Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi was one of five patients discharged by Nigerian health authorities in Lagos on Monday after recovering from Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
In a series of posts on Twitter on Monday, Osowobi shared her experience living with the virus in an isolation center in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial center.
Her illness began after a trip to London where she attended the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey. She was the flagbearer at the service held March 9 where she led the procession that included Queen Elizabeth, members of the royal family and the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.
The 29-year-old said that upon returning home in Lagos, she fell sick and immediately reached out to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to get tested.
The NCDC is the country’s leading national public health institute and has been at the forefront of Nigeria’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Her test was positive and Osowobi wrote that she was taken by ambulance to the Infectious Disease Centre at Mainland Hospital in Yaba, a suburb of Lagos. An isolation ward had been set up at the hospital for coronavirus patients.
Osowobi is the executive director of Stand to End Rape Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating against sexual violence and providing psychosocial services to survivors of abuse.
Her organization has reached around 200,000 people in Nigeria through its services, like training for health workers and providing legal services for survivors of sexual abuse. She was honored as the 2019 Commonwealth Young Person of the Year and was included on the 2019 Time 100 Next List.
After arriving at the hospital, Osowobi said she spent some time feeling “lonely, bored and disconnected from the outside world.”
According to Osowobi, the ward she was placed in was initially empty until other patients arrived a few days later. The isolation center Osowobi stayed in has field hospitals and tents for extra capacity. Nigeria currently has 135 confirmed cases of the virus with 81 of them are in Lagos.
Pain was unbearable
Osowobi says she was in so much pain that she thought she was going to die. “The next days were tough. No appetite. The nausea, vomit and stooling were unbearable,” she wrote.
Osowobi said contracting the virus made her think about the future of her organization.
“I thought I was going to die and contemplated a succession plan for Stand to End Rape,” she said.
She wrote that she took up to 31 pills, all of which her system rejected.
“Sometimes, I’d take 8 tablets in the morning, 13 tablets in the afternoon, 10 at night. My system threw everything out! Water, food, soap & all disgusted me. But I’d look at the wall & force myself to stay hydrated — drank ORS. I FOUGHT TO LIVE!” she wrote, using an acronym for oral rehydration solution.
Beating the virus
Eventually, Osowobi said she received good news from her doctors, who told her she had tested negative. She said she hoped to be discharged from the isolation center immediately. But two days after, she remained in the ward
One of her test results came back positive, forcing her to spend additional days at the center under medication and observation, she said. She asked to be moved to a different ward but remained in the same ward with other patients who were still testing positive.
“For them, I was a beacon of hope & they needed me gone to register the progress,” she wrote.
She was discharged Monday with four others.
“Today, I am PROUD to inform you that I MURDERED COVID-19 & have tested NEGATIVE TWICE! I HAVE BEEN DISCHARGED!” she said on Twitter. “I bless God for His mercies.”
Osowobi thanked the Lagos state governor and commissioner of health in a tweet, saying the state was doing a good job identifying and treating cases of the virus. She also thanked the nurses at the isolation center, writing that they deserve accolades for their hard work.
She wrote that the government should improve its testing capability so “mild/asymptomatic cases” could be tested as well and she supported social distancing to limit the spread of coronavirus.
“We should encourage people to get tested & stop the stigma. Practice social distancing and stop the spread,” she wrote.
Akin Abayomi, the Lagos state commissioner of health, told CNN that the state has been building capacity for outbreaks like coronavirus since 2014 when an Ebola virus outbreak hit Nigeria
“We are very accustomed to dealing with pathogens of high consequences. It is a skill and it is something that we have been refining since the Ebola outbreak. We knew what happened during Ebola and we don’t want to see another situation like that in Lagos,” he said.
To curtail the spread of coronavirus, more than 20 million people in Lagos have been placed under a 14-day lockdown.