He turned up with flu-like symptoms at a medical centre in Ogun state in the southwest of Nigeria. Dr Amara Allison, who was on duty, examined the patient and ordered that he be isolated immediately. She had just diagnosed Nigeria’s first COVID-19 patient. Along with four health workers and 35 other people who had been in contact with the country’s index case, Dr Allison was placed on a 14-day quarantine. She recounts her experience staying indoors for a fortnight.
Being quarantined is quite kaleidoscopic.
On the first day, I didn’t quite understand the gravity of it. I guess I was unconsciously in a lot of denial, thinking ‘no, not me’ which in retrospect wasn’t such a bad thing. This feeling lasted the first 48 hours.
I was cheerful and able to reassure my family. They were the only ones with whom I could share that I had been potentially exposed to the virus but could not share with them more details on how it happened in virtue of medical confidentiality.
The power of a good support system cannot be over emphasized
By my third day, it was like a flood gate opened and a dam of emotions hit me smack in my face and gut. I woke up on day three, and I just couldn’t get out of bed. That was the day the protective shock wore off. I was now unavoidably afraid. This point was where I realized the importance of a support system. Luckily my family didn’t fall short. They called to reassure me and in some way themselves. It was mostly welcome. I say mostly because I had highs and lows, periods when I absolutely didn’t want to talk or feel like talking to anyone, even though I wanted them to call as it reassured me.
The psychological trauma was my greatest challenge, just being with my thoughts alone for 14 days, good, bad, ugly. I also had to deal with the accompanying boredom and missing real human contact. It hit me really badly because aside from all that was going on, I’m a very physically active person and I couldn’t be that during this period.
However, it wasn’t all fear if I’m being honest. The quarantine period also gave me time to self-develop as much as possible (through online courses) which was also a very welcome form of distraction.
To make the 14 days of quarantine liveable my organization had a psychologist call in to check on us twice daily (morning and night), so that gave me a lot of reassurance. They also had someone call in everyday specially for our physical needs.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) team in Nigeria also provided their support. The WHO doctors were calling me regularly to provide words of encouragement and advice on the principles of quarantine. I was also able to stay abreast of the latest developments on the virus through the WHO online platforms.
By my fifth day in, I learned to dispel my boredom and persistent anxiety with movies and books. I’m a fitness enthusiast and as difficult as it was for me to muster the mental energy to workout, whenever I did eventually workout, it lifted my mood significantly and left me feeling healthier.
We were comfortable in quarantine: steady power supply, spacious rooms, healthy frequent meals surely made it liveable. It’s also important to anticipate boredom, low moods, maybe even depression. Having several means of entertainment would remedy these to an extent. The power of a good support system cannot be over emphasized, but overall maintaining a positive outlook as much as possible is imperative to getting through any quarantine period.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of WHO Regional Office for Africa.