Abuja based lawyer, Mr. Damilere Ojo, relives his experience during isolation and treatment for the novel Coronavirus at the Gwagwalada Isolation Centre.
FOLLOWING the confirmation of the index case of COVID–19 virus in Nigeria, I had my reservations about the spread of the disease. But as the number of cases increased, the Federal Government resolved to announce an initial two week total lockdown.
I became more cautious and conscious of my environment, particularly with my interaction with people around me, touching surfaces at random except for going to the market during market days and taking regular long walks in the evening with friends.
However, when the lockdown was extended for another two weeks, I began to doubt the numbers released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as I personally did not know anyone that had the virus or had encountered a confirmed case in Nigeria.
This was a huge mistake.
From this period, I gradually eased the restrictions of movement I put on myself and began to visit some friends within my neighbourhood who I felt had been home during the lockdown. I continued to go to the market on market days and adhered to the requirement of wearing my mask and washing my hands with soap and water regularly.
On May 9, 2020, I began to feel a rise in my temperature and started feeling feverish. It was difficult getting through the night, the high temperature and fever made me very uncomfortable. On the morning of Sunday, May 10, I went to Garki Hospital, Garki, Abuja to do a malaria test. The results came out negative but I was advised to take anti-malaria medication. Upon completing my medication, I felt better.
However, I was still worried about the fact that I had no malaria but was very ill. My fears heightened when I lost my sense of smell and could not taste the delicious jollof rice my friend made for me. On the evening of the Sunday, upon discussion with my friend who accompanied me to the hospital, I resolved to contact the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Collection Centre having surfed the internet and I was directed to call back by 9am on Monday, 11th May 2020. On Monday I called the Collection Centre in the FCT and a form was sent to me via text message asking me for various information including my name, age, symptoms, whether I had met a confirmed case, etc., all of which I answered. Upon evaluation by the team at the Centre, I was directed to come for my COVID-19 test at the Exhibition Pavilion which is beside the International Conference Centre and directly opposite Radio House, Central Area, Abuja.
On Sunday 17th May 2020 at around 3:24pm, I received a call from Hajia Fatima Ahmed of the Public Heath team of the FCT, who informed me that my test result was POSITIVE. The moment my test result was communicated to me, I informed the Hajia that I needed to speak with my Mum as I was totally confused and did not know what to make of the situation. On Monday 18th May 2020, I was picked up by the NCDC team to the Gwagwalada Isolation Centre. Despite being anxious, I was comforted by the uplifting response that I received from my family and friends and decided to remain positive during this process. On getting to the Centre, I was received by the doctors who collected my blood sample and conducted a briefing of how the Centre operates including the discharge rate at the Centre (11 being discharged that day), nature of drugs to be administered, feeding, when next I will be doing a COVID-19 test (5 days after) etc. After the briefing, I was ushered to my space which happened to be a private ward that had an air conditioner, reading table, chair, various drugs, a carton of 50cl bottled water, etc. The doctor informed me that every morning, doctors will be coming for various check-ups including checking my blood temperature, oxygen levels and temperature and that meals will be provided in the morning, afternoon and night which will be for free at the expense of the government.
Whilst at the Centre, I remained very positive and did not see myself as one with any ailment. I was listening to my music, working as I had my laptop and my internet with me whilst remaining active on social media and engaging with friends and family who continued to encourage me. I also participated in the Hallelujah Challenge by Nathaniel Bassey and joined various Instagram Live Sessions of my church (RCCG Throne Room, Abuja). This was my routine every day whilst at the Centre and by Saturday 23rd May 2020, exactly 5 days after I arrived at the Isolation Centre, the COVID-19 test to confirm my COVID status after 5 days of treatment was conducted on me and a number of people at the Centre who were due for the test.
Upon collection of my sample, I continued my regular life of positivity at the Centre and by the morning of Monday 25th May 2020 after joining the Instagram Live Session of my church, the doctor informed me that my test result was out and it was NEGATIVE. I was to be discharged from the Centre. The news of my result was indeed an emotional one as I had barely spent seven days at the Centre. Immediately, I burst into tears thanking God for saving my life and healing me in such a short time.
On getting back home, I was received by my neighbours and friends to my surprise as I had thought I would have been stigmatised having been a COVID patient. I also realised that the Public Team of the FCT had gone to my house to disinfect my house, my car and contact-traced all persons whose contact I provided to them as those whom I had meet within a week to me testing positive.
I must state that prior to me testing positive to the virus, I had always lacked faith in the way the government had been handling COVID patients based on videos/pictures from various isolation centres that had been going viral on the internet. In my situation, I was highly impressed by the government’s response in face of the highly dilapidated health sector in the country in the following instances:
- The process of me conducting the test at the first instance was indeed seamless as I could reach the collection centres with little or no hassle.
- The manner of pick up from my house to the Isolation Centre was done in a very good manner as the health officials were well guarded in their PPE’s and the condition of the bus was indeed fantastic.
iii. The nature of the Centre including the professionalism of the doctors, amenities such as the air conditioner, good bathroom and toilet facilities, private room for all COVID patients at the Centre, etc.
- The nature of feeding at the Centre was remarkable as I was fed breakfast, lunch and dinner with highly nutritious and qualitative meals and all meals came with either a bottle of Coca-Cola, Malta Guinness, Sprite or water.
- The fact that the Public Health team of the FCT contact-traced all persons whose contact I provided on the same day I provided their contacts. They also informed all that they would be tested 14 days after I was brought to the Centre and if anyone showed any symptoms prior to then such person would be tested. This is exactly what was done as all persons whose contact I provided and who submitted themselves for testing have been tested and their results were all NEGATIVE.
- The fact that my House and Car was disinfected without me making a request was impressive
vii. Finally, the fact that all care given to me and all persons at my Centre including feeding, contact racing, medications, etc. was at no cost to me or any patient but the government.
Despite the above acts of the government, which I strongly believe deserves applause and not necessarily a standing ovation in view of the chaos that has befallen the health sector, there are certain areas I feel the government needs to improve on in dealing with COVID-19 patients. They include:
- Mode of communication of test results: The fact the test results are communicated via telephone call only is insufficient. I would propose that results are communicated via e-mail or SMS in addition to the phonecalls. This will also give the key stakeholders of the health sector the appropriate statistics and details of all persons who conducted a COVID-19 test.
- Provision of transportation upon discharge: Upon testing positive, I was picked up from my house to the Centre but upon testing negative and discharged; I was made to go and sort out my transportation all by myself. This, I feel, is unsatisfactory as I personally, and I am sure many other patients, are not familiar with most of the centres having been driven there. I will suggest that the Centres make provisions of transportation for recovered patients to their respective locations even though same might be at a cost on the part of the patient whom has received a level of care for free.
iii. Lack of briefing of recovered patients upon discharge: when I was discharged, I was only given a face mask and was told that I am free to go home. This, I feel, is sub-standard as I would suggest that Centres brief recovered patients on how exactly they are to interact again the society and to know whether recovered patients can contract the virus again. I am aware the virus is novel however, there needs to be some sort of briefing before a recovered patient goes back into the society.
In all, there were several lessons learnt from my COVID-19 Experience, which I will like to state as follows:
Positivity – The mind-set I had, I strongly believe was a strong factor to my recovery as I never saw myself as one with a challenge or one in an unusual situation. I remained strong and lived my regular live whilst having an assurance of recovery in due time.
Importance of Family/Friends – I learnt that family is mostly all we have when we seem to be in a dead end and they ALWAYS will be there for us. I could not appreciate my friends more; they showed me the value of friendship by being a rock and pillar to me at a time that seemed like a down time in my life. I must specially appreciate my immediate family, friends and colleagues who stood by me and provided all necessary supports.
Highly dilapidated Health Sector – This pandemic has indeed exposed the level of chaos the Health Sector is faced with and shows that there is hope, as this should reignite the Government to have more interest in the health sector and other necessary sectors in view of any pandemic to occur in the future.
COVID-19 is REAL –. The myth that the virus could affect only aged persons is not true in its entirety. The virus affects all persons regardless of race, age, health issues, etc. I also learnt that the virus is not really a death sentence per se but it sure can take life and one will be indeed lucky if it does not take our life.
Having survived from the highly feared and dreaded virus, moving forward, I have decided to engage on wide National advocacy in the following thematic areas:
To enlighten the people at all levels especially those in the hinterlands on the existence of the COVID-19 virus and the impact it can have on our health. So far, I have commenced this by going on multiple networks and using various platforms such as CNBC Africa, Plus TV Africa, Arise TV, Silverbird Television, Channels, Naija Info FM (95.1) Instagram, Twitter,Youtube etc. to share my COVID-19 experience.In furtherance of this, I intend going on regional radio and TV stations that will give me access to persons at the grassroots as they form a large part of those in doubt of the existence and/or severity of the virus.
The need for everyone to take more seriously the issue of hygiene including but not limited to use of sanitizers, regular washing of hands, etc. and also further emphasize on the need to boost our immune system not just only because of Covid-19 but for other diseases that may spring forth.
I have also decided to speak more on the positive things I observed in the act and response of the Government. Particularly as it applies to my situation and further pursue the improvements in the areas highlighted above as I realised a lot of patients that have recovered have focused more on the negatives and I strongly see the need for all to come together as Nigeria is ours to build!
I will be calling on all persons and organisations including all recovered COVID-19 patients interested in this next step and hoping to collaborate to please contact me via email on email@example.com or call me on +2349099993465. I am also available on IG @ojhorde and on Twitter @ojhordeLP.
- Damlilere Ojo is Abuja based legal practitioner