-Dr Tunde Ologunde (Delta State)
A lot has been made of the COVID-19 in Nigeria; in the past few weeks, as the cases rise and risk multiplies, the public is gradually losing its guard as most have declared it all a huge hoax. However, if you are reading this, I assure you, amidst the politicking in much surrounding the virus and Nigeria’s handling so far, COVID-19 is very real, it is in Nigeria, and as a doctor, I have to live with the reality that my every day I go to work is another day of taking the huge leap of faith.
It was a Tuesday afternoon, seemingly like most. On my way back returning from work, I decided to check on my colleague, Dr G (not her real name), who was on self-isolation following a direct exposure to a suspected COVID-19 patient. The patient had been referred to the closest tertiary facility for testing and further management, but not before she had done her due diligence of proper assessment, unfortunately, with limited protective equipment.
About 30minutes before my arrival, Dr G had received feedback on the patient’s COVID-19 test result I was the first to hear it from her. Her facial expression was a mixture of disappointment and regret, her voice was heavy as she struggled to hold back the flood of emotions she was experiencing. The patient’s results came back positive for the COVID-19.
Gripped with shock upon the news, I stood there motionless for close to a minute…and as the seconds passed, her heavy words fractured into bitter tears. All I could do was to encourage, with feeble attempts to caution her against fear, lost in thoughts and deep sadness of the potential implication of this result. Without much to say, I offered to pray for her; perhaps it was why God had led me to her at the time.
I was not totally off the hook as I had also been involved in the management of the patient even though I didn’t make direct contact because of the high index suspicion Dr G had following her initial assessment. I had given my input and the patient was subsequently referred.
After gathering my thoughts and composure, I volunteered to inform the hospital management of the progress of things. The hospital management, in turn, informed relevant authorities and directed all six of us (three Doctors, a Pharmacist, a Laboratory Scientist and a Dental Therapist) who had made direct/indirect contact with the patient to begin self-isolation immediately.
The following day, a local government delegation led by the Chairman, also a Medical Doctor paid us a visit. After the Chairman’s address, the Disease Surveillance Notification Officer took our respective biodata and contact details while also handing us a digital thermometer for twice daily temperature checks, a symptoms checklist to be ticked on daily basis should in case anyone develops a symptom, and Azithromycin and Chloroquine tablets to be taken for 5 days in keeping with the State’s adopted management protocol.
Later that day, a press release surfaced online containing all the biodata and contact details we supplied earlier as well as the patient’s details. As would be expected, we all started receiving several calls and messages from unknown numbers. I immediately informed our hospital’s medical director who promised to get to the root of the matter. The Local Government Chairman reportedly denied authorizing any such release.
By now, there was already so much tension and we strongly considered taking legal actions. It would later turn out that the culprit was one of the Chairman’s media aides who claimed his PC and social media accounts were hacked. Several government functionaries would come over the next few days appealing to us and promising to fish out the perpetrators and punish them accordingly.
“And we know that all things worketh together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose”:
This was the scripture that I woke up with, and it wouldn’t just leave me for the rest of that day. I decided to create a WhatsApp group page for my partners in misery where we could freely interact, share information and encourage one other. I realized it was God using me to reach out to the others as many were being eaten alive by fear of the outcome of the days coming and anger from the fallouts of the media leakage.
Days passed and we all remained asymptomatic, courage improved.
It was now 13 days following contact with the patient, and as we had been earlier informed by an NCDC official, our samples were taken for testing the same day and would take 48 hours for the result to return.
During the waiting period, someone started a conversation on the group page. The comment paraphrased was something like this: Thank God we are all doing fine and most likely we do not have COVID-19 but what if they try to play politics on us and connive with the testing centre to falsely declare us ‘positive’ for obvious reasons?
This question provoked mixed reactions. I could sense tension rising once again. I wasn’t sure how to respond because, quite frankly, it was a valid concern considering how our personal information had been mismanaged earlier, our distrust of the system, and the various rumors and conspiracy theories being weaved and passed along by the public .
But hey, all things worketh together for good to them that love God… remember? With this realization, I reassured everyone we were going to be fine and we kept our fingers crossed expecting the results.
All six of us tested negative to God’s glory. And we have since returned to our duty posts, stronger and wiser.
In conclusion, it was largely a period of retreat and refreshing for me as I was able to invest more time praying and searching the scriptures. I also got to finish up some pending online courses and had more time to prepare for my upcoming exam. The Lord also opened doors for financial and material blessings from different quarters in that season.
My greatest testimony is that I found strength and encouragement in God through that season so much that it overflowed to others as the scripture says:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”- 2 Cor. 1:3-4
COVID-19 is real. Everyday frontline workers face this fear daily. We can win this as a nation, but only if we all work together. Be cautious, stay safe. God is with us. God bless you.