As told to Mariam
Early last month, I saw a tweet on my timeline — Bimbo* had spent a long time in quarantine even though she didn’t have the virus. I have had the virus before so I was curious about her story. I messaged her and our conversation led to this article.
This year started in the wildest way. I work as a wireline field engineer in Port Harcourt. This means I get to travel a lot. My plan for the year was building my competency so I can be promoted at the office. I was scheduled for jobs that would enable me to reach my goal and I was looking forward to learning more about my job. Before we travel, we have routine checks that include running a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test — performed to detect the presence of a virus. That was how I tested positive for coronavirus on the 3rd of January even though I wasn’t showing any symptoms.
I was shocked because I took COVID-19 precautions seriously. I always wear my masks. In the office, I wear it even when I am alone. Some of my colleagues joke that they have never seen my face without a mask since the pandemic started. I have a small bottle of hand sanitiser. I refill it very often. On public transport, I pay for two seats so nobody is in my space. I was interacting with everyone from at least 1m away. I was also sad that I had to stay back while my colleagues went on the job.
I was immediately moved to an isolation centre, which was the annexe of a hotel in Port Harcourt. Since I was unable to go to work and I wasn’t feeling sick, it was easy for me to get bored. At first, it wasn’t so bad. My office paid me an inconvenience allowance so I was a bit comfortable. I tried to get into a routine. I worked out in the mornings. I took virtual courses. I read my bible. I wrote competency exams for work. I also finished all of my work deliverables. That productivity level fizzled out fast. I started watching cartoons — I finished my favourite cartoons on Netflix while I was there. I watched a lot of shit on Youtube. I had a lot of information in my head so I started making videos of my opinions on different topics. I moved to games at some point and then I just started sleeping a lot.
It was like a holiday I did not need. Most of my work is done on the field so I couldn’t do a lot from the isolation centre. I was looking forward to leaving the facility and going back to work but on the 10th day, my second test came back positive. Wahala! At this point, there was nothing particularly interesting to do so I would find myself just staring out the window. It’s interesting how much you can notice when you look long enough every day. I also started taking drugs even though I still had no symptoms. My mum contacted her friend who was a nurse and she prescribed hydroxychloroquine, zinc and vitamin C. I had read somewhere that hydroxychloroquine doesn’t cure COVID-19 but I was desperate. My parents also sent me green tea, honey and ginger.
After another 10 days, I took another test and it came back positive again. This time, I asked to go home since I had no symptoms, there was no point staying there. By this time, I had spent 23 days in that centre. I live with my parents so when I moved back home, my mum would boil ginger, garlic, honey, onions and lime and I would inhale the steam. It was recommended by my dad’s cousin who is a doctor in America. I believed he knew what he was doing plus we were all worried. We did this for about seven days before I took another test.
Guess what? It was positive again. This was my third positive covid test after about a month of first getting diagnosed with it. My dad was quite suspicious because we had been following the instructions given to us by my dad’s cousin – the doctor, my mum’s friend – the nurse and the internet religiously. Also, I still wasn’t showing any symptoms whatsoever and neither of my parents was sick. So I decided to take another test at the government testing centre in Port Harcourt. It was negative and both tests were just a day apart. I sent the negative result to my office and they were sceptical about it because that’s where we had all been getting tested. In a bid to investigate further, I decided to visit a different private centre and take another test. Let’s call it Centre B. Centre A is where I had been getting positive results. Centre B’s result came back negative as expected. In all of this, I was annoyed that I was spending a lot of money and I wasn’t even sick! I spent 30k to print out my government result and the private tests cost me 50k. Luckily, my dad paid for them.
When I went back to Centre A with both negative results — from the government and Centre B, they had an explanation, something about antibodies but I believe that they were lying. I couldn’t chase the case any further because of how grave it would be to accuse a whole health centre of doctoring coronavirus results and I was the only one who had done an external test so far so I let it go. Moreover, I was relieved to not have COVID-19 after 40 days of isolation. Looking back, I feel like I could have utilized my free time better but I have no regrets. My goals are calling me and I have to answer. I may have lost some time but you never know what’s going to come out of that. What’s mine will always find me.
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