Since the outbreak of the unprecedented COVID-19 virus, the world has been in a panic frenzy. Unlike any setback the world has experienced, the virus not only affects our health but has put a cloak in the wheels of our social lifestyle.
All over the world, close to three million people have been infected with the virus with a progressive death toll currently earmarking 184,643 deaths. While this is a cause for alarm, we find comfort in celebrating survivors or should I say champions who battled with the virus, beat it to a pulp and walked away strong. They are the reason we have hope that one day, the virus will meet it’s waterloo.
Below is an exclusive interview with a COVID-19 survivor, Charles Ifeanyi Ojukwu, a 29-year-old actor and model. He narrates in detail his battle with the deadly virus, from the point of diagnosis to treatment and recovery.
Q- How would you say you contracted the virus?
A- I can’t really place exactly where or how I contracted the virus but I remember visiting the airport twice during the outbreak of the virus in Nigeria. I was looking for endorsement deals to boost my modelling and acting career, so I met lots of people.
Q- While awaiting your test result up until the moment it came back positive, can you take us through the symptoms you felt and the nature of thoughts that dominated your mind?
A- When I was taken to the isolation centre after I tested positive, it wasn’t easy for me the first two days cause I was scared of what may come next. I was always moody but after some time with the help of the wonderful doctors and nurses who encouraged me frequently that the virus was not a death sentence for me and that everything will be alright, I brightened up. Their words encouraged me to feel better about myself and before you know it, my recovery process was speeding up and I began to relate with everyone in the ward.
Q- Most people only have knowledge of the virus based on what they’ve read or heard in the news, speaking from your personal experience, kindly describe the symptoms and how it affected your physical and mental health.
A- The first symptom I had was a fever, it was very severe. Initially, I thought it was malaria, so I got some drugs which lasted for three days but instead the symptom got worse. I wasn’t getting any better. Subsequently, other symptoms followed like sore throat and shortness of breath. I had a mental breakdown, it felt my thoughts followed a zig-zag pattern, could barely think straight, all I could do was get so scared.
Q- Amid battling the virus, how was life in quarantine? (procedures for medication, use of respiratory, lifestyle, meeting other patients, work ethics of the medical staff etc.)
A- The doctors and nurses always came to check on us. The nurses will give us our medications and check our body system (body temperature, heartbeat, pulse & blood pressure) to be sure that we are fine. They always did that with a smile on their face. The doctors will ask how we were feeling. Their kind gesture changed my perspective about doctors, I always thought that doctors are not friendly. They also served us good meals, at a time, I started gaining weight lol, the other patients were also wonderful, we woke up in the morning to pray together and we were always encouraging ourselves, that helped me a lot.
Q- Times where you lost hope for survival, where did you find solace? What gave you the strength to keep fighting?
A- The doctors and the nurses were a big part of my motivation. They always encouraged me to have faith, assuring me that it will pass. Also other patients I met there really encouraged me and that gave me hope. It really helped me ease my mental distress, somehow I had this cool sensation deep inside me that I was going to beat the virus.
Q- Are there areas you wish the government will look into as regards eradicating the virus?
A- Honestly, The government has done a great job already and they are still doing more in trying to contain the virus. As at the time I left there, more wards were already in construction due to the high number of cases recorded daily. However, I really wish the government could devise a strategy or maybe a machine that can detect people with the virus on time to avoid massive spread. This will also make the virus go into extinction very fast.
Q- Has there been any form of stigmatization since you left the quarantine centre?
A- Yes there is in fact. After testing negative twice and I returned home, my landlord called a meeting and asked me why the NCDC visited in the first place which I explained to him. Immediately I mentioned that they came to test me, everyone shifted as far as they could away from me. Not only that, I also see people pointing at me and muttering words whenever I come outside my house or go to get something. But then, I have gotten used to the system and that doesn’t bother me anymore, my main joy is that I am free from the virus.
Q- What advice would you give to Nigerians especially those who say the virus is not real?
A- Well, ignorance is why I had to test positive in the first place. I never believed that the virus was real and because of that, I was reluctant in taking precaution until the virus hit me. To all Nigerians out there, I must tell you, CORONAVIRUS IS REAL, please let’s try as much as possible to stay safe by taking precautionary measures like washing your hands regularly, wearing nose masks, staying at home, if you have to be out, stay some meters away from people especially anyone coughing or sneezing. If you feel symptoms of the virus, do well to contact the NCDC. Also lets endeavour to be our brother’s keeper. If you know someone who is having symptoms of the virus, encourage the person to contact the NCDC. You are not only saving yourself when you do that but saving more people’s life. I believe if we can do all these, soon, we will all get back to our normal lives.
Q- Having a close shave with death, has life been simplified for you? What are some of the vital lessons you learnt and what will you do differently going forward?
A- Yes, Yes and Yes again. Battling with coronavirus really humbled me, in fact, I have a different perspective on life now. Seeing that the patients in the ward were a blend of different classes of people in the society, It made me realize that everyone is equal in the sight of God and we should always treat anyone we see out there as our brothers and sisters no matter the level we find them. Also, information is key, we should always weigh whatever we hear, get the real facts and then draw our conclusions. For me, I now examine every information that comes to me because knowledge is power. Going forward, I have serious plans of reaching out to the poor in the society in my own little way. These people are also human, I have a great passion to put a smile on their face and I pray God gives me the resources and strength to achieve this.
Note: It wasn’t easy for Ojukwu to tell his story due to many triggers surrounding it, but here you are, reading it. I hope you learn something. If you are one of those doubting the existence of the virus, remember to be forewarned is forearmed. Be kind to leave him some words of encouragement.