Sick and quarantined at the IBB: ‘My roommates brought food to my room’

Photo: DUB

With the ongoing discussion about which corona measures should apply to student housing units, physics student Felix’s (19) story is remarkable. When he started feeling sick late March, he self-isolated in his 12-square-metre room at the IBB student housing complex for five days. “I had a headache and felt weak. I slept poorly that night, I kept waking up,” he says on the phone. The day after, he felt even worse. “I’d become nauseous, coughed a lot, and had flu-like symptoms.” He still doesn’t know for sure whether he’d caught the coronavirus. “I was afraid of that, especially in the first two days, especially because I was short of breath.” He never got tested, because he didn’t feel his symptoms were bad enough to call his doctor.

Felix thinks one of his housemates infected him, because one of his housemates got sick a week before Felix experienced his first symptoms. Along with Felix, another housemate also developed the same symptoms. Yet another two became unable to smell or taste anything, like the other three. For fear of infecting the entire house, all of them decided that Felix and his two truly sick housemates would self-quarantine in their rooms until they recovered. The others only went outside when truly necessary. The five days spent in his room were lonely, Felix says. “Of course, I could call my housemates, but it’s different from spending time together in the living room. They’re my friends, too.”

Video calling at dinner

Some practical affairs were taken care of as well. Usually, the house is occupied by fifteen residents, but six had already left for their parents’ homes. The nine others decided to reserve one toilet and one bathroom for the sick people. “Our house has three toilets and two bathrooms, so this was possible. And we paid more attention to hygiene: dirty dishes never went unwashed for more than a day.” His father gave him a cooler to keep in his room, and he stayed in touch with his housemates in their communal WhatsApp group. “Us sick people told our healthy housemates what we wanted from the supermarket, and they brought food and drinks to our rooms. At dinner, we video called each other so we could still have dinner together. Looking back, I think perhaps it would’ve been better if they’d put the food in front of our doors, to prevent new infections, but oh well.”

After the second day, Felix slowly started to feel better. “It wasn’t like I was completely knocked out. I could still do things, like attend online classes, do my assignments, watch Netflix and play games. With the exception of that first night, I slept fine.” Five days after getting sick, he felt better, and left his room for the first time since the decision to self-quarantine. By now, everyone in Felix’s house is once again healthy, and he’s spent some time outside as well. “At the time, only my smell and taste weren’t quite up to their regular levels yet, but those have since returned. Last week, we sat on the grass outside of our home, which was great, after having spent so much time in my room. I also went grocery shopping with a housemate.”

Some of his housemates still can’t smell or taste properly. Felix thinks the first sick housemate infected the others. “Back then, we all still spent time in the living room, but we don’t know how she got infected.” He’s now temporarily living with his parents in Hilversum. He’s not afraid he might infect them, too. “It’s always a risk. But I waited 24 hours after recovering before I even went outside.”