A Biomedical Laboratory Scientist at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research Prosper Senyo Sokpe has recounted his experiences of contracting the deadly Coronavirus twice in the line of duty and has now been treated from the virus.
He recounted his ordeal with the COVID-19 pandemic on the New Day show with Berla Mundi on TV3, Monday 18 January.
“On the 22 November(2020), I started feeling feverish and then I decided to go and take Coartem. I took the Coartem and the second day expected that I should see improvement but nothing happened so I continued the full dose and I was still feeling feverish. I was having joint and muscle aches, pains and sometimes I feel spikes in temperature. Then I started having diarrhoea and within one hour, I ran seven times and then I felt that my knees had become very weak. I couldn’t stand, then I realized that no at this point I have to report at the centre on the third day,” he recounted
Mr. Sokpe said he thought he had malaria and thus was treating himself with malaria medicines like Coartem but to no avail because the early symptoms resembled that of malaria until he confided in a colleague about how he was feeling. The colleague came to take a swab on him to be tested for COVID-19, which came out to be positive for the pandemic.
“When I saw my lab ID I was shocked, so I spoke to my team leader Dr. Mrs. Bonney who said, then we have to go to the clinic, I was shocked,” he said.
When asked by Berla Mundi why he was shocked, in view of the fact that he was a frontline worker working directly with the samples, he answered that "because I have been wearing the PPEs (Personal Protective Equipments) and following the protocols, even when I’m with people I still wear them, they used to mock at me that, oh why everyday you’re in places and you’re wearing nose mask, that was when I started asking myself: how did it happen? Where did I get it from? So I started thinking about the possible places and what happened and how I got to that stage, that was what was going through my mind,” he revealed
The former COVID-19 patient said that he was trying to remember where he contracted the virus from but he couldn’t pinpoint exactly where he carried it from.
He also declared that his father died in June last year of the COVID-19 pandemic after he went to a funeral.
When asked how long he battled with his first COVID-19 attack, Mr. Sokpe replied that “when I got to the centre on that 26th (November), my vitals were checked. I used to have a low BP but I realised that that was the first time that I’ve ever seen that my BP was very high, I couldn’t understand why from a low BP person having a higher BP. I was having pains all over, there are certain painkillers that I don’t take because I react, so at that point, they had to give me one of the painkillers I don’t react to, which I don’t want to disclose for the fear of abuse when that injection was given to me, I was still feeling pains, still complaining that my joints with burning sensations. They were doing their best, I had been in the emergency ward for about 11 days and then one of the doctors told me that I should go and isolate for a while and then after that, I can do the retest”.
“So I was taken to the recovery ward for a day, so I told them: I think I can do certain things on my own, then they said okay, because the place was getting full and they have to do something so other people can also get access to the services, so I agreed and went to Legon to isolate for that period. I still had the symptoms so I was put on a drug but I realised that when the drug got finished, the very day that the drug got finished, in the evening I started feeling feverish again so I called one of my friends who is a lecturer at Legon and I told him that I still feel feverish with severe pains and headache at the frontal part of my head without being able to turn my head to the left or right, then I told my friend that I was feeling weird, when I sent the doctor the message then he sent me the name of the medicine that I was taking so I forwarded it to my friend and he went to the pharmacy and bought me the drug when I took the drug the next day then I became okay,” he narrated.
Mr. Sokpe said he decided to stick to the painkiller until he was advised that that wasn’t good for him as it comes with its side effects, he should rather seek for a healthier alternative. So he got his sample to go and retest for the virus, and when the results came he was told it was “Negative” and he said “No” he was feeling the same pains hence, doesn’t want to go home until he can feel he was totally okay. He waited for four days until he decided to move to the hospital that discharged him earlier when he got to the hospital and they took his temperature it was 39.1 degrees and was put on medication for 48 hours but still not okay. So he decided to inform his team leader that he was still not okay and needed a swab for retesting to make sure if it was any other condition other than the virus."
“So my friend from Noguchi came and swabbed me, they went to do the test and he called me that it’s “Positive”, so he mentioned certain figures for me, I understand what it means so at that moment I was actually down because I felt that I should be getting okay but I wasn’t feeling okay, so the nurse over there called the ambulance that they need to send me to the treatment center, when we called Ridge they said it was already full, when we called Korle-Bu they said it was full, so I told them that if this is the case, then I’ve been at Ga East before and they told me that if I have any problem I should come back. When we called the ambulance, the nurse was there and was told that: they don’t use the ambulance to carry COVID patients again, on the 16th of December,” he recounted.
He said the nurse tried to call, in order to ascertain why the phone line went off, so she tried the national emergency numbers for COVID-19 on the hospital wards, and the nurse was told to manage him at the facility he was. This angered him as a frontline worker because that was not what they were told and should be treated.
“We called UGMC (University of Ghana Medical Center) when we called UGMC, they told us they have closed down their COVID clinic center, that was the first time I heard that because no one told us that that center is no more functioning. I had given up at that moment because there was no hope for me again to do anything. So I called a colleague to drive me to Ga East because I couldn’t drive, so he came and took me to the place, we got to Ga East and the security at Ga East told me I’m not in an ambulance so they won’t accept me, then I told them I’m a frontline, this is my card from where I work, they said “No” and I said I know this doctor, this doctor always tells me if I feel anything I should always come, he’s the director of the place but they said “No” he declared.
Mr. Sokpe further recounted that at that moment he was very desperate as a frontliner to be treated like that so he wanted to do something drastic and “crazy” just to get entry into the health facility at Ga East until one of the security personnel convinced his colleagues to let him into the health facility since he is a frontline worker.
“When I got into the center, I saw ambulances carrying people from the airport who tested positive for COVID to the center, actually I was very disappointed as a frontliner, I was very hurt, when I got there too the ER(Emergency Room) was full, so some of the nurses and doctors came to talk to me that things will be fine, so I was sent to a ward just to be there, with a man who came from the US, then they say there was space but I couldn’t get because the man had to go first, he was having other conditions, me too I was also suffering so they came to take me to the ICU(Intensive Care Unit), so after the ICU, actually felt that the nurses over there or the workers over there were trained in Ghana or so, because they were exceptionally nice, I have been to hospitals before, I haven’t seen people been nice like that before, so they kept on encouraging me. So straight away they put me on oxygen, checked my vitals and kept on encouraging me that things will be okay but the pain that I was going through was too much I couldn’t also breath, I became weak as if I don’t have my legs to carry me, I was just lying down on the bed, I was coughing at the same time,” he told.
Mr. Sokpe said, at a point, he told the doctor that the oxygen was too much for him and the doctor replied that because of the condition he was in, that was the right amount of oxygen he needed to survive and he agreed. He also indicated that at this point he seemed to have passed out for days without knowing.
“One other thing that was bothering me was that some of the medications were not available at the centers, so what happened was that a drug was written, a prescription was given to a friend who came around and he said he went to go and purchase the drug, when he got there just 1gram of the drug for 24 hours was GHC1400. And then I needed to take another for 48 hours, that’s GHC2800 and they continued administering that same drug and there were some other drugs also, at the end of the day I was just surprised because we’ve all been listening to our president that treatment of COVID is free. That was what was on my mind, I thought I could have a free treatment because I am a frontliner or any Ghanaian that appear there could have a free treatment, I realized that they don’t have the drugs and if you don’t go for it, then it means you cannot be attended to because I realized that what the hospital had at that moment, that was what was being given to me, at that moment my friends and family had to come together and be able to contribute to purchase drugs for me to be able to see that today I’m here,” Mr. Sokpe recounted his ordeal.
He further said that he spent two weeks at the Intensive Care Unit(ICU) before he was okay and healed without any symptoms except that when he walks for about a 100 to 200 meters he gets tired and has been put on medications because the doctors say there has been an artery blockage. He has gone to do further tests and retests indicating no mishap only that he gets tired easily in doing simple tasks such as climbing stairs, hence is in contact with the director, advising him to take things easily and gradually in order to fully recover.
Mr. Sokpe said it’s been two weeks since he did his last test which proved “Negative”, but feel slightly languid in his body.
“I think that every Ghanaian should just make sure to follow the safety protocols, masking up is cheaper or following the safety protocols cheaper than treatment. Let no one deceive you that treatment is absolutely free, so I’ll just urge each and everyone to just take it seriously, the post-recovery is also something else, it’s not as easy as you see it at all, it’s very difficult. People are saying the virus does not exist, sometimes when you wear the mask people mock you, keep on protecting them, don’t say you’re protecting yourself but wear the mask in order to protect them, If we all have that mind, then we’ll all be fine,” he cautioned.
He also thanked God for granting him a reprieve to live to see another birthday on the 18th of January.