It is no longer news that yours sincerely was diagnosed of COVID-19. I have written so much about this virus and never knew that I will write about it based on personal experience.
Yes! If a journalist fails to write, what else would he do? Since someone reported, “in the beginning….” someone will still remain to tell the story even at the end. However, going into isolation by a journalist is like having a first-hand experience of how incarceration looks like. It is not fun.
COVID-19 is “magical” and manifests in different ways. All through my tuck-away in isolation, I was conscious about any change in the body system and followed up as they manifest. Was it cough? Blocked nose or headache?
To His glory, one can tell the story today.
When the news came out that the Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu and the Secretary to the Delta State Government (SSG), Mr Chiedu Ebie, had contracted the virus, most of us who were working closely with them knew that it was only a matter of time before some of us would test positive for the virus.
Then came the news that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, his wife, Edith and daughter had the virus; it became even more obvious that the novel coronavirus is not a respecter of individuals. These persons were, without doubt very careful from the onset of the global health “war” in observing the prescribed protocols.
Immediately news that the dreaded COVID-19 had hit the country through Lagos, Governor Okowa put in place precautionary measures to ensure that it was prevented from creeping into Delta and catching the state nappy. He went further to fortify himself and to lead by example. He was always on facemask and as someone working with him, you dreaded being seen by him without your facemask or wearing it improperly.
Nonetheless, on Wednesday, July 8, 2020, some colleagues and I were covering a media briefing by the Commissioner for Information, Mr Aniagwu, his first after leaving the isolation centre when a senior colleague called me aside to inform me about the need to visit the hospital as my test result was positive. As someone working closely with those who have tested positive to the virus, it was just “normal” to know your health status, so, I was among those who compulsively went for the test.
Immediately, I was torn between writing the story from the press briefing and going straight to the hospital. Journalistic instinct took over and I took solace at the famous Unity Hall where I had the whole hall all to myself to do my report on the briefing.
Coincidentally, that day was His Excellency’s birthday. I had about four news stories and a features to work on and as at that time, it was already close to 1 pm. After writing the story from the press briefing, I decided to visit the hospital first before knowing the next step to take.
As an individual, I hardly fall sick, so, hospital was not such a familiar place to me and my experience on that day further strengthened my faith in God for I not to visit there. At the isolation centre of Specialist Hospital, I was not attended to till about 4.30 pm, and I must give kudos to Mr Aniagwu and the Chief Press Secretary, to the Governor, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, for the roles they played on that day.
At the end of the long wait, I was given necessary drugs and I went into isolation.
For a man who started his career as a roving reporter, nosing for news, and someone who cannot remember the last time he stayed at a place for a period of one week, the word “isolation” was heart-rendering; but with COVID-19 there was no option. You just cannot meet with others.
It is a fact that I was prepared for COVID-19 and I took a lot of precautions for it not to infect or get me down. As someone who has read and written a lot about it, I was prepared, but never envisaged that I will be infected.
It was when I started taking the drugs that the ailment manifested fully. There was a night breathing was so difficult that both the mouth and nose were opened all through, at times, the head was too heavy, not one to be described as headache, there was cold and sleepless nights too.
After a few days of isolating and complaining about my experiences, I asked a doctor who is a close friend of mine, Dr Henry Ojefia if I could go to the farm. Ojefia from the outset was very concerned and kept telling me about the need to engage in physical exercise. I told him that based on isolation protocols, I could not move around freely, because friends or colleagues would never understand.
I told him that ordinarily farm would be the best place to isolate and also exercise. He bought into it, but alas! As I was preparing myself for the farm, a very cherished friend, Rev. Fr. John Konyeke, called to ask how I was faring. I was managing, I answered and he told me not to move out, that he knew that I would be restless staying at a place. I obeyed him, but for 24 hours as I took solace in the farm, working hard to generate sweat. Yes! How can you sweat with that type of cold. I experienced such during our NYSC days in Jigawa.
After some time, with the heat of the sun and serious efforts to work out sweat, I felt relieved when I started sweating. To say that fatigue was the order of the day will be an understatement as every effort generated heavy panting as if I ran 100 meters race.
An elder who was always checking on me had warned, “Fidelis, no matter what, do not give up, stay strong and it will soon be over.” He called regularly and several others like him kept calling, showing concern. The General Manager of The Pointer Newspapers, Mr Monday Uwagwu, never missed a day without calling but I was careful, encouraging them too, telling them all was well. Honestly, I appreciate the concern for my wellbeing by the Communication Manager to the Governor, Mr Jackson Ekwugum, his encouraging words were so touchy. Dantes Odogwu was always chatting me up, giving hope, and Jonathan Onwuka too.
Of course, I tried to play down on making it obvious that I was positive, because it is natural to have a lot of dependants too and they don’t need to despair. So, we managed the situation, but with the discovery that I could isolate in the farm and also use it as a form of exercise, the isolation period was not wasted. One soft-spoken Dr. Peace at the isolation centre did not also object to my isolating in the farm but with a caveat: “No one should be close to you or touch the things you will use.” I smiled, when you have a whole farm to yourself, what can be a better isolation centre? Of course with fresh veggies too.
Although, I failed to write the stories and features about Governor Okowa’s birthday as it was overtaken by events, certainly, I was not idle. Newsden.com.ng, an online newspaper was born within the period and I was made the publisher. So, among other things, I was engrossed in editing and writing stories as they came. Thank God for technology, through phone calls, I was in touch with other online publishers – Emmanuel Enebeli, Onitsha Shedrack, Miracle Enuji, Austin Oyibode and others, so, it was also a period to understand the game of online publishing and the number of visitors to Newsden within these few days is a clear evidence that the period of the isolation was not useless.
Did I rest? Tough question. How does one rest? What is really rest? For the first three days, it was tough and there was no alternative to lying down most of the times, and the doctor friends were very serious, warning me to lie on my stomach. They said it was better for breathing. But rest, may be, with time, we will understand the true concept about how to rest.
Just yesterday afternoon, I got a call from a colleague, Nelson Egware, informing me about the test result, that it came out negative. Dr Peace also confirmed it but, will it change anything about how I am going to relate with people?
Before testing positive, I tried to adopt safety measures, yet I got the COVID-19. COVID-19 is still out there, in places you will least expect to get it; so, what is the way forward? Can one be in endless isolation? The health protocols seem not to be enough. That is my dilemma as I celebrate my victory over COVID-19.
Yes! Victory because, unfortunately, it has claimed a lot of lives even in Nigeria and like the harmattan haze, the COVID-19 wind is still blowing carelessly as there is no drug yet.
Was I afraid? Certainly, NO! Why should I? In several passages of the Bible, you will find, “do not be afraid.” So, in whatever situation, I look up to Him for directions on how to make the best use of such situation. The question is, what is in it for me? And, when you know that He always has the best for you, you can never be afraid. All that you can do is, give Him thanks.
I was in isolation when Governor Okowa and his family came out to thank God for His healing powers. That thanksgiving may likely be the first from those who had come out from COVID-19 hale and hearty.
It was really significant, because, his going into isolation had a lot of implications and, as he noted during that thanksgiving service held at the Government House Chapel, Asaba, “God has done so much for us and we will continue to thank Him every day of our lives.
“Sometimes, I wonder how and why we deserve His mercy. It is for His grace not because we are so righteous.”
Naturally, one can only but say, God, thank you.
To all of you out there who showed a lot of concern through calls and other supports, Chief Benjamin Elue, Chief Godwill Obielum, Pharm. Paul Enebeli, Dr. Eugene Okolocha, Elder B.M.O. Ebonwu, Rev. Fr. Malachi Okonkwo, Rev. Fr. Mark Nwoko, Rev. Fr. Donatus Chukwuedo, Barr. Kingsley Egugbo, Mr Harry Adughor and family, Hon. Chika Ossai, Dr. Tabs Tabowei, Dr Olisa Obiosa (a professional in the true sense of professionalism), Dr. Kemi Emina, Mr Peter Idion, Hon. Uche Uraih, Chief Henry Okechukwu, Lady May Inije, my brothers, Harry Ojji and Johnson Agbaike, Comrade Omon-Julius Onabu, Comrade Festus Ahon, Comrade Ruth Peters, Comrade Paul Osuyi, Theo of Niger Delta Today, Sis Stella Ewuocha, the Amudos, Comrade Geofrey Ubaka, Steve Onyeme, my brother, Chuks Eboagwu, among numerous others out there, I cannot thank you enough for the show of love. Of course, members of my immediate family were up to the task and they nursed me well to His glory.
To my brothers that we suffered the same fate together, Nelson Egware and Kingsley Kwubosu, you guys should relax, COVID-19 pandemic will surely end and we shall sit down to laugh over it.
Definitely, there are still those who believe it is a scam. Please don’t wait to experience it before you believe; it is real. To those who believe that money is paid to those who are infected, be careful. Government can only pick your bills when you are in the isolation centre, but just imagine what it is like staying in a place without contact with your loved ones. Though, it is not a death sentence, it is also not fun to be on medication that you will adhere to rigidly.
Once again, please avoid people if you can. That is, self isolate even when you don’t have the disease until you are sure that the pandemic is over because, certainly, like every war, there must be an end. Just avoid being a victim.
May God continue to guard and guide us through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sir Fidelis Egugbo is the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Delta State on Media