Many people all over the world have been quite anxious about the global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Many have lost their loved ones, their livelihoods and even their minds from the impact of this pandemic. On March 12, 2020, Ghana confirmed its first cases of COVID-19. Being an infectious illness, it is not surprising that people are afraid to go near those who are infected.
Sometime after joining my departmental COVID-19 team, there was a call for volunteers to work at the National Treatment Centre, specifically the National COVID-19 ICU. I delayed my decision to join for a bit because I was honestly uncertain about what could go wrong and was afraid for the worst. Yes, I was afraid of all the possibilities and the fear of the unknown. I was also scared that I might pick the virus and infect my husband and children with it. My husband Jeffrey was thankfully very supportive. We had more training sessions which really boosted my confidence. I decided, eventually, to join the team and the day came for work to begin at the treatment centre.
Entering the patient’s room for the first time, there I was with all my tasks outlined for me.
The moment of truth had come and I still had mixed feelings; wondering if I had made the right decision to volunteer in the first place, along with all the potential risks it posed to my family and I.
Apparently, the fear never went away (I soon realized). I said “Hello” to the patient and started performing my tasks in the room which involved setting an intravenous line for the patient (i.e. placing a needle/cannula into a vein through which the ‘drip’ and medications can be given). As I got close, I felt my mask might have shifted a bit…. (“Yikes! Am I exposed?”) Many ugly thoughts ran through my mind that instant. Thankfully I still felt my breath was being filtered well by the N95 mask I had on my face, so I cooled down a bit. The next few days after that incident had me really thinking. Many “what ifs?” ran through my mind. I got to speak with our consultants, Drs Owoo, Commey and Dame, and other team members who calmed me down and asked me to alert them if I had any further concerns or symptoms. Their support helped a lot.
The tasks of the individual team members overlapped all the time with the aim of reducing the number of exposures for health care workers. Of course, the teamwork was great. All the preventive measures for COVID-19 recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) were still practised religiously.
There is time in-between to have meals and also to catch one’s breath. Yipeeeeee!
At the end of the working day or night, I go back home to my family. This means that I need to ensure that I do not take the virus back home. I practise hand washing and change back into my home attire before leaving the hospital. Once I get home, I take a shower before I come close to anyone in my home. We all do miss, to an extent, the physical closeness that is discouraged now. We miss seeing and hugging our friends and even some family members. The masks, however, cannot steal the smiles that show in our eyes even when the mask covers the mouth and nose. We all need to stay strong and help fight COVID-19.
Although it took me some time to say “Yes” to volunteer for the National COVID-19 ICU team, I have not regretted this decision. There is so much joy when our patients recover and go home. There have also been a few sad moments when patients died or were not doing well. Our clinical psychologists are, however, always there to provide both staff and patients with the much needed psychological support during such unfortunate times. We also have each other. We are there for ourselves as staff and for our patients as well.
Fellow Ghanaian, kindly ensure that you take all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Fellow Ghanaian health care worker, let’s not allow fear to prevent us from caring for people infected and affected by COVID-19. By all means say ‘Yes’. By all means get trained in the appropriate wearing of PPE and caring for people with COVID-19.
Fellow Ghanaian health care manager, by all means get us the PPE that we need so that we can continue to give of our best in caring for the people of Ghana.
I know that this is not an easy task but yes we can! We all do hope that the COVID-19 pandemic ends very soon. May it, however, find us prepared and well equipped! Let’s do this!
The writer is a Specialist Paediatrician at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and a volunteer at the National COVID-19 ICU
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