By Nehru Odeh
Professor Remi Raii, poet, scholar and former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, has recovered from the novel coronavirus. He made this disclosure in an article entitled: All I remembered in the Bush of the Impossible Virus.
According to the Professor of English at the University of Ibadan, when he had some feverish symptoms on 10 December 2020, he had thought it was a mere “anatomical disturbance that Paracetamol could banish easily overnight.” But little did he know that he had contracted the dreaded coronavirus.
“In previous days, I had no exact recollection of how and where I got infected, but my journey in the bush of coronavirus started on December 10, 2020 with a mild fever. My body wasn’t used to mild fever; it had to be acute, but this was different. It started gradually as mild, some anatomical disturbance that paracetamol could banish easily overnight. I called at the University Health Services for a test and medication. The recommended drugs indicated that I had malaria. I followed the regimen of prescription duly. But I was worried slightly that the mild fever was developing even more recalcitrant as I took the tablets.
“By the third day after medication, I was convinced that the tablets were fake and I told my wife so. I knew something was wrong but never did I imagine it had to do with the dreaded virus. I had ghost-like dialogues with disembodied, unseen figures. I was actually talking to myself, though sensibly. It was past nine at night when I decided that it would be dangerous to sleep in the house overnight. I believed that I was not alone again. There were presences around me, I insisted I would not sleep in the house,” Raji said.
The respected academic recalled that after his wife, Sola, had called the University Health Services at the University of Ibadan, he was taken to the clinic and after some series of tests, losing appetite and his sense of smell that it dawned on him it was something more serious and not the mere malaria he had thought. And that was how his odyssey at the bush of the Impossible Coronavirus virus virtually started.
“My wife called UHS and covered the distance between our residence and the hospital in record minutes. The doctor was on hand before we reached UHS. I was lucky. There was a test due for the following morning but which the medical staff were able to conduct that night. The malarial parasites had cleared from my system, I could hear the doctors and the nurse from a distance. In three days, I had lost appetite. It was unbelievable unto me that I would push away Sola’s special delicacy of fish. Even my nose had become a mere facial ornament. I could not smell it if you brought the strongest perfume to my face or if I was marooned in an island of pigs,” he said.
Then he had fits of delirium and an out-of-body experience in which he had visions of his late mother. His condition worsened, he took more injections and later begged his doctor to convert all his injections into water and tablets. And while he was going through that, his wife was praying for his recovery.
“The doctor answered me calmly even as I continued to pelt the space with questions. I was speaking with myself. My temperature was running crazy. The doctor returned again with intravenous shots. I thought I wanted to vomit. There was nothing to vomit but bile. It took a long time for me to slip into sleep. Sola sat there, praying. I tried to smile at the prayer warrior but all I felt was pain in almost every joint of my body. I could count each wincing pain by the solid tangibility of the skeletal discomfort.
“Then in the afternoon or just about then, when my body temperature was still playing lotto, the doctor recommended that I be moved to UCH to test for coronavirus infection. On and off, the Jaja team that mended me from first day through that fearful night of December 13 included Dr Oluranti, Dr Bello, Dr Adeniran-Shittu and the Director Dr Ajav. It was Providence that caused Dr Gani Adeniran to put a call through to Professor Olaleye of the Department of Virology at the College of Medicine. Inside the raging ambulance, I commenced a rapid conversation with a man who was silent throughout the journey from UI to UCH. I did not know that my daughter was right inside the bus with me. A solitary oxygen cylinder stood at attention inside the ambulance. It was the cylinder I was talking to.
“With more medications from Jaja, I settled into a separate corner of the house. My body temperature was still playing golf and rugby all at once without a referee. With mild throat irritation and heavy breathing, I waited for the predictable result from Virology. It came late into the night through a call. I tested positive for coronavirus. Home remedy was no longer enough. More medication without any eagerness for food was suicidal. I braced up to enduring another night of discomfort, pain, nightmare and soliloquy. I didn’t know how blessed I was. Sola was bent over me in prayers, with little care for own safety. With the realization of my coronavirus status, I prepared for isolation,” Raji recalled.
After testing positive to coronavirus, Raji was taken in an ambulance belonging to the Oyo State Emergency Operation Centre, EOC, to the Infectious Disease Centre where he began his 14-day experience as a patient in the Intensive Care Unit of the well-manicured facility called IDC, Olodo.
“I would hear later that the incident was formally reported in the University Bulletin with an order for the UHS to be closed down. It was the right and appropriate procedure of decontamination but I shuddered at the condition under which the medical officers operated. They were barely kitted without PPEs, improvised or not. Temporary closures without the provision of protective gears and other preventive protocols will continue to expose frontline health workers to avoidable risks.
“For me, each passing day was a gift. With proper medication and management, I returned to a certain stability which was a pleasant relief to the IDC medical team. My first two days in ICU, they said, were very frightening. I was hallucinating; I came in dehydrated; my temperature instability scared them stiff. I could hear one of the medical staff from a din distance praying intensely for me. Dr Ogundokun and Dr Afonja always arrived in time to check for vital signs. The nurses and other health workers took special interest in me. They found my lost appetite and gave me the lease of a second life. In a matter of days, I graduated from an inelastic human form on the rack of pain and treacherous headache into a bubbly athlete eager to take the extra walk around the open space of the Centre. Dr Akinpelu, the physiotherapist, was impressed by the improvement. I was always happy to do the thanksgiving exercise each passing day.
Raji said his close shave with death after contracting the novel coronavirus taught him one lesson: that coronavirus is real and shouldn’t be treated with kid gloves. He also advised Nigerians to adhere to the covid-19 guidelines religiously.
“This was my life in the bush of the impossible virus. If only I could walk out of this place alive, I would tell people around me of the reality of the virus. So beware, do that social distancing religiously, and wear the face mask appropriately until further notice. The mask is no decoration for the chin. And when that ordinary fever or cough is prolonged, or when that respiratory discomfort is accompanied by joint aches, loss of smell or taste, irritation and palpitations, take real caution. The cliché about “seeing your doctor if the ailment persists after three days” is damn real. Test for the virus as early as possible,” he averred.