Urges with public to do away with denial
Without fear of stigma coming with surviving from Coronavirus, Maima Robinson, a resident of Sinkor, cannot withhold her emotions in expressing how severely and traumatic the virus is. “I am completely out of words and don’t know where to start from, but with tears in my eyes and with a thankful heart to God I announce to you that I just survived the COVID-19,” said Madam Robinson.
“Please! Please! My people the Coronavirus is real and it’s in Liberia! You never want to experience what I went through. You may not be as blessed as I was to survive it. No wonder research has proven that the older folks are more vulnerable to the virus. Now I understand why they just can’t stand the pains. I don’t wish for any of you reading my account to experience the Coronavirus,” she said.
Braving the storm to come out with confession of suffering from the Coronavirus is a bold step in depressing the psychosocial effect associated with the virus. Dr. Heounohu Hessou of the 14-Military Hospital taking care of COVID-19 patients says “Praises people give medical people should be directed to the patients taking bold steps to state that they have the virus or come to the testing center to be tested. They deserve it because it is not an easy thing to do as a psychosocial problem coming with stigma cannot be underestimated.”
Coronavirus is a respiratory disease that comes with cough, fever, and sneezing, and later attacks the lungs at a severe stage. According to Madam Robinson in a telephone interview, none of these symptoms plus other diseases including diarrhea, cold, and malaria escaped her. Upon coming down with the virus in the first week in June, she did not know that it was the much-publicized virus, since she suspected malaria. However, after losing her sense of smell and taste totally and coming down with heavy body pain, she contacted her private doctor who did her test and the doctor advised that she isolates herself from the rest of her family because she was presenting Coronavirus case instead of other diseases that are common here.
“At first, I thought I had malaria because the symptoms are almost the same but very different. My first symptom was I lost my sense of smelling and tasting without coming down with running nose (cold), the second was I got high fever, the third symptom was I came down with very heavy body pains (it was unbearable) and fatigue that left me feeling very weak. All happened in three days. I quickly contacted my doctor who ran the malaria test and advised that I start the malaria treatment at once, which I did. I took the malaria treatment for three days but we never succeeded in controlling the fever. With no delay, my Doctor asked me few questions and all my answers pointed to active COVID19 (please don’t ask me if I did the test. Yes, I was positive),” she said.
According to Dr. T. Juleo Karr assigned at the 14-Military Hospital where COVID-19 patients are, all these signs in Madam Robinson’s narrative are presented when one is coming down with the virus. Also, symptomatic patients presenting signs of these common diseases are treated with medications that can cure them to suppress the strength of Coronavirus itself, because the virus becomes rigorous when underlying health conditions are present in the patient’s body. The disease itself, Dr. Karr said, does not have a cure but when the underlying health problems are treated and the patient has better nutrition to build the body’s immune system, the patient can survive.
Those with pre-health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and asthma rarely survive COVID-19 because these conditions help to activate the strength of the virus,” said Dr. Karr.
Madam Robinson did not avail herself to the COVID-19 outreach team to be taken to the treatment site at the 14-Military Hospital because, according to her, such outreach teams are only making themselves popular that they are working but not community friendly to show concern for people. “They go around boasting in communities to show that they are working, but very unfriendly and without experience, and therefore I thought to keep myself at my home for my doctor and a nurse to treat me when my condition became severe,” she said.
Explaining her ordeal further, the survivor said in addition to antibiotics prescribed by her doctor with the help of a Registered Nurse to take, she added ginger juice, hot lemon juice, cubes of garlic in every glass of warm water, and coconut water and was taking it five times a day.
“But trust me, none of these could break the fever and or stop the body pains! The worst was yet to come! My stomach broke loose, then came the non-stop dry cough at the beginning of the second week. I coughed and coughed ’til I felt my belly button popping out in pain as if that was not enough. I coughed and coughed ’til I started bleeding like I had a miscarriage. It continued for days and the second week ended. I quickly added blood tonic, potato-greens water, cough syrup, and a multivitamin to my treatment. My saliva dried out of my mouth completely for days, and I was only surviving on water and the treatment,” said Madam Robinson.
“The coughing kept on and then came the shortness of breath. As I coughed, I fought for my breath and that was the peak of it all. I almost died. Look, my people, I felt death! I almost gave up the ghost but, again, looking at my kids, I couldn’t help but to keep holding on. I remember the day I told my kids I had the coronavirus, it appeared as though it was Judgment Day in my house. I had to talk to them about accepting the reality. I further instructed my kids on what to get for me; at the same time, I told them what to do to keep safe. They followed every instruction I give them.”
When an individual contracts the virus and is tested positive, the best option, according to health authorities, is to go to the treatment center. However, for reasons Madam Robinson did not explain, she built confidence in her private doctor to treat her to recover from the disease at home since those same medications used at the treatment center are available at hospitals and in pharmacies.
“With no disrespect to the Government of Liberia and national taskforce on Coronavirus, I just didn’t find it fit to turn myself in, judging from all of the conversations around the street corners,” Robinson said. Furthermore, she said she accepted the fact that she had the virus and therefore began treatment, and this is what saved her with the power of God.
The virus, according to health authorities is passed on through sneezing and coughing by those who are already infected with it. In this connection, health authorities have devised protocols including constant and thorough hand-washing, social distancing, and the wearing of nose masks to prevent the spread.
Tracing the route of the virus that she is gradually recovering from, Madam Robinson said her tracing inquiries led to her contracting the virus through the handling of money. She said her 12-year old daughter who first came down with the virus and passed it onto her handles money often in the home and she possibly got it from money outside the home.
“Touching of money! She often handles money in the house. Interestingly the virus didn’t treat her badly as it did me, at the time she had it I wasn’t too sure, but I treated her and she fully recovered. Two days after that, I came down with the virus. The good news is I’m well now and back to work for the first time today,” she noted.
Maima Robinson’s encounter with the Coronavirus leaves her with an experience that she cannot forget the story easily.
“But my people let me tell you all the truth: this Coronavirus has changed the way I once saw life. Honestly, I can never be the same. I learned a lot during my illness. As for whether I’m fully well or safe to come out, you can rest assured that all is well with me and my kids. I wouldn’t put anyone in harm’s way. I’m still observing the social distance and all of the health protocols. I’m not coming in contact with any of my staff or my airline customers. I’m doing all I can to keep everyone safe around me,” said Madam Robinson.