"I had trouble breathing as if my lungs had shrunk in size"

Asiya* about her experience of COVID-19 treatment and recovery

Nazira Kaiymova
Delivery of medical supplies
UNICEF Kazakhstan
28 September 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has been ongoing for a year and a half now in Kazakhstan. More than 820,000 cases of COVID-19 infection have been registered in the country as of the beginning of September 2021. Today we would like to share the story of a girl who has contracted COVID-19 and survived all the hardships of the disease.

Asiya, 23, felt the first signs of illness in June 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the third day of her illness, Asiya has lost smell and on the fourth day she began to feel pain in her chest when she breathed in.

"My muscles were aching and I had a small dry cough and found it difficult to breathe. That's when I felt something was wrong," she says. "I suspected it might be pneumonia."

According to the WHO1, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough and fatigue. Other less common symptoms include loss of taste or/and smell, headache and others.

According to Asiya, she had a high fever for about nine days. She felt very weak and could not even do household chores, which was not at all like her, as Asiya herself prefers an active lifestyle.

"I only wanted to lie down, I couldn't even watch films or soap operas. I felt pain in my muscles, chest, and my head felt like it was burning because of the fever. It was very unpleasant," Asiya said.

Asiya's parents called an ambulance on the third day of her illness as soon as she received a positive PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which detects the presence of viruses, including COVID-19.

"At that time, I already had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan confirming left-sided pneumonia and a 20% lung lesion," Asiya said.

Asiya was admitted to the Nur-Sultan city clinical hospital for infectious diseases.

"The hospitalization was nervous because the ambulance refused to take me without a CT (computed tomography) scan," Asiya says. "I went to the hospital only 2-3 days after taking this scan."

The whole family had contracted the virus, but only Asiya and her father were admitted to the hospital.

"Despite my young age, I needed professional help. But in the infectious diseases hospital where I was hospitalized there were mainly patients in their 30s and 40s," she says.

According to the WHO2, COVID-19 can infect people of all ages. Older people and people with certain medical conditions are at higher risk of developing severe forms of coronavirus infection, but young people are not immune to the disease either.

Asiya's treatment followed protocol and the attending doctor came to the ward every morning to check his patients' condition and to measure their saturation using a pulse oximeter. Asiya was given antibiotics and received an infusion set and the right medication for her stomach and for general health care twice a day.

Delivery of pulse oximeters
Delivery of pulse oximeters

"The first few days in hospital were hard," Asiya says. "I was nauseous from the antibiotics and had no energy. But on the fourth day I felt better, my fever dropped and I was able to eat."

According to Asiya, the conditions at the infectious diseases hospital were good. Several times a day the ward was damp-cleaned and food was brought in separate plastic containers.

After she was discharged from the hospital and additional self-isolation, Asiya was able to return to her normal life without severe consequences to her health.

However, Asiya believes that she is still under the influence of 'post-COVID syndrome'.

"I feel as if my lungs have shrunk in size. I get tired quickly while running and I don't get enough air, although I haven't felt like that before," Asiya says. "I could easily run three to five kilometres without feeling tired."

According to the WHO guidelines3 for self-rehabilitation after COVID-19, physical exercises are an important part of recovery from the disease.

They can help:

• Reduce symptoms of shortness of breath

• Increase muscular strength

• Improve your sense of balance and co-ordination of movements

• Improve your thinking

• Reduce stress and improve mood

• Improve your sense of self-confidence

• Boost inner energy levels

In her first month of recovery, Asia also experienced headaches and rapid hair loss.

"I try to take vitamins. It helps but my hair is thinning and it's not the same as before," she says.


"I don't work remotely since the time that I got through COVID-19 and I am physically present in the office. But in public and crowded places I continue to wear a mask, use antiseptics and plan to get vaccinated," Asiya says.

Filling in the paperwork before vaccination against COVID-19
@UNICEF Kazakhstan/2021/NaziraKaiymova
Filling in the paperwork before vaccination against COVID-19

To support protective measures of the Government of Kazakhstan against the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), in partnership with the European Union, delivered 34,500 ampoules of dexamethasone and 205 pulse oximeters to Akmola region and the city of Nur-Sultan in December 2020 and May 2021. In total, more than 330,000 ampoules of dexamethasone and 2,000 pulse oximeters were delivered as humanitarian aid from the European Union to Kazakhstan as part of this partnership.

UNICEF Kazakhstan/2020/ZhanaraKarimova
UNICEF Kazakhstan/2020/ZhanaraKarimova
Delivery of humanitarian aid to Kazakhstan in December 202

It is funded as part of the European Union’s humanitarian aid. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. The European Union cannot be held responsible for them.

*All names and other identifying information have been changed to protect privacy.