I decided to become a nurse after I lost my grandmother many years back. I was at home with her when she suddenly held her chest, told me she could not breathe, fell, shook for a while and became still, her eyes wide open. I was a sophomore in senior high school and naive, so didn’t know she had died. I shouted for those in my area to help, and they did, but I wasn’t allowed to go to the hospital with them. A neighbour stayed with me till my mother came. When mother came home, she rushed to the hospital and came back with tears. I felt sad and somehow blamed myself for doing nothing to save her. That helplessness I felt made me vow to equip myself with skills that would help me be in a better position to help others when the need arise. So I worked hard on my academics and achieved my dream.
When I became a nurse, I knew there were viral infections, I knew there were contagious diseases but never did I dream there will come a virus which will shut down the world and threaten the safety of all persons in modern times, most especially health personnel. We saw Ebola but it was contained so well that even Ghana did not record a case.
The news about Corona Virus was like a bad dream in a distant land. It was that news you’ll hear and go like Poor China! But why do they chew bats alive? That’s if you follow sensational news and conspiracy theories. Then you shake your head and let it go. But within a month, the virus whose patient zero was and is still unknown, had gone from an epidemic to a pandemic, and the world was shivering. The world, including mine. Initially, we thought blacks could not contract the virus because our skin is made up of melanin. Weren’t we quick on that conspiracy theory? Some blacks started jubilating and taunting other affected race with memes online, childish if you ask me, because all lives matter, until Ghana had two imported cases. It reminded me of my grandmother’s favourite proverb, when you see another’s beard on fire, fetch water by yours. Our government did do well to contain the infection, but health personnel were freaking out, me inclusive.
The Korle Bu Teaching Hospital is my place of work. Even before we registered cases, we had many scares and panicked. There was a day some Chinese man was rushed to the emergency unit. He was running a temperature of over 100 degrees, coughing with a running nose. Immediately a nurse saw him, she started running and shouting Code 5! Code Green! Code 5! Hannah was a very funny nurse. She played with almost everything and kept on mentioning nonsensical codes, so I took it lightly until I saw the man. First, that he was Chinese made me paranoid. Please don’t judge me, this is not a race thing, it is a safety thing, and human emotions are scary, you just can’t explain them sometimes because they take caution before thinking about relational matters. Corona after all started in China. So I asked the one who brought him what was wrong. Madam, fever, cold, cough… I did not wait for him to add the “ing”. I took to my heels. When the others saw me running, they also followed suit. While hiding in the nurses room, I reflected on my actions. I felt fear, rightly, but then I felt guilt. I was supposed to stand by my patients and give them the necessary care they needed, not run from them. Race and nationality are no barriers to healthcare. So I went for a big black polythene bag, wore it, got gloves, looked for a face mask and headed back to the emergency unit. My colleagues thought I was mad. I took his temperature, it was 102 degrees, so I asked his caretaker to go get some water and come and sponge him, after I took his details. He had been in the country for over two weeks, from China. I called the doctor in charge and he asked that we take his samples to Noguchi for testing. It was to take three days. So I was instructed to take him to a private room for quarantine. Then I administered intravenous therapy. Of course I was assigned to take care of him full time, with an occasional doctor examination. Good news is I was brought some PPEs, bad news, my colleagues stayed as far as they needed from me.
We were very happy when the test came out negative. He had pneumonia and cold. There was another woman who also made us run after she mentioned that she came from Italy with a nasty cold and nausea but all turned out negative. As we were struggling to follow the news pertaining to Corona, some Jacks in the boxes, Pitas, Frequent Flyers and Divas kept flooding the ER. I guess they served as comic relief but not after we recorded cases and the cases kept going up.
After getting more than 100 cases, we are constantly in fear for our safety. The government’s remuneration is no consolation. Initially, when the partial lock down came, it was difficult commuting from Tabora to Korle Bu. I had to take trotro or taxi to either Kaneshie, then cross the overhead bridge to the other side for another trotro or taxi to my work place. The quiet market and stations scared me. The roads which were always busy with hawkers and stores were turning into cemeteries. Still, getting transport was difficult as the commercial vehicles complained of inadequate passengers. So we sometimes paid double or triple the fare. The mates kept on adding on complaints, that the security men were giving them troubles with the number of passengers. The stops and checks scare them and cost them more money as they needed to tip or bribe their ways through mostly etc… But here we are, a developing country managing to the best of our ability a pandemic.
Personal Protective Equipment are difficult to come by but we’re trying. Whereas some of my colleagues have died after contracting the virus worldwide, some have and are healing. Some doctors have lost their lives and I don’t know who will be next. I can be, a sad but realistic thought, still I shiver to imagine me in a celestial discharge due to my work. I’ll be somewhat a martyr, I guess. A good thing there’s a government insurance on us. At least, should I lose my life, my poor mother can get some care through financial compensation, not that it is a palatable news because I’m her only child. I just wish people will observe social distancing, regular hand washing, sneeze into the elbows or tissues or handkerchiefs and wear facial masks. The fight against Corona is not a one sectar fight, we all must do the little we can to help our nation heal. I know it is not easy but we must try. And before you think about you alone, know that there is pressure everywhere.
Amoafowaa Sefa Cecilia © April 22, 2020. Photo Credit: Google Pics.