“My COVID-19 naija story”: Health workers in the frontline recount experiences

AS Nigerians continue to grapple with the reality of the COVID-19  pandemic around the country, some health workers have taken to social media to share their experiences using mycovid19naijastory hashtag.

The hashtag created by the NCDC to allow people share their stories have revealed stories of front liners.

The ICIR  here features stories of Nifemi, Godwin and Opeyemi as they recounted their various experiences.

Bella Nifemi is a medical doctor currently working at one of the isolation centres for COVID-19 in Lagos State, Nigeria.
Nifemi, who described her experience as  challenging and life changing, said sometimes the fear of known or unknown sets in.

Dr Bella Nifemi, a medical doctor in an isolation centre in Lagos State.

There has been moments I want to pull out and go back home, then I remember my warriors on admission who are always excited when I’m around for their sample collection,” Nifemi recounted.
She added that she misses home, her bed and her toilet where she does most of her writing.
Nifemi expressed her dissatisfaction about Nigerians saying COVID19 is a scam.

“We are risking our lives daily at the isolation center, deprived of so many things only for people to say it’s not real or it’s Malaria we are managing. Not fair to those who lost their lives to the virus, especially our colleagues,” Nifemi recounted.
She reaffirmed that COVID-19 is not a scam, and urged Nigerians to  stay safe and help health workers flatten the curve to reduce the workload on them. 

Okoro Godwin Omeri , a sample collector in one of FCT isolation centre who also shared his story said he saw the COVID-19 as an opportunity to learn and teach others.

Okoro Godwin Omeri, a sample collector in FCT isolation  in

Godwin lives with his elder brother who has two kids that run to him whenever he comes back from work shouting “uncle is back” as they hug him.

“I miss their hugs, I have been staying in a hotel provided for us and whenever I come home they no longer call my name, they just stare at me from afar,”  he said.

Godwin revealed how he almost quit during his first sample collection, after he met the first case, stating that was when reality dawned on him.

“I asked myself if I really wanted to put my life at risk. I was scared, I trembled, the patient had almost all the symptoms, I felt I was staring at COVID-19 right in the face, at this point I just wanted to quit and go back to my normal life,”  Omeri said.

He explained how he had to take samples of deceased persons, and how frightening it was for him.

“In next 10 years, when the world is talking about COVID-19 frontliners, I would be very be proud I played a role,” he added.

Omeri, like Nifemi, said it was quite painful hearing people say that COVID-19 is not real. H said Nigerians needed to take responsibility by protecting themselves.

“If you contract COVID-19, you can survive it but the person who may contract it from you, may not, ” Omeri    concluded.

Opeyemi Adeyemi  began her residency in Community Medicine at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital in Sagamu, Ogun State. When the COVID-19 outbreak came to Nigeria, Ogun State was ground zero, and Adeyemi and colleagues found themselves quickly supporting the state’s response.

Dr Opeyemi Adeyemi is a public health doctor in Ogun state.

Opeyemi who said she was at work with her colleagues doing some sensitisation for Lassa fever when the state recorded it’s first case said to her self  that they were not ready “We are not ready! We are still dealing with Lassa fever”.

Opeyemi was quoted in NigeriaHealthWatch, saying: “Amongst my colleagues, the first thing we said was, “Now it’s time for us to work”, because for public health, doctors in other areas of specialisation would say that we                                                                                        were not doing anything much and we were just chilling.”

Opeyemi revealed she had to do everything for her first patient, including disposing her urine and cleaning her up because she was the only one wearing PPE.

She added that her colleagues did not have PPE, so they could not see the patient and get themselves exposed. Unfortunately, the patient passed away.

According to Opeyemi she stated she was frightened when she saw a picture of the way she was dressed in PPE, she had one strand of hair coming out.

“I wasn’t a 100 percent covered. I panicked for about 48 hours until the results came out and it was negative! For every patient you see or every suspected case, you’re practically at risk because you don’t know what the turn of events will be,”Opeyemi added.



    “You  have to ensure that you are well covered. PPE is not comfortable at all. You are practically sweating your eyeballs out; it is itchy and uncomfortable, and you still have to do your work.

    She explained that the PPE cannot be worn all day, so every time she comes out from the ward, she has to remove it. The next time she goes in again she has to re-gown. With that process, she revealed she can go in and out for up to four times, depending on how restless the patient is. 

    When all this is over, Opeyemi said it would be a joyful moment after  the incubation period of the last case and tracing all possible contacts that the last case had and finding that none of them have symptoms of the disease, seeing the last case would be a sigh of relief, knowing that the battle is over.

    “I’ll go home, take a shower, buy chocolates, drink a bottle of wine and go to my family in Abeokuta,” Opeyemi added.




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