-19 survivor MSG Paul Mujabi Ssendi

“Given my occupational specialization and strong faith in God, I feel that I, rather than someone else, was the right person to get infected by the coronavirus because my professional skills, experience, and hope helped me to seek medical attention early enough, to take care of myself, and to pray fervently to God for His divine intervention; He did,” the soft-spoken serviceman declared to the EADM in a phone interview. There you have it! A proven survivor of the coronavirus pandemic, Master Sergeant Paul Ssendi testifies with an extra dose of humility only akin to a re-born believer. Yes, reborn–a living person–not a statistic! It’s hard to disagree with him.

Pin It

Leave your comments

Post comment as a guest

0
terms and condition.

Comments