‘My walk through the valley of shadow of coronavirus’ : An Editor’s experience with the COVID – 19 – By Johnson Ayantunji

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“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalms 23:4 “

For me and my house hold, the above quoted verse of the scripture, which many Christians profess whenever they are in danger holds true.
Earlier in the year, precisely in the first week of the year, we had an unwelcome and unwanted visitor in the name of COVID – 19. But no one knew.
I woke up on the morning of Thursday January 7, with a slight irritation in my upper respiratory part. I did not give it much thought, but had some hot steam inhaling therapy. I had a little respite and headed for the office. I had decided that I would close a little bit late in order to clear the load of work on my desk. By mid day, the irritation had become something else, as I had to be taking more fluid as my throat was getting patched. By 4:00 pm, I began to experience some feverish condition. I could not bear the air conditioner in the news room. What to do, by 6:00 pm, I aborted the plan to work till 10:00 pm, and I headed home.
The journey between Ogba and Mowe, where I reside, looked like an eternity as my whole body was burning as if set on fire.
When I got home, my family had left for the Holy Communion of the Redeemed Christian Church of God – the prelude to the monthly flagship programme of the Church – Holy Ghost Service. I had another steam inhaling session with a bath. No respite, I went to bed in this condition. In all of this, I did not have any other symptom associated with the pandemic such as loss of sense of taste, sense of smell, chest pain, and difficulty in breathing or high temperature.
The following day – Friday, I woke up still not feeling well, I sent a message to the Deputy Editor, Tunde Suleiman to excuse me from work as I was a little bit under the weather, but promised that I would make it up the following day. He wished me well.
By mid- day, I became a little well after I had my breakfast and I took more medications. However, I could not bring myself to write a tribute to celebrate the 10 Anniversary of the demise of my beloved mother – Princess Serah Kehinde Ayantunji, who passed on January 8, 2011. We participated in the Holy Ghost service via virtual.
On Saturday, I went to work in order to conclude the production of the week – Sunday. But at work, I was still not myself, as exposure to the air conditioner made me feel as if my internal organs would pop out.
However, I took some precautions by wearing my face mask while the production lasted.
I heaved a sigh of relief when the production ended at about 10:30 pm and I headed home.
The following day being Sunday, as it has become our tradition since 1995, when I joined the work force of the Church, we left home by 6:00 am in order to be part of the Workers’ Meeting billed for 7:00 am. However, I had my flask filled with hot water which I sipped intermittently. It was interesting to note that I had a normal body temperature as the infra red thermometer read 36.4o Celsius when I tested it before being allowed into the church, in strict compliant with the COVID – 19 protocols.
Nevertheless, I knew that all was not well in my system, as I sat outside under the canopy for an overflow. After the service, we headed home where I had my lunch of white rice garnished with vegetable and sliced onion. I had hardly devoured the mountain like portion in my plate when I fell asleep. I slept like a baby. It lasted about 4 hours and looked like a whole day. I had my dinner and went back to sleep. I felt better when I woke up the following day. However, the irritation in my throat had become a sore and I thought that in a few days, it would wear off. How wrong I was.
Two days later, Wednesday January 13, to be precise, I felt a burning sensation in my throat. There and then I decided to go for a COVID – 19 test. Where do I go to take it? That was the dilemma I had. I reside in Mowe, and work in Lagos. I did not have enough information on where I could go to in Ogun State. After a while I remembered that the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba is one of the numerous centres in Lagos. I contacted a Secondary School mate and friend who sent me the link Nimr.covid.com.ng. I logged in and a questionnaire was sent to me asking to know where I had been to, attended a large gathering in the last one month etc. In no time, they sent an invite to me with a code. The invite signed by the DG Prof. Babatunde Salako, asked me to report the following day to the Cancer Research Centre of the Institute on Edmund Crescent with means of identification.
On the D- Day, I reported and my samples were taken, it was a painless procedure which lasted less than 10 minutes. There were two categories of testing – those who drive in and those who walked in. Whichever one you indicate while filling in the form for test. I was told the result would be ready in 48 hours but not beyond 72 hours. I went home and the waiting game began.
I became apprehensive after 72 hours when I did not hear from them. I called my contact, who told me they do not work on Sunday that I should hold on till Monday.
Monday, January 18, the worst was confirmed as I tested positive to the dreaded pandemic. Fear gripped me momentarily. I did not know what to do. Questions such as where and how do I access treatment ran through my head. I recollected myself and the first thing that came to my mind was to call my pastor. I sent a message to Pastor Babatunde Omojola that I just received the result of the COVID – 19 tests, which I had during the week and it returned positive.
He called me back almost immediately and encouraged me not to panic. “A list of what you need to do would be sent to you as well as medication.” He walked his talk as I saw the list of the medication and other things I need to do. He followed it up with monetary support. Immediately I went into self isolation. Three of our children were home with me as my wife had gone to work. I called them and intimated them of the development. They all exchanged glances with one another and asked what to do. I explained to them and we prayed together, committed the situation into God’s hands.
Immediately, we began the search for the prescribed medication. They do not come cheap and a bit difficult to get all in Mowe. What to do? We contacted a brother and pharmacist who also told me what to do. He asked whether I had a non communicable ailment I was treating. Also, he asked me to consult my doctor in case I had any underlining ailment. I contacted Dr. Ademola Orolu, Medical Director, Nathaniel Health Consult, Matogun, Ogun State. He has my medical history at least since 2016 when I was hospitalized for high blood pressure. He gave his nod for the medication.
In addition, our Pharmacist friend introduced me to RCCG Prayer Rain, a daily one hour prayer programme which holds between 5: 00 and 6:00 in the morning, where people share testimonies of how they were healed of COVID – 19, even those who were placed on ventilation. I joined the following day and the testimonies I heard strengthened my faith.
After going into self isolation, I informed the office through my editor – Mrs. Juliet Bumah. I told the Deputy Editor too. They encouraged me to stay positive. Kunle Salami called and prayed with me. He told me he would inform AMACOG (Association of Mass Communication Graduates) Class of 92, which we both belong to. Publisher, Eagle on line and Welfare Secretary, Dotun Oladipo called to ask how I was doing. In no time, the news spread among the circle of my associates and colleagues. Editor, New Telegraph, Mr. Ayodele Ojo, also called to wish me well and prayed for my speedy recovery.
In the meantime, I started the process of registering my family for the test in order to know their status as well. Invites were also sent to them for test the following day. They went and were all tested. Head of the team administering the tests Dr. Amoo and my friend were God sent. They facilitated the process and they went through it without any stress. My Pastor – in charge of Lagos Province 77, also called to encourage and pray with me. He asked me to ensure that we all isolated properly. He told me it would end in praise.
Everyone was placed on treatment as we observed strict compliance of the COVID – 19 protocols. We restricted ourselves to the house and did not welcome any visitor. Neither did we attend any function. As a matter of affect I missed a wedding service which I worked behind the scene to be part of the preparations and the burial of the mother of a bosom friend Adegbenro Adebanjo.
In isolation various things went through my mind and I began to reflect on my relationship with God, my family – wife, children and those who have come into my space. I resolved not to hold malice or grudge with anyone. I made up my mind to live a simple life which will bring glory to the Lord.
On Friday, January 21, the tests my family had trickled in one after the other. By the time three results came in one returned positive, another indeterminate and the last negative. That of my wife did not come. I had a mixed feeling – Respite on one hand and apprehension on the other, especially on that of my wife. We only stepped up the treatment for everyone, but the one who returned negative.
By the end of that week, I began to feel the side effect of one of the medications. Whenever I took it, I sweat profusely and unable to sleep well. By Saturday, I had a throbbing headache and my blood pressure headed northwards. I called the pharmacist who told me to get my anti – hypertensive medications and to ensure I sleep very well. I monitored my oxygen concentration too through a device called Fingertip pulse oxymeter. It was between the ranges considered normal. That gave me the confidence that I would not need to go into treatment centre.
By Monday, another symptom of cough and runny nose set in. I became a little bit jittery and called on the Pharmacist who told me not to worry, that it was the residue that I was feeling and he prescribed additional medications. By the end of that week, I had ulcer and increased acid reflux which made even drinking water uneasy as I felt pain through my entire alimentary canal.
Three weeks after I went into isolation, I called the NIMR and I was asked to come for repeat test on Wednesday. On the D – Day we went and had the test. Forty eight hours after the results came in and we all returned negative. Thus we were on our way to exiting the COVID – 19 pathways. Although none of us got admitted into treatment centre, but it was an unpalatable experience. Almost the entire family coming down with COVID – 19 and staying indoors, by the time I came out, my gait became something else, as I lost my balance while walking.
One other bad thing about it is that days and even weeks after one is healed of the ailment, you still experience one or more of the symptoms. Even medical experts say you may have to endure it.
Did we learn any lesson? Yes? Never to take our family and even associates for granted. It is all about relationship. I am very grateful to everyone who kept checking up on me, especially my editor, deputy editor, Head of the News room Geoffrey Ekenna, to mention a few.
I am also grateful to members of the AMACOG ’92 for their support. You guys surely rock. The Prayer Band Beautiful Gate Parish, Junior Church as well as the Head, Sunday School Department and my younger Sister Mrs. Joke Braimoh, I say a big thanks to you all.
Of course my one and only covenant partner Oludayo Abosede Anike Ayantunji, for nursing me and the boys back to life. You did the running around in preparation for the baby of the house Ayopo, who was about to start life as a sophomore in a tertiary institution. May God bless you.
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