As of the 12th of August 2020, Nigeria has recorded 47,290 cases of COVID-19 with 956 deaths. Even now due to the high levels of mistrust in the Nigerian government, a lot of Nigeria’s population still think the pandemic is a hoax or not serious.
We spoke to a Nigerian doctor about his experience in an isolation centre treating coronavirus survivors to help demystify and destigmatize surviving the Coronavirus.
What are the biggest challenges you are facing during this pandemic?
The biggest challenge we faced for the most part was people’s responses to the pandemic itself. The fact is that there are a lot of people who haven’t followed social distancing guidelines and stayed home when they’re supposed to. And there is a lot of misinformation. We have people trying to use all sort of medication to prevent or cure it and all sorts of theories, almost all of which are not correct.
Do you feel you have all the resources to care for your patients? If no, what do you think the government should have done better?
There are never enough resources. Let’s start there. In a pandemic, there are a finite amount of resources that can go round the world when the whole world is affected. But I would say that in Lagos where I work, the Lagos state government has done its best to provide us with resources like Personal Protective Equipment, ventilators in the accredited centres, manpower etc.
What do you think they CAN still do better now at this point?
I feel like there is still not enough sensitization on how bad COVID-19 can get. Yes we know that a lot of people who get the sickness, 80% of patients only have mild to moderate symptoms but for the 6 or 7% that don’t make it, it can be really bad. It sucks because these are cases that can be saved if they are picked up early enough but there hasn’t been enough sensitization about how bad COVID-19 can get.
How has working on the front lines affected you mentally? Are there any measures being put in place to help frontline workers get the help they need?
Yeah, it was quite difficult. I was decommissioned about a month ago so I don’t work in the isolation centre anymore but honestly it was really mentally tasking. You were constantly doing mental gymnastics. In the centre I worked, we only accepted confirmed cases and the wards were always full and patient demands could be very overwhelming. There were days when you wake up stressed with a headache and almost every day you wake up with the mind-set that you are the bridge between these patients and losing their lives and causing their families to mourn.
But Lagos state did an amazing job. We had a psychosocial team that we constantly spoke to about our mental health and they helped us keep our minds in shape.
How has it affected your personal life or personal relationships? How do you feel about the obvious distance that need to put between you and your family?
Because I was so busy, some of my personal relationships did suffer. I know I wasn’t as expressive as I used to be and I didn’t speak to my friends and family as I normally would. My family complained a bit because some of them didn’t even want me to go in the first place but they stood by me and I love them all more for it. I wasn’t always the most approachable person at that time.
One thing they wish people knew/ took more seriously about the virus?
I think the fact that it is a virus that can affect anybody. It can catch anyone no matter who the person is. We’ve had former governors die, a sitting chief of staff die, and some people still don’t take it seriously. I would love if people understood the gravity of the virus.
With what you have learnt so far is there anything you would do differently?
Probably apply to volunteer earlier. I know that sounds weird but I wasn’t taking it as seriously. Even though I was advising people to do the needful, I feel like I could have put in my work in the earlier stages of COVID. But no regrets.
Finally, what are your overall insights? What observations would you like to make?
COVID is really bad but Nigeria is trying its best. I can say that for sure. But Nigeria needs to do more for its medical personnel and that needs to start from the public. We don’t appreciate them enough and blame them for all the wrong rather than pointing fingers at the government.
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