Despite rising rates of COVID-19 cases as shown by the daily official records, many Nigerians still doubt the presence of the virus in this part of the world with many myths surrounding it. But despite the disbelief and nonchalant attitudes of some Nigerians, a survivor of the disease, Salim Ibrahim Salman in an interview with Daily Trust said, COVID-19 is real while urging that everyone needs to be cautious to stay alive. He also said to him and his family, COVID-19 is a blessing in disguise.
In a clime like Nigeria where myths of COVID-19 are rampant, what were the symptoms you had and what gave you the courage to take a COVID-19 test?
I will start by saying COVID–19 is real and it is deadly. We need to be cautious to stay safe. I had a fever for two to three days at the initial stage. However, after losing my sense of smell and taste, I became a bit worried and cautious about what I do, where I go, whom I see and touch.
I was encouraged to go for a test when my wife, Dr Karimatu Bello Katagum, who is a resident doctor at the National Hospital, Abuja also lost her sense of smell and taste on Friday, December 11, 2020.
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My wife also, after a long day at work, returned home and went straight to the kitchen but she then realised that she could not smell the flavour of the food she was preparing while our maid confirmed that she could. On noticing that, she rushed and sprayed perfume and noticed she could not smell the scent.
We both proceeded to the National Hospital Sample Collection Center the next morning where we presented our samples after showing symptoms as we have some of the symptoms listed on the guidelines: anosmia (loss of smell) and loss of taste and we also moved straight to self-isolation that later lasted up to one month.
What was your reaction when the test came back positive?
My reaction to the test result was calm because as Muslims, part of the pillars of my faith (Iman) is to believe in Qadr (Preordainment). We had faith in Allah SWT and believed all that is happening to us is a trial from Him. We were calm, and we always console each other to be prayerful and positive that by the will of Allah SWT we will be fine. Being asymptomatic gave us relief as we constantly see the damage COVID-19 is causing to the most developed healthcare systems in the world.
It did not come as a surprise for both my wife and me as we had shown symptoms already, while our two children and house help tested Negative.
Another concern for us was on how to inform our lovely mothers (both Widows) Haj Maryam Ibrahim Salman & Haj Zainab Bawa Yari. Stigmatization was also a concern for me and that made me inform only a few family members and friends.
Staying indoors without transmitting the virus to my children was also a major concern during this period.
What was the experience with the doctors and nurses at the treatment centre?
The service rendered by both the doctors and nurses was satisfactory. They were nice and friendly; they recommended isolation at home as well as provided all the necessary prescription for our treatment on time, which lasted for one month. They were always available to respond whenever we called or went for sample collection at the National Hospital, Abuja.
The only challenge was on getting test result from NCDC, which took four to five days and to us, it was a long waiting time.
Do you think the Nigeria healthcare system is doing enough to tackle COVID-19 with the level of facilities in our hospitals?
I think the Nigerian healthcare system is still developing; thus, we are trying to the best of our ability and the available resources. However, there is a big room for improvement especially in areas of mental health during lockdown, isolation, quarantine, which can lead to anxiety and depression.
COVID-19 patients should be provided with mental health care and regular checks during the period of isolation, especially asymptomatic patients. Testing capacity and result response time from NCDC needs to be improved upon.
What kind of treatment were you given?
As we both tested positive and were asymptomatic, we were advised to contact our assigned doctor, who after investigation prescribed some drugs.
Family and friends also recommended traditional herbs such as black cumin seed, taking hot ginger tea, regular exercise and a healthy diet etc.
What was your recovery experience like?
With constant prayers by us, family, friends and strict adherence to the PTF protocols on COVID-19, Allah SWT answered our prayers on January 15, 2021, when we received a confirmation that my wife has tested negative as my test confirmation of being negative cane earlier on January 13, 2021.
It was a terrible experience that I will not wish for my enemy to go through. The inability to go for the five daily prayers in the mosque, as well as Friday prayer, was tormenting me as I could only pray in isolation at home.
We stuck and adhered to all the necessary advice and recommendation. One advice we received after testing positive for the second and third time respectively was to disinfect our entire house.
We constantly maintained a healthy diet, regular workout, engaging ourselves in regular recitations of the Holy Qur’an, reading Islamic books. Watching Islamic Programs, news, documentaries on Islam Channel, Sunnah TV, Al – Jazeera, BBC News and National Geographic Channel helped us a lot. Overall, I can say COVID-19 is a blessing in disguise for us as we moved closer to Allah SWT.
What message do you have for Nigerians especially as the second wave is here and people are still nonchalant about it?
My advice to Nigerians is, Muslims and Christians, we should go back to our holy books and pray to Allah to intervene on this pandemic. We should obey what Allah has commanded us to do and stay away from what He has forbidden.
We should adhere strictly to all protocols on COVID-19. Besides, Nigerians should take and accept the vaccines as they are made available for use in Nigeria. We should take the vaccine and pray to Allah SWT to cure the world of this pandemic.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 should ensure that the family members and spouses of exposed health workers should be prioritised during vaccination.