My COVID-19 experience – By: Aikele E. O

As you are all aware, covid 19 has been ravaging lives world wide. Here in the United states ( alleged to be the most technologically advanced and strongest country in the world) it’s been a very very terrible experience most especially for residents of New York and New Jersey.

For me, I live in Jersey City, New Jersey, just 2 train stops from New York City. Here in the states, New York especially new York city has the highest infection and deaths tolls from the virus and new Jersey is the next worst affected state. Been on total lock down for almost 3 months now. That means no job, no walk in the park or even leaving home unless to go grocery shopping or if you sick.

Like a typical Nigerian, I felt since I have no underlying health issues, “nothing dey happen” as we say in Naija. Though I took the necessary precautions and did all the disinfecting necessary, I never felt I would get the virus. However, the death reports kept growing, not just imaginary persons but co-workers, church mates and friends. Within 2 months I have lost about 7 co-workers, 29 church members, about 9 close friends, 5 of them Nigerians. These are people I know only in New Jersey alone, not friends from other states.

However, Tuesday April 28th, was a good day for me… First, I received my 1,200,USD stimulus cheque by mail, then later same day I was tested and turned out negative. I was glad, not sure if I left my guards down, but next day Wednesday 29th April, I was really hungry for some Naija food. tired of cereals and all those “oyinbo” foods. So a Nigerian friend and I decided to go to a Nigerian grocery store called “oyingbo market” in Irvington, NJ. About 15 mins drive from me. Outside the store, there was the usual social distancing and stuff, but inside, in typical Naija fashion, many were not wearing face mask, nothing like social distancing, not even hand sanitizers at the entrance or on your way out as in all other stores in the New Jersey. Rather so many fellow Africans mostly Nigerians were inside there, some shopping, others just chilling and gossiping. Funny enough this Naija store sells what they call “Agbo Jedi Jedi.” Some guys there were like “ ti ba mu Agbo Jedi Jedi, corona ma sa re lo.” ( Not sure if I got that Yoruba right but they were like ..”once you drink Agbo Jedi Jedi, the corona virus will run away from you.”) The other Nigerian guy from Port Harcourt I went with… Jeff was like..” na dis kind place person dey catch Corona.” we just laughed about it and never thought much of how vulnerable we were in that store. On our way out, the cashier kinda wanted us to buy the Agbo Jedi Jedi…. Personally I do believe in local herbs, but wasn’t sure of this one and it was looking too dark and dirty for my liking. So I declined.

To cut story short, got home made some pepper soup and unripe plantains and fully enjoyed my food. 2 days later, on Friday may 1st, I woke up but not feeling too good. Was Kinda weak but never took it serious. By Friday night I had fever but felt it was just me being paranoid. Saturday more fever and felt like am having malaria. I forced myself to make the lime, lemon, ginger and paracetamol concussion I have been getting as a prevention/ cure for Corona virus. Meanwhile I still never thought of the virus. All the feelings I had were like serious malaria symptoms high fever, headache, general body weakness etc. After taking the lime, lemon concussion, I couldn’t eat and decided to just sleep and rest. By Sunday May 3rd, I felt like I was gradually having chest pains. Due to the lockdown, not sure who to call. Then I remembered a friend who is a nurse. Called her and she said everything I described points to the virus and I should get tested again. But I was too weak to get to the drive thru testing center.

So I slept off. After calling me non stop for 4 hrs, she came herself, saw me weak and burning with fever. She called 911 on my behalf. I was tested on the spot and Monday confirmed to be positive. I was asked to self isolate and call back if situation gets worse or cant breathe properly. By Monday evening, I felt myself drifting in and out of consciousness. Now I really got scared. No family member here, my only son in the UK, what happens if I just pass away from this virus? So many scary thoughts began forming in my mind and I kept asking myself if this is the end. Finally I summoned courage and call my two older sisters in the UK, then I called my attorney to come immediately and when he did, I wrote out my will. Meanwhile I texted a few friends in Naija. Feeling scared and alone, I couldn’t help but cry like never before. By Tuesday I couldn’t breath properly and had chest pains. The nurse called 911 and the ambulance came and I was taken to the hospital. As I left my house semi conscious, I wondered if I will be back or if this is the end for me. Strapped on the bed, inside the EMT ambulance and fixed to an oxygen tank to help me breath, while the nurse were holding my hands and telling me to hang in there, the stay with me talk and stuff, all I could think of was my son, my sisters and my life.

Have I lived a good life? Is this the end of the road for me? Did I do good deeds enough? Did I forgive people or was vengeful and bad? As all these thoughts were forming in my big Naija head, all I could do was cry. The tears were free flowing until I got to the hospital and straight to ICU and put in a ventilator. That’s all I remembered. Fell into coma for Wednesday and Thursday 6th and 7th of may 2020 and cant even recall anything about those two days. Sometime around noon, Friday 8th May, I woke up to the sound of a nurse telling me to hang in there. I asked where I was and she told me I had been unconscious for over 2 days but now my vitals are good and I should hang in there. For the first time I looked at my ward and saw so many virus patients on ventilators fighting for their lives. I couldn’t help but cry. Seems like I was in a morgue. Sometimes the medical staff come take off the ventilator and place white sheets over the person till the bag men come take them away… then it dawned on me that the person had passed. Though still weak, I was still scared. Is this my end? How will I be remembered? Aikele E. O… Bad boy/ bad man? Good person? Wicked? Nice? How would I even be buried with no family around? What will happen to my sisters, my son, those who know me etc?

Thinking of all these I slept off again. Dreamt various dreams, not sure if I was alive or dead. Then Saturday May 9th…. I felt a little better. Heard the doctor saying I have passed the critical stage and not in need of ventilator any more since I could breath on my own. Gladly they took me out of emergency ward and I was in recuperating ward. That afternoon one of the nurses came and for the first time I smiled…. She said you must be a good person… I asked why she said that and she showed me all the get well cards I got…. Over 78 in just few days I was at the hospital. Cards from kids of sidedoor.org, a volunteer mentor program for kids I take part in, I also got cards from kids fighting cancer from st.jude children hospital where am a monthly donor to that hospital. Some class mates from here, my church and friends, Toni’s kitchen where I volunteer every weekend… all the beautiful cards did make me smile. At that point I felt touched and told myself I want to live and that I have beaten this virus. Filled with emotions, I prayed and for the first time called my son and sisters on video call. Though still weak, I was on drips and medications and each passing day I got better. Looking at most of the medications… they’re usual malaria medications and antibiotics. ( just narrating my own experience, am not advocating that it’s mainly malaria drugs they use to treat me, besides cases are different based on age, medical history and other factors to determine best treatment for each individual. So once more am not saying conclusively like our “oga on top” here mr. President that malaria drugs are for covid 19).

By Wednesday 13th, may, I tested negative and was told to go home. How glad I was. As soon as I entered my apartment that evening, I just broke down and cried. Emotions were too high. Couldn’t believe am back home again. I know of so many in my street who went on the ambulance and never made it back home. Couldn’t believe it’s been exactly a week I was taken to the hospital. Everything happened so fast. I got to my room and looked at all the pictures…. From my Uniben days till date and the tears flowed freely. With all the tragedies I have faced in life, I had always sometimes never cared about being dead or alive, but somehow, this time was different and I am just grateful to be alive! I was grateful I beat the virus, but most of all, I was glad the Almighty spared my life.

Though am much more better now but still taking medications and resting and building up my immunity, I am also Using this opportunity to thank all those who prayed for me. Those who gave me hope and courage when I had none. Most especially grateful to someone in the Ucss group who has always been there for me no matter what.

Thank you all. Please stay safe…. Covid-19 is real and a killer! Don’t take chances…. And above all, pray for God’s protection and mercies. God bless you and your families as we all get through these pandemic together and come out stronger. Love you all. To God be the glory!

Submitted by Aikele E.O
Jersey city, NJ.

Ps…

Please help pray for my friend Jeff a fellow Nigerian, who accompanied me to the same African store. He tested positive a week after me and in the hospital now fighting for his life!

Originally published by : SideDoor.org.

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