COVID-19 Global Diaries: ‘I was Greece’s first-ever case and I caught it at Milan Fashion Week’

Dimitra Voulgaridou was the first person in Greece diagnosed with coronavirus. The successful businesswoman tells how her Milan Fashion Week trip left her and her nine year old in a hospital isolation chamber

I never suspected a thing during my time in Italy. Everyone was out as normal, right up to the day of my departure. I only understood the gravity of the situation when on the last night of my trip some of the great fashion houses and show rooms announced they were cancelling all events because of the COVID-19. In Milan, I met a lot of people, but I don’t remember anyone striking me as sick. People think I was the first carrier to Greece and it’s something that makes me both sad and perplexed about the society I live in.

Covid 19 Greece

Dimitra Voulgaridou with her husband in Duomo square in Milan

I returned home from Italy on a Sunday but by Tuesday afternoon I’d developed a splitting headache. I began to feel worse in the evening, so I checked my temperature and realised I had a slight fever. I called my doctor and he advised me to go to the hospital.

So, wearing my own mask, I took myself to the General University Hospital of Thessaloniki. I explained my symptoms and where I’d been, then they tested me. The first feeling that took a hold of me was fear. I was thinking of my health, the consequences for my nine-year-old son, my friends and family, and all the people I had been in contact with. These thoughts brought me to my knees and filled me with anxiety, guilt, but also great responsibility. I cried thinking what will happen to those people. Not knowing much about the virus, I felt like I was walking in the desert with no direction. When the test came back positive, the doctors told me that I had to be put in a negative-pressure isolation chamber immediately.

Covid 19 Greece

Dimitra in the negative pressure isolation chamber of ΑHΕΠΑ hospital

My son was tested and I was told he had to join me in the chamber. It was a life-changing experience. All I could think about was how hard it would be for a nine year old to stay isolated for so many days. I didn’t want my child to know exactly what was going on, and be worried about what may happen. Although I felt a great amount of pressure to make the experience bearable for him, my friends and family were amazing with their encouragement during that time.

When we finally left the hospital, I walked to my car and looked up towards the sky and said, ‘Thank you’. Having lived through it I’d like to encourage this message: we should all realise that no one is immune to the virus. It takes up to 14 days for the first symptoms to appear and during those days we could be spreading the virus to people around us and to our loved ones.

If there’s one thing positive that can come out of this, I think it’s an opportunity to value and your life.

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