Dr. Oluwatimilehin Ifegbesan, a psysiotherapist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital Idi-Araba, Lagos was a COVID-19 patient treated at one of the Lagos Isolation Centres. He was recently discharged after having spent 12 days at the centre.
He speaks to An24.net correspondent, Ganiyat Ganiyu on his experience as a COVID-19 patient.
How does it feel to be out of the isolation centre?
It feels great to be back. I mean the whole world is on a standstill. Everyone is talking about it. Going through it and later testing negative is elevating. There is this joy that I have and that’s why I chose to tell my story.
How did you know you had the virus since you were asymptomatic?
That question is a nice one, I mean I was asymptomatic all through. About 43% of world’s population are asymptomatic. This is a kind of virus you might have without knowing unless through testing. I underwent about five tests; three came back positive while two were negative.
Why did you take the test since you weren’t showing any symptoms?
I got called by the NCDC because someone I had contact with, tested positive for the virus. It was in the process of contact tracing that I was called up for the test and it came back positive.
How did you feel while you were at the isolation centre since you were asymptomatic?
I spent 12 days at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital Isolation centre. But all through my stay, I didn’t feel any symptoms. Although, I saw people at the isolation centre that were coughing and throwing up, and those who lost their appetites, sense of taste, difficulty in breathing while some were having spotting in their cough. A lot were also asymptomatic like me.
Were asymptomatic patients in the same ward with those with severe symptoms?
Well, at my isolation centre in LUTH when you came in newly into the block, you were moved to the back while we that had been there before stayed in front because they believed we ought to have been getting better because of the medications.
What came to your mind when you tested positive for the virus?
I mean, I thought I was going to die(laughs). This is a mysterious virus and nobody knows how it’s going to go. I prayed and I informed a few friends. I also asked some of my friends that were there what I would need. I went with clothes, laptops and essential things I knew I was going to need.
How many days did it take you to get your test result?
My result came out in four days. I was told by the NCDC to isolate myself pending the time my result came out.
Did anyone contract the virus through you?
Yes, some of my friends contracted the virus through me. They were equally moved to the isolation centre. Some are out now while others are still there. We still communicate to know how they are fairing.
How was your experience at the isolation centre?
The Isolation centre was a bitter and sweet experience for me. As I got into the ward, the nurses gave me thermometer to monitor my temperature and a bed was prepared for me. Doctors came in every morning to give us drugs and check our oxygen saturation. At first I was scared and didn’t know what was happening. I saw people on supplementary oxygen. I had to come to terms with the fact that that I was there and the only way to get out was to test negative.
I was asymptomatic but I reacted to the drugs I was being given because they new to my system. Because I am a physiotherapist, I figured that we needed to be fit since the virus affects respiratory system. I spoke with the medical team who gave me the go ahead, so every morning, the asymptomatic ones engaged in dance exercise while the ones on oxygen were also engaged in some breathing exercise.
The doctors and nurses were nice to us all through. It was fulfilling for me at the end of the day because I could see people getting better.
Was mental health prioritised at your isolation centre?
Having to be there for a long time will most likely affect your mental health. Although, no psychologist on the medical team but we there were encouraging ourselves.
At some point, we were caring for ourselves. Sincerely, it was very difficult for people with underlying medical issues. We were scared for them. There was a time a man slumped and we had to rally round to bring him back to life. Different people were calling the emergency team to save him.
How many times were you tested to confirm your status?
We were tested every three days. I was tested three times while there. The first was positive while the other two were negative.
Was there any preferential treatment for anyone at the isolation centre?
At my isolation centre, everyone was treated as one but again it depended on who was at your centre. I mean, if a state official was at your centre there was no way they would not be treated specially. But we weren’t treated like prisoners, you could order things and they would bring it to you.
What were you treated with?
I am going to be careful not to mention names because I’m aware of the implications. I was disappointed when I saw someone come out to mention the drugs that were used to treat him. I remember when Trump said chloroquine could be used for treatment, we recorded chloroquine poisoning.
We were given some medications and fruits. Our food was controlled by a dietician. We were fed with balance diet.
Dokpesi came out of the isolation centre and said he was treated for malaria. What do you have to say about this? Is COVID-19 really a malaria virus?
When I saw his video, it was funny to me. If he was on oxygen and gasping for breath or lost appetite, he wouldn’t have come out to say that. We have stages of the virus. We have the asymptomatic, mild, moderate, severe and critical.
Coming out to say you were treated for malaria is painful to the family of the people that had died from this virus. It’s just like me coming out to say because I was asymptomatic, there is no COVID-19.
What do you think about the use of ginger, garlic, turmeric etc ?
I have been trying to avoid that question(laughs). Ginger, onions, garlic, pineapple, etc work for the hormones no doubt but the dosage can’t be measured. You don’t know how much your body would need. I have heard cases from my colleagues where people reported with gastrointestinal problem because of the overdose of these local herbal remedy.
Many believe the virus isn’t real. What do you have to say?
The virus is more than real.I think the NCDC is even under-testing. There are many people with the virus than we think, especially in Lagos. With what I have seen, it’s not a scam. It is difficult to convince so many people and that is why I am sharing my story so people can know that the virus is real.
I wouldn’t want people to undermine the virus. The virus is real and washing our hands regularly and the use of face mask is here to stay.
Were you at any point stigmatised since you came out of the isolation centre?
Yes, at first but now it’s changing. My friends were saying hi from a distance and I had to tell my family members not to come close to me. I think it’s changing now and that’s why I’m more confident in sharing my story..
Did the experience change anything about you?
It would be to be more emphatic towards people, which I have always been because of the nature of my work. For me, it was just a phase; something I went through and I’m out. It has made me to be more grateful. I intend to be an advocate for COVID-19 survivor, I want to encourage people to speak up and sensitise people on the virus.