Matan Alon, 41, from Moshav Tomer in the Jordan Valley is a married father of three.  After returning from a week of skiing in Austria, he found himself in the coronavirus ward at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem.

To say it was surreal is an understatement.

On March 7, I got back from a week of skiing in Austria with a few friends. In the middle of our week there, we were told that we would have to go into quarantine when we returned. As soon as we landed, I moved into a separate apartment in the moshav with one of my friends from the trip, so I didn’t see anyone from my family and they didn’t have to be quarantined. I have a daughter who’s 13, and two sons, 9 and 4.

By the Sunday after our return, toward evening, I started to feel not so well. I didn’t think right away that it was the coronavirus – we’d been skiing and the temperature was a few degrees below zero, so you could definitely catch a cold.

It felt like the flu: weakness, a little coughing and fever, nothing special. After a day or two in quarantine, I asked to be tested, to be on the safe side.  At first Magen David Adom weren’t eager to come – apparently there weren’t a lot of kits and maybe they were expensive, or maybe because I didn’t have a high fever – but after a day my wife insisted, and they came. I got an answer within one day.

They called to say the test was positive and that they were going to hospitalize me, by order of the Health Ministry. That announcement stressed me out a little. You feel that your body is betraying you. You ask yourself: Why me, of all people? All kinds of questions. But I was pained mostly for the kids and my wife, whom I hadn’t seen for a week already.

I’m the first person who entered the [special corona] ward at Hadassah, Ein Kerem, I opened the unit. I was alone, but not for long. Two more patients arrived that same day. The team does all they can to make me feel comfortable. They’re always asking what we need; they gave us things like a stationary bicycle so we can exercise, a large refrigerator, a microwave. It’s important to them for us to get through this period with our sanity.

We’re afraid for medical staff when they come in occasionally, but there’s no choice. At first they explained to me how to take vital signs by myself, because they don’t want to come in to check blood pressure and things like that. They showed me hygienic behaviour in the ward, how to disinfect the toilet.

There were a few days when I had no appetite at all. Afterward it came back, and so did the sense of taste. As of yesterday, there were about 20 people in the ward, as far as I can make out. There are four of us in the room. The others are guys of 18, 65 and around 55. The women are in a separate room; some of them are elderly.

The people who arrived here first became good friends, and we sort of made faces at the ones who came in later. It’s an old-timer vs. newcomer thing. But only as a joke. One of the things that’s most helpful here is the mutual aid: People look after one another, they make tea for those who feel a bit weak; they share food. We do Shabbat eve meals together.

Everyone also knows that the people for whom it’s really difficult are the families that have been left at home, without anything to do and without school. Today my daughter wrote: “Dad, send me coronavirus, my little brothers are driving me crazy.”

There’s plenty of humour here. When there’s a rumour that someone in the room is going to be discharged, we say that we’ll switch the info on the test tube, so his test will come out positive and he’ll stay on. Because I was the first one in, I say all the time that I should be the first to leave, that no one should cut in line.

Now they’ve arranged a room with a transparent window for us so we can see the staff, without face masks. That was nice and it helps create a good feeling and a feeling of security. They understand how important it is for the patients to see the face of the nurse or the doctor who’s about to treat them.

This morning I had another test for the virus. I wasn’t ready for it, because they said I would only do tests when the symptoms passed completely. But they want to see the state of the virus in the body. They’re not talking about discharging me yet, but they are talking about moving us into hotels. They hinted that I’m one of the candidates, because I was one of the first and I feel good. I think they’re right. I suppose that if my condition deteriorates, they’ll have a response for me there, too. I feel like I’m in very good hands.

Originally published by Haaretz 28th March 2020 - Click here to read original