I’m sure you all never want to hear COVID-19 again right? Unfortunately, it is what it is, it’s here, it’s real and it’s something we have to deal with. To say COVID -19 is a serious disease is an understatement, too many lives have been lost due to its complications. It is therefore rather unfortunate that despite the high death rates, some people still believe Covid-19 is a scam!
I had a chat with an old friend of mine who just survived COVID, and our conversation brought home some of the many issues that have come with how Covid -19 is being perceived by some folks. My friend, (male) I know a lot of you would be surprised as the blog focuses more on women😀 . However, it does not mean the blog is anti-male, we have to practise what we preach. I preach inclusion, so therefore I represent everybody. (My interviews will still be strictly female though, we still need to support ourselves to the top😉 ).
A COVID-19 Survivor’s Story
My friend – Bolaji became unwell sometime in mid-January. Cough, Joint pain and some other symptoms which were similar to malaria symptoms. He went to the hospital where he works for a test (he’s a Systems Analyst ) and he was told he had malaria. He also took a Covid test at Sobi Specialist Hospital (the designated test centre for Ilorin metropolis). Bolaji took the test because of the similar symptoms and was told the result would be sent to him via e-mail or text message. He was also told that if he did not receive any response, then it means the result was negative. His doctor put him on some malaria medication whilst he was waiting for the results of the Covid test.
Feeling slightly better, he went about his business with the belief that if the result were positive, he would definitely be contacted. So my friend embarked on a road trip to Lagos, visited family and friends and had a good time. On his return journey, he had to exit the car at a checkpoint, and that was where he noticed there was a problem. He had difficulty getting out of the car, he was in serious pains and with a few hours left in his journey, he knew there was fire-on-the mountain. After a quick call to his wife, they agreed it was better for him to drive straight to the hospital.
Thankfully, he made it there, his wife was waiting for him and they were quickly attended to. The doctor suspected Pneumonia, he was then asked to do a repeat COVID test (the result which he has not received to date). He was told to go home and advised to come back in 2 days if his condition was not improving.
The next day, he woke up feeling really poorly and went to the specialist hospital. On getting there, the consultant asked to see the test result before treatment could be started. At this point, he was obviously very ill but he had no choice than to drive to the ministry to get his results. The result was finally located and it was POSITIVE. The test centre actually got a positive result and did not contact the person! Negligence at its peak, this is a life-threatening virus and the thought that the results of the tests are not been handled properly is sickening.
Bolaji went back to the specialist hospital and treatment began in earnest. At some point after admission, he passed out! Thankfully, he was already at the hospital and was put on oxygen as breathing had become a major problem for him. Bolaji was in the hospital for a few days after which he went home and was treated at home till he recovered. After recovering, he went for another Covid test which came back positive. He did another, got a positive test again and even though he had recovered, he couldn’t go back to work as a result of the positive tests. He finally got a clear sometimes last week and is now out of Isolation. Thankfully, a positive end to a 3 months ordeal.
Bolaji is not the only Covid-19 survivor I know, however, a few things struck me from Bolaji’s story hence my sharing it.
Indifference or total disregard to existence of Covid-19
It worries me that up till now, some people still believe that Covid-19 is not real. This belief is more common with the uneducated people in Nigeria and I believe in some other parts of the world. Covid-19 has thankfully not been too catastrophic in Africa. Some people think that this is because of the abundant sunshine while others believe it’s because of a higher immunity as a result of exposure to similar viruses. Whatever the reason, I find it appalling that people still believe a disease that could be as deadly as Covid is not real!
The manner in which Bolaji’s COVID test was handled is very scary. Their action or inaction of the Kwara State test centre is shameful, a clear case of dereliction of duty! It shows that even the workers at the centre do not believe it exists or they simply do not care. Some people laugh at others who take necessary precautions and go about not adhering to the safety rules or doing it half-heartedly.
Although COVID-19 causes only mild illness in most people, it can make some people very ill. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes) appear to be more vulnerable.
I believe a lot more people have had COVID 19 without even knowing it, they have probably treated it as Malaria (in the case of Africa). Bolaji’s wife was with him throughout his COVID fight but was never ill and her COVID test result came back negative. This proves that some people could be exposed to it but not get it or could be simply asymptomatic.
The danger is in passing it to people who may not be so lucky, either because of age or underlying issues. It is therefore important to let people know that COVID is real which is why I appreciate people like Bolaji who are happy to share their story. This leads me to the second issue – Stigmatisation.
Social Stigmatization of COVID Patients.
Social Stigma (in this context) is the negative association between a person or a group of people who share certain characteristics of a specific disease. Such people may be labelled, stereotyped and treated differently because of a perceived link with a disease. My friend Bolaji experienced this when he went back to work. The reason is that COVID 19 is a new disease and there is still very little known about it and people tend to be afraid of the unknown.
The problem with stigmatization is it can contribute to the spreading of the virus because people may hide the illness to avoid discrimination and because they are not adopting the necessary precautions. It could also prevent people from seeking medical care immediately which could lead to health complications. It, therefore, poses a serious threat to the lives of healthcare workers, patients, and survivors of the disease, basically everyone.
Scams and The Conspiracy Theorists
Another issue of concern is the manner in which some authorities have been handling testing and test result. From personal experience (even outside Nigeria) you understand why people think it’s all a scam. There have been too many cases of people paying for tests and not getting results (I experienced this in Nigeria).
In the United Kingdom, a day 2 day 8 test was introduced in February for people arriving in the Uk. The test Kits are quite pricey, but, so many people have complained of not getting results! This is giving credence to people that believe that COVID – 19 is a conspiracy/scam. Governments need to do more in tieing loose ends regarding testing and results. This will not only help manage Covid-19 cases effectively but it will reduce the belief by some that it’s all a scam thereby ensuring everyone is taking the necessary precautions.
COVID 19 is real and it is important that everyone is aware of this and are taking necessary precautions to protect not just themselves but others. The government (all over the world) have stepped up and are doing their best to contain an almost impossible virus but the people need to do more in this fight.
Bolaji’s story could have gone south, if not because of his awareness of the COVID and his proactive response to his symptoms. Although he and the other patients were treated well at the specialist hospital, the Kwara state government needs to do better with the COVID – 19 tests procedure. Their negligence could have cost Bolaji his life!
We all have a duty to discuss this disease and its impact openly, honestly and effectively. It is important to be intentional and thoughtful when communicating on social media and other platforms. We should all challenge myths and stereotypes and choose words carefully when talking about COVID 19. We should be supportive and considerate towards survivors and stop stigmatizing survivors or associating the diseases to people from a specific area.
Thank you Bolaji for sharing your story.
Feel free to share your survivor story, it will go a long way in quashing fear and stigmatization associated with COVID. I believe I had it but never got tested as I had a mild case. Don’t be afraid to share your story and lastly, Get the vaccine!