My husband loved swallow! Pounded yam especially but where he couldn’t get it, he would settle for poundo, semo or garri. In short any swallow that goes with egusi, gbegiri, efo riro or bitterleaf…he was game!
If he was sick and asked for swallow, either with egusi soup or efo riro, I knew he had recovered.
I used to tease him that if he fainted and I brought swallow close to him, he would rise up immediately.
He was a medical doctor and I was totally unaware he was treating coronavirus patients. He worked in a government hospital but consulted with several private practices and he also had his own medical practice which he ran with a partner.
I knew that with the way the virus was spreading, there was every likelihood he would encounter patients who caught the virus. But he never came home to say, “We had a coronavirus patient today…”
My husband and I also belonged to a popular church that have their own hospitals and many times, my husband also consulted for them as per church member who was a doctor.
Now, my husband was called to come and consult for a special patient…apparently some pastors of the church had caught the virus and one particular case was so bad he had to be put on the one and only ventilator the hospital had.
I really cannot tell whether it was just one case that my husband handled that period or there were several cases; I know that as a church running a hospital, they could have had several cases of coronavirus infections; so I do not know for sure if my husband treated just one or several. He never came home to tell me.
Anyway, a few days after he began to consult for the church, he fell sick.
Not sick, sick, you know; he first began by complaining of body ache and I took it to mean that the unusual hectic hours he had been working in the past few weeks were taking a toll. He came home every day not later than 11pm, 12pm or early morning, and he would sleep for just 3 hours before heading back to work.
I told him an “old man” like him needed to take things easy but he laughed and said “I am only 54 years joo.”
But then he sighed and added: “I don’t know what is going on with my body.” This was the usual expression from him when he was about to go down sick from stress due to work.
He was not fine the following day. He was burning up with fever and so I became concerned. I never even suspected coronavirus; I thought he would have mentioned it to me if he had been exposed to the virus, since he never did, I thought this was fever, you know. I called his partner to inform him he was burning up and might not show up for clinic that day.
His partner said, “Bring him to the hospital immediately!”
“What is going on here? I am managing it well…” but he insisted and told me he would take care of him.
So I drove him to the hospital and left him in his partner’s care. I called to speak to him several times during the day and he sounded tired…after a while, his partner said he was switching off my husband’s phone, so he could rest.
That wouldn’t be the first time my husband would hospitalized in his own clinic, even doctors fall sick, so I concluded, he truly needed to get some bed rest, though home would have been preferable for me.
I went to the clinic the following morning and they had managed to bring the fever down and when I brought him pap and moinmoin, he said he wanted something else. He wanted swallow. He said I should go back to the house to make swallow for him. If a sick person is asking for swallow, it means they are getting better, right? That’s what I thought o.
And I wasn’t too scared because Coronavirus doesn’t attack one day and the very next day, the person is better, abi? So yes, despite the handwashing and masks the clinic insisted on us wearing, I had no clue what was going on.
In all of the news and stories I had been consuming online and offline, my husband’s symptoms, apart from the fever, didn’t look like what I had read and heard about.
I was thankful to my husband’s partner and the nurses. I remember teasing my husband to stop pretending to be sick since swallow was uppermost on his mind.
I had gone some 10minutes away from the clinic when I got a call from his partner. I normally do not drive and call, so I put it on speaker and the voice that came to me chilled me to the bones.
‘Simi, Simi, come back, immediately Tise is gasping for breath!”
What? Whose Tise? Mine? No way!
I immediately found a place to make a U-Turn and headed back to the clinic. My heart was pounding; my thoughts were wild…what is going on? How can the person I saw a few minutes ago, talking normally, joking and even demanding for food, and telling me to hurry back be gasping for breath?
I had been married to a doctor for almost three decades; when they say someone is gasping for breath, they don’t say it lightly. I also knew fully well that their clinic had no ventilator!
By the time I got back to the clinic, my husband was already dead!
What in the world is this?
Why was he gasping for breath…?
His partner told me, ‘He died from coronavirus.’
“How can? Tise was talking just now, less than an hour ago, thirty minutes in fact…what did you just say? Coro what?”
I began to laugh. Yes. I laughed, the type that just bubbles up because everything around you defies reason.
I asked Damian, his partner, “How can he die from coronavirus? Can someone who wasn’t infected die from it?”
“Tise was exposed to it in the last few weeks…we all were… and we thought we took enough precautions”
I stopped hearing him.
I found out, indeed my husband was exposed to the virus; he and some other doctors were treating some of their church members in a private clinic. They thought they had protected themselves enough; they wore protective gears, they hand washed, they isolated the patients, they scrubbed before leaving the hospital everyday…and yet. I saw his phone and read his WhatsApp messages, he knew he could catch the virus and had told his partner not to scare me with the facts but to ensure he was taken to the clinic for care…
The contents of his messages made me angry at him!
I also found out two of the nurses who also tested positive had died, too.
Was I upset?
Upset ke. I was mad!
Tise had exposed me and my children and everyone we had been in contact with in the past few weeks to the virus!
Yes, he knew I would panic if he told me he was treating Covid patients but that would also have helped me protect myself and the people we lived with; yes he insisted on us observing the protocols -wearing masks, et al by house helps and people we interacted with but I should have known!
So when I confirmed I had also been exposed, I shut down my supermarket and insisted my staff go get their jabs. My husband and I only got the first dose, we planned on going for the second dose but now it is too late for him.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)