By Nosisa Doe
In March 2020, my life and those of everyone around me changed with the advent of COVID 19 in Ghana.
Schools were shut down and the nation eventually went on a full lockdown. I continued to work at home and also went to the office.
I spent a lot of time scripting for COVID 19 related productions. I masked up at work and even when alone in my car. I was very particular about washing my hands.
By September 2020, a lot of restrictions had been lifted in Accra. On the 28th of October, I got a headache that was severe and also felt very different. It was odd, almost like there was a humming sound and a cotton wool feeling that was painful. I got paracetamol for it and it sort of got better. I blamed it on my period.
For the next couple of days, the headache wouldn’t go away even after my period had ended. I sneezed once or twice. I didn’t think anything of it. That Sunday, I struggled to get up. I eventually got up from bed around 10am which is most unusual of me and it was only because a neighbour had made a request.
Monday was also not easy for me to get up, however, I went to work but left shortly after lunch. On Tuesday I just could not make it in. On Wednesday the 4th of November 2020, I tested positive for COVID19. I got angry, later calmed down and then cried. I cried for hours. I couldn’t believe that of all people I had COVID19. I had been so careful. Or so I thought. My mouth had become a weapon of mass destruction. Being careless with my mouth and personal hygiene meant that a lot of people could get infected or even die. As a mother and a wife, I became worried that I may have infected my children and my husband. They showed no symptoms.
As a Christian, I went into the faith mode. I prayed. I told those I had met and never met who I knew would care and also pray. I received numerous messages of support and promises to intercede in prayer for me. I also received a lot of tips on how to fight the virus from women who had recovered. I did everything they said and also took the medicines and supplements I had to. It was not easy.
I had given my neighbour a lift the day I first felt ill. She has a young family. I had to tell her. I feared what her response would be. She was concerned and promised to pray for me. To my surprise, two days later she called to say she had made some meals for me and the family. She would leave the same by our gate. I cried. That was so unexpected. I was grateful. She did so again on more occasions. Another friend of mine, brought lemons and moringa tree leaves from her farm daily for my tea.
My family scattered all over the world called almost daily and sent me messages. Yes, I did receive one or two calls that left me feeling worse but thankfully there were more people that wanted to see me well than those who did not care but had to feign it. Being that ill gives you time to see who and what matters. I learnt a lot. Family and good and faithful friends matter. Strangers that show love matter. I learnt that help can come from the most unexpected places and people if you only you ask.
Every morning I took my medicines, my vitamin C supplements and drank my home- made fruit and vegetable concoctions. I tried to stay positive. As a journalist I could not stay away from the news stations and the figures of people dying left me broken. I joined a support group for COVID 19 survivors from across Africa and the information I got from there was so helpful. I realised then that recovery would be a process and not an event. I went through the crazy headaches, chills, fatigue, chest pains, shortness of breath, confusion, occasional diarrhoea for a little over two weeks. At times I had to take as many as 4 showers in a day from sweating and constantly change my clothes.
My husband was supportive. My children did not like me being in isolation in our bedroom. One day, my daughter and son opened the door to the bedroom. Just before I could shout that they are not meant to be in the room, my 6-year-old daughter told me that she wanted to tell me that she loved me and that I would be fine and my 4-year-old son said he wanted to come into the room so that he also gets corona as that would be the only way he could hug me. They left shortly after and I cried.
On one occasion my daughter asked me if I would die like the people on TV. I pretended not to have heard her. They were worried. I needed to get better. I needed another chance to plan better and work harder for them. I couldn’t imagine what my death would do to them. It hurt to be sick with something that research was still being carried out on. The mental torture of not knowing whether all that I was doing or taking was helpful or not was too much.
For the first time in my life as a singer and songwriter I couldn’t sing. Just didn’t have enough breath to do so. What kept me going? My faith in God. My will to live for those who love and need me. I received my negative results on the 20th of November 2020 after testing the day before. I was so relieved.
Most of the symptoms had gone except for breathing challenges and chest pain. However, I never lost my sense of taste and smell. I never coughed. I never had a high temperature. My family, friends and all those who stood with me and supported even financially were so happy. I was happier. Some trivialised my symptoms. They reduced COVID19 to a normal flu. I found it so shocking considering how well educated some were. The ignorance shocked me. Some discussed it as if all I was saying was a lie.
I pray they and those close to them never get COVID19 to experience it for themselves. Further research is required as my symptoms cut across the perfect categories I have seen in articles. Does the negative result mean full recovery? I still get panic attacks. Mental health is still not seen as serious by many. I struggle with insomnia at times.
However, for some patients it does mean full recovery. For me as I write I this I am working from home. An attempt to go back to work for two days proved disastrous for me as the use of stairs, the journey alone caused me a lot of stress and strain on my chest leading me to buy an inhaler. I had not used one for over 20 years as I now knew what triggered my attacks.
The recent attacks within the last 4 years had been treated with oxygen in a hospital. I stated this article during my illness. I am glad I could live to complete it. I am grateful and thankful to be alive, to be able to be close to my husband, my children and our dog. As my husband drove me to the pharmacy I felt a deep sadness. We saw only a few people with nose masks. I wanted to scream at them and tell them that COVID19 was real and that they should mask up. I fear for them and wish they could be more responsible as their mouths could also become weapons of mass destruction as mine had become 3 weeks ago.
Nosisa Doe is a journalist, media practitioner, organisational efficiency expert and singer/songwriter based in Accra, Ghana.