Pokpong Jitjaiyai (PK)
Content and Media Creator
I’m PK, I’m 34 years old. At APCOM, I’ve been able to apply my skills and experience on media content and communications for campaigns on LGBTQI rights, on HIV and also harm reduction. Prior to joining APCOM, I was involved with media production for many years doing documentary films, graphic design, soaps and advertising. I was also an event organiser, wrote articles and even had a small production house at one point.
Thank you for taking the time to tell your story, and being brave to share your story. Perhaps you can start with telling us about how you got Covid-19?
I think it is important not to shy away from reality, and I hope our community can learn from my experience, so I am very glad to tell you what happened.
Before Songkran [traditional Thai New Year celebrated 13-15 April in 2021], my boyfriend and I were invited to a beachside party weekend in Phuket. At the time, Thailand was doing so well in terms of Covid-19 numbers. The party took place on 2 and 3 April, and on 6th April I received a message from the organisers, that one of the guests had tested positive for Covid-19. I was very scared, and was certain that my boyfriend would also become infected.
What did you do then after receiving the message?
I informed the APCOM executive director, who told me to quarantine to see if any symptoms would develop, to get a Covid-19 test and not to come into the office. Luckily, it was coming to the long Songkran break so the office would be shut anyway.
I started asking my friends if they had any symptoms, and it turned out that a few did show signs of Covid-19. My boyfriend and I tried to get a Covid-19 test, but this took a while, as the hospitals were overwhelmed with people coming in for testing. It turned out that my boyfriend tested positive, and I was negative. As we live together, with our dog, I was certain that it would only be a matter of time before I would show symptoms.
What were the symptoms you experienced?
When I was in self-quarantine I was coughing, I had a high temperature, I couldn’t breathe properly, which was really scary, and I was feeling weak. I was afraid to leave my house.
I also didn’t want to go to the hospital, as I saw on the news that the rooms were full and had to put people in tents instead. So, I decided to stay at home and hope my condition wouldn’t get worse.
14 and 15 April were the worst days for me.
Who looked after you?
Luckily, I was not alone. My boyfriend and I went through this horrible experience together. Our friends would bring food and other supplies, and leave them at the front door for us, so we were well looked after.
We received care packages from APCOM and I actually gained weight from just eating and sleeping!
Can you tell us what went through your mind when you were very sick?
I didn’t think that my boyfriend and I were going to die, we were more afraid of having to recover at the hospital tents. At home you feel safe. I was more worried about who would look after our dog,if we had to go to hospital [laughs].
People were constantly checking up on us through social media, and I didn’t particularly want to respond to them. I didn’t feel like it at all. I stopped using social media to have some peace of mind.
I didn’t want my friends, family and colleagues to panic. I was also worried about work. There were many things that our team was relying on me to do, and I felt bad that I couldn’t do this. In the longer term, I was also worried about the impact of the new Covid-19 cases in Bangkok, and how it would affect our LGBTQI community, with yet another disruption to our planned work for the rest of the year.
Actually, I was worried that if I was getting sicker and had to call for an ambulance, their presence in my apartment building would make me ‘famous’, and I don’t want to be identified like that. I was worried about how others in the apartment building would react differently towards me, and I didn’t want to become news.
I was grateful too. I have my boyfriend, I have my dog. I am lucky to still have my job. Apart from our health we are also reliant on our livelihoods. Covid-19 has resulted in many losing their jobs, our economy is not good, and we need to help those members in our community who are less fortunate than us.
Any advice for others who are going through the same situation as you?
I am lucky to have recovered from Covid-19. The experience gave me renewed determination to work for our community, for example with the up-coming APCOM HERO Awards 2021 and Bangkok Pride in 2022.
My advice would be not to be like me, but rather keep a cool head, and not be afraid to seek help and support from your network. Seek professional help. I wonder if I had been admitted to the hospital to recover, I might not have the breathing complications that I still have now.
Lastly, share and talk about your experience with your community. I believe it is important to let people know. Many don’t want to talk about it and then it becomes more scary. Until we have everyone on vaccines, many more people will get Covid-19, so be open about it.