I work as a COVID-19 case manager in one of the federal teaching hospitals in Nigeria. I have received several pieces of training on infection prevention and control (IPC) of COVID-19 and I practice all non-pharmacologic measures religiously. In my center, we managed many cases of COVID-19 with excellent results during the first wave of the outbreak in Nigeria. However, just at the beginning of the second wave, I got infected and this story chronicles my experience with this “novel disease.”
One fateful Tuesday morning, I started feeling some malaise and the general feeling of being unwell. I brushed it aside thinking I might have overworked myself. Later in the evening, the symptoms persisted and I took some pain killers and a brand of antimalarial. Three days later, I started having low-grade fever and I felt the initial antimalarial might be ineffective, so I bought another brand that I believe is more potent. I commenced the second antimalarial and felt a little relief. Meanwhile, I was also on high-dose vitamins and Zinc tablets. However, on Sunday morning I couldn’t perceive smell so well. I also complained to my wife that the usual special meal on Sundays that was served was bland and tasteless. It was at this stage that I started suspecting that something must be amiss.
At this time, my appetite started dipping and I noticed pains in both eyes (no redness or discharge) which is more marked if I tried to look sideways. I called an Ophthalmologist friend who advised that I should come for an eye check in the clinic. I initially agreed, but on second thoughts I declined on the grounds that I will expose some innocent colleagues peradventure my diagnosis is COVID-19. On Monday morning I submitted my samples for PCR testing and I realized that I got tired easily and pant after a few minutes walk.
On Tuesday evening, I got my PCR results as positive. I was happy and sad at the same time. Happy that I now knew what exactly was responsible for this myriad of symptoms and on the other hand, I was sad that I got infected despite my high level of compliance with preventive measures. I always wore a face mask, washed my hands/sanitized using alcohol hand rub frequently, maintained physical distancing, and avoided large gatherings. Since the outbreak started I only attended church online and never visited anyone at home. So where did I go wrong, how did I fall prey to this masquerade? Was it at work? Was it from my children who had been attending school since the lockdown was relaxed? Will I suffer only a mild/moderate form of the disease? How will I disclose to my family and colleagues at work? Won’t I be stigmatized? How about my family members, hope they won’t be infected? Many questions raced through my mind unanswered and I braced up to face the coming days.
Home care and health challenges
I informed my wife and colleagues at work the following morning. I commenced home care and monitoring of oxygen saturation (SpO2), temperature, and blood pressure at home. My temperature never exceeded 380C, BP was normal all through and my initial SpO2 was 95/96%. The cough started on Wednesday (one day, post-diagnosis) and worsened over the next few days for which I was commenced on an antibiotic and antiviral drug. I had a brief episode of diarrhea which resolved in 36 hours. I now noticed that my fever was more in the evenings and coupled with the worsening cough, I could barely sleep at night. By Friday (3-days, post-diagnosis), I noticed breathlessness and my SPo2 dropped further and my managing team prescribed steroids. I could not take deep breaths and I was unable to speak without panting; I could barely pick up calls and now I knew I had severe COVID-19. I could only sleep face-up as any other sleeping position stimulated a prolonged bout of cough and breathlessness. At this juncture, family members were getting worried, but I kept reassuring them that all would be well, even though I needed reassurance myself! I could only tolerate hot tea and fruits. Food was tasteless, at times bitter and I had lost my appetite.
On the ninth day, post-diagnosis, fever stopped and eye pain reduced and I stepped out of my room for the first time in days! My recovery was slow but steady and my appetite returned gradually, the cough stopped about 10 days, post-diagnosis, but breathlessness still persisted. My taste improved a little and I could start smelling perfume about 13 days after the initial diagnosis. Although most symptoms had cleared by day 15, post-diagnosis, weakness was still persistent. A follow-up PCR test on day 16 after initial testing returned negative but I could only return to work eight days later. About eight weeks after the initial lab diagnosis, I had recovered fully with no residual sequelae.
Through it all, I am grateful I came out alive to tell the story. My COVID-19 experience is an intriguing one as I experienced quite a number of symptoms with some severe manifestations. COVID-19 is no respecter of persons and we must not lower our guards. An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure and with the current rollout of vaccines globally, it is expedient to get vaccinated while still abiding with all recommended preventive measures.
Please keep safe and healthy!