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“I Caught Covid19”

Make-up artist Cempaka van der Hulst lives in Bali and contracted Covid19. Here she talks about her experience.

Photo: Ted van der Hulst.

Cempaka, we’re so glad you are fully recovered and thanks for agreeing to this interview. There’s been so much misinformation and confusion surrounding Covid19 that we’re glad for a first-hand perspective. Can you tell us how it all began for you?

Sure. Firstly I have no clue where or from whom I contracted it. My family and I were very careful, we followed the health protocols … especially me as a make-up artist … I always wear a mask and a face shield to ensure good sanitation. I thought I was safe until I found out I had been exposed.

Initially my body felt a bit weak and I was tired all the time. At the beginning it felt a bit like “masuk angin” but on the 4th day my temperature went way up and I couldn’t taste and smell anything. Then I went to the hospital because I couldn’t breath well and my lungs hurt.

The doctor ran a rapid test at the hospital and surprisingly the result was non reactive. Then I was told to go home and get some rest. In the middle of the night I couldn’t breath and started to panic.

We went back to the emergency room first thing in the morning and finally they did a swab test. Three days later I tested positive. My husband and son also had symptoms, but they were not as ill as I was and didn’t get swab tests.

Once you were confirmed positive, did the reaction of medical staff change towards you? Were you put into isolation?

After I got the result it was suggested I do self isolation at home for four weeks and that I should sleep in a different room from my husband and my son. The health workers were very helpful and my doctor checked up on me every day to see the progress.

How worried were you and how did your mental state change once you knew that you were positive?

I wasn’t really shocked at that time because I was already sure that I had Covid19 as the symptoms were so obvious. I cried a lot when I was confirmed positive. The test made it even worse because you never know how you will feel the next day. It can be better or worse.

How difficult it was for your family?

It was difficult for my husband to take care of me because he was not well himself. Ted was sick for two weeks and my son for three days, and I assume they had it to but without too much trouble.

My family in Jakarta and Holland all felt powerless because they couldn’t do anything to help me. They did video calls with us every single day … day and night … and sent all kinds of vitamins. Their love and care helped us get through the tough times battling the virus.

Some people say that Covid19 is just like having the flu, How did it compare for you?

It was way worse. You can easily tell the difference between a normal cold and this virus. It feels completely different. I had dengue fever last year and  the symptoms were almost the same except there was a lot more pain in the lungs, and I couldn’t smell or taste anything.

Were there any specific symptoms different from dengue that were new to you?

Yes, I felt nauseous for two weeks straight. It was difficult to breath, difficult to fall asleep and it felt like my lungs were burning. The most annoying part was that I couldn’t taste anything which was very strange to me at first. I got a pretty bad stomach ache as well.

We’re assuming you don’t have diabetes, or other underlying conditions?

No, I don’t have.

When did you start to feel better and know that everything was going to be all right?

I started to recover after two and a half weeks when the nausea subsided and I started to be able to taste and smell things again.

What was the scariest thing about your experience? What did it feel like?

The scariest moment was when I woke up in the middle of the night and found it difficult to breathe and then had to rush to the emergency room. It’s been one month since I contracted it and I still get tired easily and have to breathe heavily. I have a tingling sensation at night all over my body. The doctor has told me this is normal with Covid19. He also told me there have been zero cases of people getting it a second time, but nothing is really clear yet.

Your first test was a rapid test, and non-reactive. Correct?


Presumably that means that many people going in and out of Bali may be positive as well…

100% yes!

What is your view on wearing a mask having recovered from Covid19?

For me wearing a mask and keeping your distance from people are important because it’s the least you can do to protect yourself and others, although of course it doesn’t guarantee 100% that you are safe from the virus.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us about your experience?

Before I got the virus I didn’t really believe that it was that bad. I didn’t know anyone who had been infected. I would like to tell everyone to follow the health protocols and take this pandemic seriously. I know that everybody wants to go back to normal but we have to help each other by keeping our distance and wearing masks when in public spaces.

Cempaka, so glad you’re all well again and thanks so much for your time.

Cempaka’s website is here.



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