The toll by Covi-19 is being felt the world over and many are anxious as to when it will all come to an end. Millions (about 2 million) of people have lost their lives. Meanwhile, countries continue to effect curfews, lockdowns and travel restrictions among measures to contain the virus. At the rate deaths are occurring, it is easy for anyone to lose hope and consider a Covid-19 positive test as a death sentence.
The uncertainty remains alive and real with the strain of the coronavirus becoming increasingly unpredictable.
Well, Tinashe Kotamo Woods, 22, has a tale to tell of the other side after her Covid-19 experience.
She is a Malawian female pre-med student who has defied all odds and affliction to graduate from a rigorous United States military academy having survived Covid-19 which has claimed over 400 000 lives in United States alone.
Tinashe was born and raised in Blantyre, Malawi. She is the last born out of three children. The soldier was raised by a single mother, Hilda Kotamo. Because of this, she never truly knew what it meant to have a nuclear family.
“The closest thing I had to a father was my grandfather, Harry Mandiwa, whose sudden death spurred me to love medicine and pursue it as a career. However, coming from a single parenthood family did not define who I was nor did it lessen my chances of being successful in life.
“In fact, it inspired me and gave me a role model, my mother. She went above and beyond for her children. She made sure we did not lack anything; be it vacations abroad, attending private schools both locally and overseas, etc. During my childhood I also faced some challenges, it was not all bed of roses but I did not dwell in the downfalls, I kept it moving,” says Tinashe.
Tinashe was among the first Malawians in the US to be diagnosed with the first surge of Covid-19. Just how did this impact on her life?
She admits it was overwhelming, but had to put on a strong front for her family.
Not only had she physical symptoms, but says she battled mental symptoms as well.
“When I say mental, I mean I thought I would not survive Covid-19 because I have a history of severe asthma. Not knowing how Covid-19 would affect my health definitely took a mental toll on me. It was not easy to overcome such negative thoughts because during isolation, you see no one and all you have is downtime to think and sulk. I can sincerely say the people that supported me during that trying time impacted my health positively and for that I will forever be indebted to them,” says Tinashe.
She is among the one percent that joins the US military. How did this journey start, what were her fears and expectations to join one of the most dangerous jobs in the world?
Tinashe says joining the US military excited while at the same time made her anxious, but ready to knock out the training because she is passionate about helping people.
She decided to join the military and serve the country in the military and medical.
Tinashe admits that completing the training came with a lot of challenges.
She adds: “Being in the 21st century where communicating with loved ones is done on the phone was not something that was accepted during my training. For three months, I had no phone, I knew nothing about what was happening in the world, how my family was doing.
“The only communication I was allowed to have was through letters. Also, transitioning from a civilian to a soldier was tricky. Not being in control of what time you wake up, what you eat, when you eat, when you shower, what you wear and when you sleep was challenging.”
Now, the soldier is studying medicine. How is she juggling her academics and military obligations?
Tinashe says she values both equivalently, because one cannot go without the other.
“My military career is what covers my tuition, but also for them to cover the full tuition I also need to have outstanding grades. So, basically these two obligations work hand in hand. The next few years, my life will revolve around both careers and I love it,” she beams.
To the Malawian girls, she says her secret is to never give up on what she wants, no matter the challenges.
“I have had failures and those have not and will never stop me, because failure is not the end, it is the beginning of success. Even the richest and most successful person on this planet has failed at least once before, but the thing that made them great is not giving up. My best advice is that the girl child should go for what they want and when they get it, they should create a bigger goal,” adds Tinashe.
Her last word: “Do not let your past/fears define your future. Neither should you let the negative comments individuals make stop you from reaching your full potential. We are all capable of so much greater than we think.”