As Nigeria hit 100 days of the outbreak of COVID -19 pandemic, doubts about the existence of the disease persist despite the spike in confirmed cases nationwide.
However, as part of efforts to dispel the rumors that the pandemic is a scam, one COVID-19 survivor Timilehin Ifegbesan shared his story with Chioma Obinna during a webinar last week.
Excerpts: “I was hurt when I shared my COVID-19 experience and friends on social media said I should share the money I was paid by the Federal Government.” These were the words of Timilehin Ifegbesan, a COVID-19 survivor in Lagos.
Timilehin, a physiotherapist was exposed to COVID-19 through a fellow colleague who had contracted the virus while attending to a patient. But little did he know that although, he was not direct contact with the positive patient he may also be a victim.
According to him, although he already had known that as a healthcare practitioner working in an environment where contracting disease could be possible he never knew he was going to be a victim but had remained positive about the pandemic.
Timilehin who was on internship at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, was advised to isolate after his friend and colleague tested positive to the virus. He tested positive while in self-isolation.
“I had contact with a colleague who was positive and at that point, she was not aware. She had contact with a patient who later tested positive. Through contact tracing, I got contacted. When I got the news, even at that point I was still optimistic that maybe I would be negative.
Timilehin said he was eager to be tested.
“It took about four days to get the result. I was still in isolation until the result came out. I had my test on the 26th of April and the result came out on the 30th of April.”
Journey to isolation
According to him, he was initially scared and conserved. “Getting to the isolation I listed people that I had contact with. I was told to go and isolate because I was already a suspected case. By the 30th of April, I got a call around 9 pm that my result was positive. On the 1st of May, I packed my things but I was still asymptomatic at that point. I did not have a fever or a cough.”
Treated at the LUTH isolation centre, Timilehin recalled that the moment he got there, the doctors came and checked his vitals and was given a thermometer.
“Every morning and evening, they come around to check our temperature our oxygen levels. We were given medications, morning, afternoon, and evening. We also had food to eat. The health workers were very nice to us. According to him, each patient was treated according to his or her symptoms.”
As a physiotherapist and asymptomatic COVID 19 patient, Timilehin added colour to his recovery process knowing the importance of exercise.
“Some people were on oxygen. Because I was asymptomatic, I started exercising there and doing things like aerobics every morning.”
He also encouraged others who were not very sick to join in the exercise session.
“Exercise keeps the body active, some of the patients joined. My friend also sent me a guideline from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, and encouraged me that it was not a death sentence.
“That gave me the courage to encourage others in the isolation centre. I was able to help even those that were on oxygen. I helped them with breathing exercises.
“Generally, almost everybody was treated for malaria. This is understandable because malaria is endemic in Nigeria and again, you are dealing with a virus that affects the immune system. It is not wrong if anybody says they were given malaria drugs because I was also treated for malaria and once the dosage ended everybody was fine.”
He further explained that the malaria drug as a precautionary measure to treat malaria in the system because there is no particular drug for the virus. “It is just like a prophylaxis treatment.”
Timilehin described his recovery process as an experience despite the fact that the doctors were nice but at some point it became tiring and all they did was to encourage themselves.
“At a point in the centre, some people were losing hope some people were feeling bad because they were separated from their families.”
“I spent only 12 days in the isolation centre. I got there on the 1st of May and on the 12th of May, I tested negative for the second time. When I first got there, they were testing us every three days. The policy then was that when you test negative twice you will be discharged.
Timilehin who did not tell his parents about his predicament said the patients could only relate with the outside world through video calls.
I was hurt the first time I came out of the isolation centre. I shared my story on Twitter but all I got was abuse. A lot of people said I should share the money the government had given me. I told them I was not given any money. At a point, it was overwhelming. I felt hurt.
But as time went on, a lot of people were contacting me to share my stories and I wondered why other people were not coming out to share their stories. At a point, when people contacted me I said I was not interested.
Timilehin’s lowest moment is heart-touching. “There was this elderly man we cared for. He already had health issues and was also COVID-19 positive. I met him in the isolation centre and before he tested negative and was discharged.
Later, we just got the news that he died. Everybody was devastated. It was quite painful for me. Apart from that, every other day was just normal. I woke up, did my exercises, took my meals, medications, and used my laptop”.