Jackson Okata recognised that his ignorance and fear could have not only left him dead but endangered his wife and children.
Fear can be dangerous if allowed to override one’s judgment. It’s a fact I understood on an intellectual level but not on an emotional one until that fateful morning I walked out of an editorial meeting. In spite of my experiencing classic covid-19 symptoms, including blinding headaches, aching joints, a sore throat and loss of taste and smell, I refused to accept that I had the virus, especially since I had taken preventive measures against the disease.
Wallowing in denial, I self-medicated with painkillers and continued going to work without breathing a word of my symptoms to my colleagues, one of whom soon noticed my uncanny habit of drinking hot water in spite of Kenya's sweltering weather. Concerned, she advised I take the covid test, but I brushed her off insisting I had the common flu and was on the mend. On the home front, my wife only inquired about my lack of appetite, which I attributed to the flu, not wanting to panic her or our two children.
As a journalist, I was aware of the stigma associated with taking the covid test and feared our neighbours would ridicule my family if they found out that I tested positive. Paralysed by worry and anxiety, I sunk deeper into denial and began using local concoctions, including boiled lemon water, ginger and garlic, to alleviate the symptoms. It was at this point my wife suspected something was amiss as I spent exceedingly long hours in bed. Once again, I rebuffed her concerns until she threatened to call government health officials if I refused to seek medical help. Two days after I took the test, my worst fears were confirmed: I had coronavirus.
Paralysed by worry and anxiety, I sunk deeper into denial and began using local concoctions, including boiled lemon water, ginger and garlic, to alleviate the symptoms.
Contact tracing established I contracted it from the office as two colleagues had tested positive prior. The doctor advised I self-isolate at home. Limited space meant turning the only bedroom into an isolation unit, while my wife and kids shared the living room. Delivering food and other necessities to me required my wife donning on protective gear, and even then she left the items at the door, scurrying away before I emerged. What’s more, my children couldn’t see me although we communicated on the phone. My only human contact during isolation was the government health officer who visited every three days to examine me.The ordeal finally ended two weeks and a second test later when my result came back negative. Free from the debilitating grip of covid-19, I reunited with my family.
In retrospect, I recognise my ignorance and fear could have not only left me dead but endangered my wife and children. As penance, I’m now educating others through my work as a journalist on the importance of adhering to health protocols and why it’s imperative to take covid-19 seriously, a disease that continues to wreak havoc worldwide.