Gbenro Adegbola, a notable Nigerian educationist and publisher, is the Managing Director First Veritas, a company pioneering digital adoptions in line with the new global standards in learning. A man with robust dossier in the publishing sector, he was President, Nigerian Publishers Association who also was once Managing Director Evans Publishers with a host of other high-end roles in other publishing firms in Nigeria.
Being infected with coronavirus was the last thing on his mind but then, he landed at one of the isolation facilities in Oyo State. As a survivor, he has stories to tell Nigerians and the global community on the reality of the virus in this interview with NPO Reports. Excerpts:
You contracted covid, could you given account of how this happened and what were the signs you saw?
I thought I was dealing with malaria and after a course of anti-malarial drugs, the fever, body aches, delirium and listlessness persisted. It was at that stage that my doctor suggested I take a covid test.
Even after this, I thought it was overkill. Covid was the last thing I thought I could catch! It took four days for my test result to come back. It came in the form of a telephone call from the Oyo State coordination committee telling me that I was positive. In the preceding four days, I had started reconciling myself to the possibility it was probably covid. But a slight relief in the symptoms in the previous two days still made it something of a shock. I wasn’t particularly worried but had some concerns about an underlying health issue that I live with and this probably worried my family more. We immediately started making enquiries as to what isolation centre would be best. The idea of home management was ruled out ab-initio because of my health condition and I was already showing signs of low oxygen concentration.
How did you land at the isolation centre?
We ended up choosing the Infectious Diseases Unit of University College Hospital, Ibadan as they had all sorts of specialists to call on, in case of any emergency. As we drove into the premises, I was quite relieved to see that it was spanking a new facility. I had had mild concerns about how suitable the environment would be.
I was received warmly and settled in fast. I was in a room meant for 5, all by myself. As far as I could see, there was only one other person in the centre as at the time I came in. The personnel were professional and took time to explain the routine. They would only come in to see me thrice a day but would check on us behind the glass door from time to time and by CCTV. They took time to explain that I shouldn’t take this wrongly but there was need to protect themselves as well.
What were your fears?
I had no fears as such but I remember the first two days I was extremely angry with myself for catching this plague; how exactly I caught it I could not say. I kept thinking over my various encounters and which one of it could have been the source. Then came the worry about possibly having infected other people. There were two people I was particularly worried about, apart from my wife and members of my household. My wife had taken a test and came out negative, so she was in the clear. I asked the doctors and they advised I should give them a call. I duly did. Both of them assured they were fine. That was a great relief.
Can you recall how your family took it when it dawned on them you had contracted the virus?
But my family was very worried and stressed out by it all. My children in Lagos were worried stiff, especially because they weren’t around. Later on, when I became strong enough to walk to the glass door, my wife would do a video call to them so they could see my face. My wife, as usual outdid herself, ensuring a constant supply of food at the specified times and ample stock of snacks. She also made sure that all the medical supplies I needed were promptly purchased. I did not realise that there was always one of our staff outside in the car to go and get whatever it was that was requested. And she even did the shift herself on an occasion, when I was informed she was sitting outside all afternoon in the car. Might just add that I am such lucky man!
How would you describe a typical day at the isolation centre?
As I said, the centre is a new creation. It is one of the detached bungalows on the grounds of UCH, converted into an isolation centre and it was extremely well run. Our days started at about 6am, when drugs were administered and vitals taken. Thereafter, we had a chance to shower etc. By the second day, another patient was brought in, a professor and Vice Chancellor in one of the nearby universities. That helped with the monotony, which I didn’t particularly feel so much. But at least, one had someone to talk to from time to time. But I was sleeping an awful lot even during the day. The centre gradually filled up as time went on.
What is the medics-patients relationship like at an isolation centre?
There was not much interaction with the personnel as mentioned earlier. They came, apart from emergencies very sparingly and even then, there was an anonymity given the personal protective equipment that they wore which masked their faces and even though you could see their eyes through the clear plastic goggles. Most times, it was so misted and fogged up. Consequently, even if I met anyone of them today, I will most certainly not recognise them and just walk past them.
Many are still doubting the existence of Covid, how else do you think such people can be educated to come to terms with this?
For people who are still doubting the reality of Covid, I am quite frankly, somewhat unbothered. I really believe nothing but personal experience will convince such people, but that will be a burden on our already burdened health system, so I hope government intensifies the enlightenment campaigns to educate the populace. I also hope features (interviews with survivors) such as this will begin to convince some of them.
Can you rate Government’s handling of this pandemic vis-à-vis other parts of the world?
I have been impressed by the handling of the crisis by government, although I must admit that I was more focused on my survival than noticing the strong and weak points of government’s handling. The Oyo State contact man, Mr. Afolabi Gbolagade, who called me, made efforts to find out what type of house I lived in, how suitable it was for self isolation, possible risks to my colleagues at work, etc. He would subsequently call occasionally to find out my condition after he had learnt I was admitted in UCH, and even pray with me!
In average cost, what do you think you must have spent in getting yourself treated?
The main expenses were really oxygen and diagnostic tests. I was consuming 2 cylinders a day and at some point, went up to 3 and possibly 4. Apart from that, the drugs were relatively cheap and accessible. In more serious cases, the drugs could become really expensive. But I shouldn’t fail to mention that I know for a fact that treatment for covid is free in other centres in the state, so there should not be any fear about costs.