Health worker gives hope while explaining his epic recovery from COVID-19
By Ibrahim Sorie Koroma
Imagine you are in a training session for community mobilizers to embark on COVID-19 awareness rising/community sensitization and the trainers surprisingly sounded that after the training everyone will be tested for COVID-19 before deployment. The announcement sent a signal of perpetual silence in the air, a silence riddled with excruciating fear, which sent chill up and down the spines of everyone present as one could see from their facile expression. This fear is probably nurtured simply because many people are with the view that once you are tested positive of Coronavirus, that’s the end. This is not just figment of human imagination, but also one of the many rumors and misconceptions of the disease, thus hypothetical.
The story of a Hero and a father of three:
As we now have outstanding success stories of patients who have safely recovered from COVID-19 and rejoin their loved ones, this writer in a snappy official visit to Tonkolili District caught up with Alphonzo Okala Sankoh, a father of three and a Disease Surveillance Volunteer at the Tonkolili District Health Management Team (DHMT) who has safely recovered with certificate from the diseases and explained his remarkable recovery to this writer in this exclusive interview where he also gives hope.
How did you contact the virus?
I can’t clearly tell where and how i came in contact with the virus. Probably, I may have come in contact with the virus while in active service of my job as I am one of the team members who engage in disease surveillance and constantly interface with high risk/ hot spot communities to do case investigation. This he noted may have put him at high risk of contracting the disease.
When was your sample taken which eventually led you to the treatment center?
After showing signs and symptoms of COVID-19, a team of my colleague investigators approached my residence where my swab sample was taken on 1st June, 2020 which was further sent for laboratory conformation on 2nd June and my sample result cam positive for the disease on 4th June and immediately a team of health workers came with an ambulance in which I boarded and I was taken for the treatment center in Makeni, Bombali District, North of Sierra Leone.
Now, you are married with 3 children, did any of your family member contact the virus?
Yes, my wife and younger sister started showing signs and symptoms of the virus one week after I had been tested positive. They were eventually tested positive and taken to the treatment center a week after I had been taken to the treatment center. He continued that after laboratory confirmation of the virus, his wife and sister were bit jittery and gave them hope on phone, saying that nothing will happen to them and that they will go through it as a family and be together once more again. In fact, my wife and sister recovered and were discharged a week earlier before I was tested negative for the final time which medically qualified me to be discharged.
How were you treated at the treated center?
Contrary to the rumors people were spreading of inhuman situations in treatment centers, I must say I received if not the best but one of the best care I have every experienced in my entire life. Health workers visited us at least 3 times a day to do routine health checks and we were fed three times a day with well-balanced diets as building immunity through nutritious meals was key in our recovery from the disease. Again, one of the most important things in health care is the psychological aspect of managing the disease which was also prioritized and I saw it in full display during my time at the treatment center. The nurses and doctor in charge (Dr. Sesay, DMO Bombali District) were so friendly, helpful and humorous with us which I believe play a key role in my ability to recovery from the disease. “They gave us hope and the need to recover and join our loved ones again” Alphonzo stressed. I want to make it clear that even, when we were at the treatment center the precautionary measures were fully adhered to and we were routinely checked and monitored by health workers.
How did your colleagues receive you after you have been tested negative for the final time and discharge from the treatment center?
To be candid enough, there was some amount of fear among my colleagues. Even, to come closer was a bit problematic and some were running away as most of them were line listed and they see me as a big problem.
You know, we humans are different by nature, what do you think personally helped you to recover?
Well, I was so confident that I will recover and food was served three times a day which was a very key factor as we needed healthy food to build our immunity, backed with the exceptional care from the nurses and doctor. They were so amazing and professional. They really empathized with us and showed that they were really trained to save lives.
When you finally got home from the treatment center, did you face any issue of stigmatization?
Normally in our community setting, people would always talk or pint fingers at you in situations like this. However, it was not a big deal as it was not unique and you know people have learnt from the Ebola scourge of 2014 in which a lot of education and sensitization was done on the area of stigmatization. They now know that when once you have been certified medically from the disease, you are safe to be around with. Though there is possibility for reinfection of COVID-19 which we should be mindful off.
What will be your take home message?
I know people still have fear of COVID-19, but I can assure you that if you are tested positive of the disease don’t be emotional or climb on top of a hill top and fall off as if your whole world has crashed. No, you can still recover and reunion with your loved ones as health workers are always willing and prepared to help you recover. If you know you have started showing signs and symptoms of the disease, isolate yourself so that you cannot infect your loved ones. Don’t make the mistake I did as I was unable to isolate myself which later put me at risk of infecting my wife and younger sister.
Finally, always practice the precautionary measures/preventive behaviors so as to prevent you and your loved ones from the disease. No one measure can assure complete prevention. So, adherence of all preventive measures pays. Note that “Corona Fet Na We All Fet”; meaning it takes personal commitment/action and that of everyone for us to be able to break the chain of transmission of the disease so that we can eliminate the coronavirus disease in Sierra Leone and go back to our normal businesses.
Until then, stay safe, keep safe distance, mask-up properly and practice hand washing regularly. These preventive actions are doable and lifesaving too.
About the author:
Ibrahim Sorie Koroma is a Mass Communication graduate from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra and Health Education/Promotion Officer at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.