36 Days with Coronavirus (and the Battle Continues): Rose-Ann Al-Shaer, a graduate of Bethlehem Bible College

When you encounter illness, pain and death face to face, your life changes radically, and never returns to what it was before. This is my story…

My name is Rose-Ann Al-Shaer. I am among the first group of people infected with the Coronavirus from Beit Jala city (next to Bethlehem). I got infected with the virus from my work place.

Initially, I learned that a number of my colleagues were carrying the virus, so I did a test and the result came negative. However, that night I began to show clear symptoms, such as soreness and tinnitus in the ears, chills in my body, a very strong headache and an aching in the lower back and legs.

When I redid the test, the result turned out to be positive, which did not surprise me much. I was informed that I had one hour to prepare my bag and leave my home to the National Rehabilitation Center where people with the virus were being treated.

It was difficult to prepare my suitcase.  I was not going on a trip or traveling; I was going to an unknown place to be treated for a virus to which thousands of people around the world were losing their lives. I could not even get an appropriate farewell or goodbye hug from my family, as it all happened quickly and from a distance.

The National Rehabilitation Center is divided into two parts: the first is for infected people who do not have symptoms, and the second is the intensive care department which is for infected people who have symptoms and need treatment.  When I got to the center, I was first sent to the department for asymptomatic people. However, when my symptoms returned I was diagnosed with moderate infection and was transferred to the intensive care unit. I was completely isolated in a very small room without any connection with the outside world for a week, while receiving treatment.

The first days of treatment were the most difficult. My headache was unbearable and I was being treated with intravenous medication through needles that were very painful as well. I was vomiting a lot from the severity of my head pain. The treatment phase was arduous, as I was taking treatments for malaria and swine flu. The treatments caused my body to weaken with dizziness and nausea; I could not even raise my head. I also had minor lung inflammation and inflammation in my ears. The treatment phase lasted approximately 3 weeks.

Now that I’m recovering, I stopped taking all the medications and analgesics and I am focusing more on vitamins and hot drinks with honey, lemon and other citrus, in order to strengthen my immune system.

I was tested last week and the result came negative, meaning that my body was free of the virus. However, in the process of treating this virus, each patient should be tested three times.  It is only if all three of the results are negative that the patient can leave the center. Indeed, my first two consecutive tests were negative, and while I was waiting for the results of the third examination I prepared my things with the hope that I would soon leave.   I was surprised and disappointed that the third result came positive, that is, the virus either returned to my body or did not actually leave it in the first place but was hiding somewhere.  This totally devastated me.

Then, something different rose up inside me and I began to challenge my reality, my tests and my results.  A scripture began to go through my mind: “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise.” 

I got up again on my feet and resolved to recover quickly in order to return to my family, my life partner, and my loved ones.  As I prayed, I resolved with all my strength to leave the center and return to my life stronger than before.

I began to tell my loved ones that that I expected to leave the hospital soon and began to trust that I had fully recovered.   Indeed, when I was re-examined the result was negative. I still have two tests to go through, but I am sure I will return to my home soon and be among my loved ones for the upcoming Easter (eastern Easter), which I will announce as the day of my victory over this disease.

It is easy to trust and say that we believe, but our faith is tested in difficult times. When we see that thousands around us are losing their lives due to a virus that is not visible to the naked eye, and when we are face to face with danger, death and loss, it is only then that we realize how important it is to have a strong faith.

At first, I wondered why me? Why me in particular? But this whole experience has made me realize that I am a very strong woman, and that my faith in the Lord is great. Through this experience, the Lord taught me to trust and not to doubt my heart.  I believe that I entered this experience in order to be formed again, to change the way I think, to return to my ministry as a teacher for the children and youth and to share the things the Lord has taught me.

Our battle is still ongoing. My boss, Nicolas Kawwas, and his sister, Marian, are still in quarantine. We hold prayer meetings together and we encourage each other with the word of the Lord. For He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

I believe that God has allowed this pandemic to take place in order for us to realize how small and helpless we are, and how great He is.  He wants us to return to Him – to return to the important and fundamental things in life, and to stop running after temporary matters and the fleeting things of this world. I pray that everyone benefits from this unique period, and that life does not return to what it was before without a real change in the souls of people.

My message to everyone is that they should not underestimate the virus.  Experiencing it is not easy. I ask everyone to stay in their homes and abide by all the procedures set by the Ministry of Health.

I also want to ask people to consider the feelings of those who have been infected with the virus. I am fully aware of their fear, and I expect that when I return to my normal life, people will have reservations about me and all those who carried the virus. My message is that they should not fear us, but rather be sensitive to our feelings.

I would like to thank my family and fiancé for their constant support and to all who prayed for me and with me, and shared words of encouragement with me. I also send a very special thanks to all the medical staff, to the Palestinian National Center for Rehabilitation, the Palestinian Authority and Ministry of Health, for their great work to which we bow our heads.  I am grateful.

And most of all, to the Lord Himself I say:  I surrender myself to you; soul and body, for you are my Lord today, yesterday and forever!