A Saudi woman’s journey with coronavirus disease

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The unprecedented changes imposed on the world since the virus outbreak ‘remind people that they can adapt to any unforeseen circumstances life brings them face to face with.’ (Huda Bashatah/AFP)
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Updated 09 May 2020

A Saudi woman’s journey with coronavirus disease

  • During her recovery, Khuloud Mullah said she discovered many things while struggling with her illness

RIYADH: Despite an increase in the number of deaths from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the recovery rate is relatively high. While there are carriers with mild or no symptoms at all, others have no choice but to seek treatment at the hospital.

Arab News talked to a Saudi woman who caught the disease while she was isolated with her family, with 11 members in the house also infected. Their symptoms ranged from mild to severe.
Khuloud Mullah, 43, who works in the diplomatic sector in Riyadh, visited her family in Yanbu before the nationwide curfew was put in place.
“It all started before the government issued the curfew order, when my brother-in-law went to a weekend getaway (isteraha) and was joined by other men who just came from abroad and carried the coronavirus without knowing,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the disease spread to four houses, two in Riyadh, one in Yanbu and one in Madinah, and the members of these houses all tested positive for COVID-19.”
During her recovery journey, Mullah said she learned and discovered many things while at the hospital struggling with her illness. “For the first time, I feel the true values of the blessings I have and I wanted to share them with everyone.”
The blessing of health cannot be compared to any other blessing, she said, adding that there were moments she felt that her death was close. “He (Allah) will hold me accountable for this blessing, whether I take care of my health or neglect it.”
The blessing of freedom was also something Mullah felt while in quarantine. She started to appreciate all the things she took for granted before the virus outbreak.
“(Before COVID-19) I was free to go out, enter, decide, discuss, express, travel, change … and do whatever I wanted. And in one moment everything was taken away from me. I became trapped in a bed, imprisoned in a hospital room. It was not my choice or my decision, but forced on me for the first time in my life,” she said.
The third lesson Mullah learned from this experience was practicing patience in the midst of a painful journey.
Fighting the disease for two weeks, Mullah said that some of the symptoms that she and her family suffered from included “losing the sense of taste and smell, lack of appetite to eat, instability when walking or standing, always falling to the ground whenever walking, high fever, severe pain in the body … very severe and constant headaches, shortness of breath where I couldn’t fill my lungs.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Khuloud Mullah caught the disease while she was isolated with her family, with 11 members in the house also infected. Their symptoms ranged from mild to severe.

• She learned that the blessing of real relationships is priceless regardless of the differences and conflicts which disappear during crisis.

• Mullah has left the hospital and is now in a hotel until she fully recovers before she can come into contact with other people.

Although she tried to force herself to eat, Mullah said everything she ate and drank “tasted like iron rust.”
She said that she resisted the pain and constant dizziness, and tried to move around her hospital room whenever she could.
“I was struggling and trying to move despite the constant feeling of dizziness. I also tried to fight the headaches by taking painkillers and drinking a lot of water and fluids. I was practicing breathing exercises even though it was painful. All these pains took me 14 days to heal, I was patient,” she added.
Mullah mentioned that the only thing that kept her strong during her illness was the presence of her family and siblings who supported her despite going through the same struggle. “
I could see their pain and yet they were resisting to care for each other.”
She learned that the blessing of real relationships is priceless regardless of the differences and conflicts which disappear during crisis. “You find them standing next to you at the time of hardship and when you need them the most, especially in your illness.”
She said that all the unprecedented changes imposed on the world since the virus outbreak reminded people that they can adapt to any unforeseen circumstances life brings them face to face with.
She added: “Whoever was infected with coronavirus will relate and understand what I am saying because they have certainly gone through the period of reflection that I have been through during my illness.”
Mullah has left the hospital and is now in a hotel until she fully recovers before she can come into contact with other people.


Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

Gebran Al-Maliki, owner of a cocoa plantation, says introducing cocoa will help reshape the agriculture sector. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 01 December 2020

Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia provides an environment conducive to the shrub’s growth, says expert

MAKKAH: In an unprecedented experience for the Kingdom, a harvest season of more than 200 cocoa shrubs began this year in Jazan following several years of planting the Filipino seedlings.

The foreign plant is a new experiment for the Kingdom as it plans on testing out the long-term success of planting the favored sweet treat.

Specialists in the region pointed out that the cocoa shrub resembles the famous coffee shrub found in the south region of the Kingdom, where a number of farmers have already begun to evaluate the experience and continue cultivating land to make room for more, while others were not so successful.

The supervisor of the Mountain Areas Development and Reconstruction Authority in Jazan, Eng. Bandar Al-Fifi, said: “The cocoa shrub is a tropical or subtropical shrub and is native to South America and East Asia. It was presented to the Mountain Regions Development and Reconstruction Authority a few years back, specifically to the agricultural research station.”

FASTFACTS

• The Jazan region is known for its lush, green lands and fertile soil that possesses the necessary ingredients to ensure the development of other crops.

• Rainfall is abundant, seasonal fluctuations in rainfall are scarce and humidity is high, ensuring that soil continues to retain the moisture it requires for harvests.

He added: “The cultivation process was carried out six years ago by bringing seeds and seedlings from the Philippines. The seeds were cultivated and seedlings were distributed to some interested farmers in the region.

“We in the station’s field have cocoa, banana, mango and guava trees, as well as many tropical and subtropical trees. The field is being used as a guarantor of seeds, in addition to conducting tests and real experiments in an area of 200 meters, in particular on 15 cocoa plants and the first cocoa shrub in Saudi Arabia.”

He told Arab News that it was difficult at first to encourage farmers to invest in the plant, as many were hesitant to introduce a plant not indigenous to the region in order to facilitate the establishment of manufacturing factories and grow a local market.

Al-Fifi said that in Ethiopia, companies buy crops from farmers and then start an integrated industrial process of sorting, cleaning, drying and roasting, because to complete the whole process is not economically viable for farmers alone.

“If every farmer owns 30 cocoa shrubs, this will be an additional source of income for their future,” he added.

The Jazan region is known for its lush, green lands and fertile soil that possesses the necessary ingredients to ensure the development of other crops that guarantee continuity and different harvest times for each type of plant harvested in the area. Rainfall is abundant, seasonal fluctuations in rainfall are scarce and humidity is high, ensuring that soil continues to retain the moisture it requires for harvests.

“In addition to the fact that the temperature gap between small and mature shrubs is not big, due to our proximity to the equator, Saudi Arabia is located below the tropical line, which creates environmental conditions that help the shrub grow,” said Al-Fifi.

Gebran Al-Maliki, one of the owners of a cocoa plantation in Jazan, told Arab News: “Adding cocoa to the Kingdom’s agricultural field is one of the innovative things in Saudi Arabia and it began to give good results that would broadly stimulate the development process, provide an agricultural model that can be trusted and improve experience in a country that supports its farmers and provides them with all the required capabilities.”

He received seeds and seedlings by the end of 2016 as an experiment in which everyone was granted support. “Some wanted to give this new experience a try, because it is similar to the coffee plant. It is an ordinary shrub, just like fruit and citrus trees, but it is a drought-tolerant shrub that is watered once a week.”

To successfully cultivate the fruit, Al-Maliki said that shrubs need shade when first planted in the ground as they are “quite finicky,” but that with the proper care and attention, a tree will flower at about three to four years of age and can grow up to two meters in height.

With up to 400 seeds, the product testing began on his farm after just four years.

“You can find 30 to 50 seeds inside a pod, which are later dried under the sun and ground to become a ready-to-use powder. Cocoa powder can be found in chocolate, oils and cosmetics, in addition to several other uses,” Al-Maliki said.

He said that the seed is very bitter and explained that the more bitter, the better the quality. He added that he has four shrubs, and what hindered the spreading process was waiting for the product quality test results, indicating that the fruit was tried and was found very successful.

The agricultural research station for the Development and Reconstruction of Agricultural Areas aim to reach 50 shrubs in the region to provide enough fruit to produce seeds and seedlings for farmers. Al-Fifi said that they aim to reach 400 seedlings per year that will be distributed, on top of seedlings grown by the region’s farmers themselves.