Nigerian professor narrates bitter experience with COVID-19

A professor of English Language at the University of Ibadan (UI) has narrated how he battled with the deadly coronavirus.

The professor, Remi Raji, a poet and former president of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), explained that he noticed the symptoms of the virus on December 10, 2020 and had a 14-day experience “as a patient in the Intensive Care Unit of the well-manicured facility called IDC, Olodo”.

Mr Raji disclosed his experience on Monday in an article in The News magazine entitled: “All I remembered in the Bush of the Impossible Virus.”

He disclosed that he thought it was mere “anatomical disturbance that Paracetamol could banish easily overnight” when he had some feverish symptoms on December 10, 2020, only to find out days after that he had contracted COVID-19.

How it started

“In previous days, I had no exact recollection of how and where I got infected, but my journey in the bush of coronavirus started on December 10, 2020 with a mild fever. My body wasn’t used to mild fever; it had to be acute, but this was different,” he wrote.

“It started gradually as mild, some anatomical disturbance that paracetamol could banish easily overnight. I called at the University Health Services for a test and medication. The recommended drugs indicated that I had malaria. I followed the regimen of prescription duly. But I was worried slightly that the mild fever was developing even more recalcitrant as I took the tablets.”

Mr Raji said third day after medication, he thought that the tablets given to him were fake because he wasn’t feeling better.

“I knew something was wrong but never did I imagine it had to do with the dreaded virus. I had ghost-like dialogues with disembodied, unseen figures. I was actually talking to myself, though sensibly. It was past nine at night when I decided that it would be dangerous to sleep in the house overnight. I believed that I was not alone again. There were presences around me, I insisted I would not sleep in the house,” he wrote.

He later went to the university’s clinic for a series of tests.

“There was a test due for the following morning but which the medical staff were able to conduct that night. The malarial parasites had cleared from my system, I could hear the doctors and the nurse from a distance. In three days, I had lost appetite. It was unbelievable unto me that I would push away Sola’s special delicacy of fish. Even my nose had become a mere facial ornament. I could not smell it if you brought the strongest perfume to my face or if I was marooned in an island of pigs”.

“The doctor answered me calmly even as I continued to pelt the space with questions. I was speaking with myself. My temperature was running crazy. The doctor returned again with intravenous shots. I thought I wanted to vomit. There was nothing to vomit but bile. It took a long time for me to slip into sleep. Sola sat there, praying. I tried to smile at the prayer warrior but all I felt was pain in almost every joint of my body. I could count each wincing pain by the solid tangibility of the skeletal discomfort.”

He said he was later moved to UCH in the afternoon to test for COVID-19.


Tested positive…

“Inside the raging ambulance, I commenced a rapid conversation with a man who was silent throughout the journey from UI to UCH. I did not know that my daughter was right inside the bus with me. A solitary oxygen cylinder stood at attention inside the ambulance. It was the cylinder I was talking to.

“With more medications from Jaja, I settled into a separate corner of the house. My body temperature was still playing golf and rugby all at once without a referee. With mild throat irritation and heavy breathing, I waited for the predictable result from Virology. It came late into the night through a call. I tested positive for coronavirus.”

He explained that while passing through unforgettable pains, his wife, Sola Raji, was busy praying for his survival.

He was later taken to the Intensive Care Unit of the well-manicured facility called IDC, Olodo in Ibadan, Oyo capital, in an ambulance belonging to the Oyo State Emergency Operation Centre.

The professor’s case led to the shutdown of the University Health Services also known as university clinic.

“It was the right and appropriate procedure of decontamination but I shuddered at the condition under which the medical officers operated. They were barely kitted without PPEs, improvised or not. Temporary closures without the provision of protective gears and other preventive protocols will continue to expose frontline health workers to avoidable risks.”

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“For me, each passing day was a gift. With proper medication and management, I returned to a certain stability which was a pleasant relief to the IDC medical team. My first two days in ICU, they said, were very frightening. I was hallucinating; I came in dehydrated; my temperature instability scared them stiff. I could hear one of the medical staff from a din distance praying intensely for me. Dr Ogundokun and Dr Afonja always arrived in time to check for vital signs.”

“The nurses and other health workers took special interest in me. They found my lost appetite and gave me the lease of a second life. In a matter of days, I graduated from an inelastic human form on the rack of pain and treacherous headache into a bubbly athlete eager to take the extra walk around the open space of the Centre. Dr Akinpelu, the physiotherapist, was impressed by the improvement. I was always happy to do the thanksgiving exercise each passing day.”

Lesson

Mr Raji explained that his experience taught him a lesson that truly COVID-19 is real and should not be handled with levity.

“This was my life in the bush of the impossible virus. If only I could walk out of this place alive, I would tell people around me of the reality of the virus. So beware, do that social distancing religiously, and wear the face mask appropriately until further notice. The mask is no decoration for the chin. And when that ordinary fever or cough is prolonged, or when that respiratory discomfort is accompanied by joint aches, loss of smell or taste, irritation and palpitations, take real caution.

The cliché about “seeing your doctor if the ailment persists after three days” is damn real. Test for the virus as early as possible,” he narrated.

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