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My COVID-19 Story In Africa

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As promised, I will be posting experiences of friends who suffered and survived COVID-19 in Ghana. For the purpose of proper impact and targeting, we will feature young people only.

Our first narrative is from my own good friend Daniel Kofi Poku Kofi Poku. KP is a businessman in Accra and has given informed consent for his identity to be made public. Prior to suffering COVID-19, he had always been a physically well young man. He narrates his ordeal….

“To begin, let me state that dead people don’t talk. Our departed brethren will never be able to tell their stories and so whichever version you listen to, know that the real ordeals are buried with the sufferers in the graveyard.

General bodily pains, coupled with occasional stomach upsets and simple cold which I kept ignoring for days almost swept me off my feet.
I reported to the hospital for routine checks and to run a full blood count to find out why I was experiencing these symptoms. Results of the tests showed that I had a drop in my blood level, had typhoid fever and H-Pylori(Stomach ulcer) . I was running an abnormally high temperature on the day I reported. I took a COVID-19 test that same day and the result was due in about 4 days. I was detained in the clinic to begin treatment for malaria and typhoid.
Three days of medication whiles on admission and I wasn’t seeing any significant change so I forwarded my results to a doctor friend who said he thought Covid was more likely and that the typhoid test that had been conducted did not necessarily mean I had an active typhoid but could possibly be indicating an old infection since they tested for antibodies. Within hours of speaking to him, I started getting breathless. On top of my difficulty in breathing, my temperature was on a constant rise and my chest hurt. My oxygen levels started dropping. Now it was clear I needed oxygen but the clinic didn’t have enough supply.
I realized my condition wasn’t getting any better and humbly requested a referral to a higher facility.
The clinic staff tried connecting with other higher health facilities to see if I could be transferred for treatment but were not making any definite head way. There were no empty beds anywhere. The much popularized no bed syndrome had caught up with me. I was getting anxious. Here I was struggling to breathe and yet not getting a bed in any of the isolation centers…… My body kept aching and my temperature was sky high.

I tried connecting with a few friends who were in the medical field and they started linking up with their circles to see how best they could offer immediate assistance. It was very difficult at the time because there had been a rapid spike in COVID-19 cases and almost all medical centers were fully occupied. Even the private Nyaho medical center had converted all its wards into Covid wards and still did not have capacity for new patients. They tried all the Covid hospitals but were still struggling to find space. All this while, I was anxious and struggling to breathe.
They eventually managed to secure bed space for me at Ridge hospital but it took hours. I reported at the medical emergency unit in an ambulance and upon arrival, my COVID-19 results were released. I had tested positive. So now it was definite that I was suffering Covid. I was asked to go and take an X-ray of my chest and get a hospital card to complete the admission process.
I was quickly given a bed at the ICU and treatment began. There, I understood why we struggled to get a bed. The hospital was full to the brim and health workers were stretched beyond limit.
I was placed on oxygen support and given initial orientation of how my stay over there will be. The care givers were friendly and very accommodating. They made me understand my situation and tried to psychologically inspire me. They made me understand I had no underlying condition and could heal faster if I complied with their instructions. But it was still fearful. I was tormented by physical pain.
My mental disorientation worsened when I saw people pass on in my ward some days into my admission. On my first night, three people in nearby beds on my ward died. I was terrified and kept thinking if I will also be going the same way. It affected me a lot and reflected in my routine blood pressure checks. On top of my troubles, my blood pressure was also now going up because I was emotionally unstable. I had to psych myself into thinking positively to have it corrected.
After 5 days of oxygen support I was gradually being weaned off and started physio. In the unit, the oxygen supply could cut at any time and if it happened while you were asleep, you could die without even realizing. Your oxygen levels also went down if you lay in bed while receiving support so we literally sat up in chairs all day all night. Sleep became a scarce commodity. The focus of the physio was on my lungs and breathing. Physical exercises were then gradually also introduced.
After a while I was done taking all Covid-19 medications and all that was needed was enough rest and monitoring. I had been completely weaned off the oxygen support by my 7th day of admission and everything seemed to be ok with me. I took my second covid test and results were negative.
Medical team was very impressed with my recovery rate and projected the 9th day as my discharge date. For all the suffering I had been through, they felt my case was one of the milder ones they had seen and my recovery very impressive. I can only imagine what other patients must have suffered.
I informed my family to pick me up on the day of discharge and it was all joy. I had had a handshake with with death and escaped.
Medical team before discharging me offered counseling on hand hygiene and asked that I stick to all Covid protocols. They made mention of the fact that I am not immune to contracting the virus again so I need to be very careful and be a Covid ambassador to help reduce the number of cases. I thanked them and was ushered out with my medications and hand luggage which had been well sanitized. They handed me over to my family in my fully fitted face mask and we headed home.

My physical suffering cannot be overemphasized but the psychological torture that came with the ordeal far surpassed any physical stress. The thought of seeing people with a similar condition and within my age range die was crippling. Some had no documented underlying medical conditions. The fear of stigmatization. The harrowing thought that I may have infected my old mother and siblings with who I live ….The potential for long term complications………. And to cap it all, I may have died unnoticed and undiagnosed if I had not *KNOWN* people who secured me a bed in the hospital.

Please be careful. No one deserves to go through this. Not even my greatest enemies. I don’t think I consider anyone an enemy at this moment though: Definitely not after realizing how futile this life is. Covid-19 will humble you. It is nearer than you think“

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