This morning, I am weak and my bowel rumbles. Twice I have been to the toilet and it is not even midday yet. Still, this stomach howls and it’s driving me mental! The weakness that comes with COVID is nothing like I have experienced before. Such a crazy thing; worsened by the fact that there’s an underlying condition. I am fighting with all I have got. The doctors say I am doing well and responding fine to the drugs.
My breathing is less raggedy and it is easier now but mehn this weakness is beyond me. Small walk and I am tired, small reading and I am fagged out. So, I spend my morning just staying in bed. In my weak state, I pull out my laptop and begin to cruise through countless Facebook pages just to pass time.
Two friends whom I had messaged up to help me get some provisions call me – they are already at the gate. I drag my tired body to the intercom and dial the Security Post number. The voice at the other end seems rather unbothered. “Come over and get your things, sah” he says. A man in the ward looks at me and says, “Are you expecting someone?” I nod. “You can go out and see them.”
In my weak state, I rush to my bed side and slip on a pair of trousers and begin to make my way towards the Triage and then out into the compound. Underneath my nose mask, the struggle for breath continues. My God! It’s only my 3rd day here but then it feels like I have been cut off from the world for months. I walk to the fence and there, I see my friends.
Just a few weeks before then, these were friends I’d see and we’d sit together, crack jokes and hug and take walks hand in hand; but on this Saturday afternoon, we are separated by a fence: me on one side and them on the other side. We don’t talk much, they tell me my package is with the security men, they ask general questions about my welfare and they turn to leave. I stand there watching, misty-eyed, as the car drives away. I collect my things and head back into the hospital and for the first time, the concept of Isolation dawns on me.
I am super excited to have seen familiar faces again since Wednesday. I sit in my bed, still struggling to breathe and contemplating everything that has just happened. For the first time, I have the feel of what prison might feel like; how that one minute you’re roaming free, smiling and cracking jokes with friends and the next minute you’re locked up in a center to save the ones you love from you. Still, I am grateful to see familiar faces again.
My favorite nurse – Nurse Ewe – walks in around 4:30pm, she’s fully kitted up and so I don’t even realize she’s the one. It is hard to tell who is who when they are fully kitted and everyone seem to have the same stature. She attends to a couple of people and then comes over to my side. “My friend, hope you will remember me when your money eventually comes?” That’s how I know it is Nurse Ewe; from Day 0, that has been our bant.
“I didn’t recognize you in this white kit. I am used to seeing you in the blue protective gear,” I mentioned.
“It is me o,” she answered, a bit exasperated. She explained on: “I am wearing this white one today because we were called about a woman who had come down with symptoms and had been trying to manage it on her own. I had to go with the ambulance to pick her.
“Oh, I see. Hope she made it here safely?”
“We got there in time but just as we were about to evacuate her into the ambulance, she gave up the ghost.”
There was a sadness mixed with resignation in her voice with a tinge of pain. Obviously this is not the first time this has happened. I am sober, I lay back in bed and clutch on to my phone. We know today, no one knows tomorrow.
Yesterday, as he closes his shift at 6pm, this young doctor comes in for a final check on us. We crack jokes and laugh heartily. Having watched the doctors and nurses restraining the bald, old man in such manner (which honestly had become needful) it was refreshing to have the doctor come and chat with us.
Alhaji B, a man who had found out that he had COVID-19 after a major accident and has his legs in cast – lies in his bed playing Sikiru Ayinde Barrister; he is a proper Yoruba man like that. Not so educated but quite rich. Barrister plays on when the young doctor comes in. When he is done cracking jokes with us, he walks to Alhaji B and begins to dance. He gave us about 16 seconds of premium Zanku dance and it was beautiful to see. It was all over before I could reach for my phone to record.
These the moments that cheer us up and give us life and hope – knowing that our caregivers see us and hear us.