Broadcast journalist with Class FM, Gemma Appiah

It was a good morning. Well, that is what I thought when I dressed up to go to work at 5 am. I usually check the messages on my phone when I wake up just to see if a story broke while I was asleep. However, that morning, there was no urge to check my phone.

When I got to the office and started prepping to go on the air, I decided to switch on my data. I saw a tonne of messages from news platforms but none was a breaking story.

Then I noticed my sister had sent me 8 messages. I was left with less than 10 minutes to go on air. So, I decided to read the messages. My sister, whom I live with, had come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Huh! We had chatted for hours the previous day till I went to bed but that conversation never came up. The affected person informed her that he was getting tested for COVID-19 after his mother got exposed and that was after my sister also got exposed to him.

Simply put, there was ‘exposure’. The results, apparently came that night while I was fast asleep. My sister, who didn’t want to wake me up, decided to text me hoping that I will see the messages in the morning.

Her messages continued to read, ‘Be extra careful at work so you don’t expose anyone’. At that moment, I was confused. I usually do not wear face masks while on air because it muffles my voice. However, I needed to wear it that morning. Coupled with my confusion, I went on to introduce the news bulletin. At this time, I knew I needed to put the confusion aside and serve my listener. I did, but not with the same ‘voice’.

It was better for me to have a muffled voice than to expose anyone to the virus. After the bulletin, I quickly stepped out and read the messages again. Yes, the meaning had not changed but she had added that we go in for a test. I sat in the office for a while very confused. What am I going to do next?

It was too early – 6:20 am, to start calling my doctor friends. I was supposed to join my colleagues for the newspaper review segment on the Executive Breakfast Show but I declined.

I spoke to one of my bosses and explained why I needed to leave the premises that very moment. I sounded like I was a threat. The last thing I wanted to happen was to be the spreader at the office. No one at the company had tested positive for the virus yet.

All the suspected cases there had come out negative. I did not want to be the ‘Carlos Ahenkorah’ or the lady at the Tema fishing company, who, unknowingly, spread the virus to over 500 of her colleagues. So, I left and that is how my self-quarantine started.

I was not showing any signs or symptoms. I could taste, smell; no cough, no sneezing, no fever. I was perfectly fine. Besides, I had taken steps to boost my immune system and I took my personal hygiene a notch higher even before Ghana recorded the first two cases.

I was using hand sanitisers way before it became a must. One of my colleagues told me he will be very shocked if he learns I have contracted the virus because I was always doing the most with the preventive measures. But here I was in self-quarantine.

My sister and I left for the University of Ghana Medical Centre for the test. I thought the national protocol was contact-tracing. In this case, my sister should have been traced and tested. We have since not received any call as a result of contact-tracing.

When we got to UGMC, the nurse told us they do not attend to walk-ins. My sister explained that she had gotten exposed to a patient and that she needed a test done. I live with her, so, I also needed to take the test. After convincing the nurse, she wrote down our names and told us to return on Friday for the test.

We returned on Friday, and while we were waiting for the actual test after they had taken our details, I called a doctor friend and told him I was going to have the test done. That 20-minute conversation gave me a different view of our fight against this virus.

I have been reporting on all the loopholes in this fight. I have heard from the Ghana Health Service and the health professionals but here I was living the ‘nightmare’

In that conversation, it became very clear that we are losing the fight. Hospital beds are full, health workers are getting infected, test results are not coming in on time. He told me how it took one of his patients more than two weeks to get her result. And, normally, it takes two weeks for a patient to recover, if he/she does not succumb to the disease.

So, what is the probability that the patient, during the two-week period of waiting for the results, has not recovered? Mind you, the virus, itself, is incurable. It is the immune system that can fight it. So, if you eat good food, exercise, take in vitamin C and Zinc during the period of waiting for the results, there is a good chance that you would have recovered by the time your test results would have come out positive.

I had called the UGMC, where I took the test several times, and I kept getting the same answer: the result is not in. I asked the receptionist then, who, I think, is a health professional: ‘So, if the results should come out positive in the next two weeks, the virus would have done what it wants to do with my body, not so?’ She replied: ‘I suggest you speak with your doctor’.

Ghana we dey!

Thankfully, I spoke to my doctor before going for the test and he had already prescribed some medicines for me as an early treatment – just in case. This whole self-quarantine and delayed result have got me thinking, what happens to those who have to go to work every day before they can get food on the table; the commercial drivers, traders, artisans and the rest. If they are to follow through with self-quarantine for weeks just waiting for results, how are they going to survive? I am tired of advising the government; they know what to do. My advice goes to you.

We are in difficult times, more so when we do not have a cure or vaccine for it. Eat well, drink well, exercise and get enough sleep. Help your body to fight this virus just in case you get exposed. Take in vitamin D and Zinc. Avoid fizzy drinks and junk foods. The virus is closer to you than you ever thought. Don’t let your guard down.

My result came in eleven days after I took the test and it was negative.

Source: Gemma Appiah

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