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Nigerian female healthcare workers in the diaspora tell their stories

First time I heard about COVID-19 was last year, when it affected China terribly. A Doctor I work with who is from China, had relatives back home and he was very concerned, at that point, I knew it was only a matter of time before COVID-19 hits USA and the rest of the world.

This is an extremely difficult period for everyone especially health care workers on the front lines. I have had to cancel and postpone my elective procedures( surgeries) and fertility treatment consult so I can share my time working overtime at the COVID- 19 floor, while still attending to my primary patients. Also, some of my fellow physicians sleep in their cars and don’t go home because the Doctor’s lounge is packed and it isn’t their shift. They sleep in their cars so that they don’t put their families at home at risk and because we don’t have sufficient Medical supplies. That’s scary as we think of the USA as one of the well-resourced places in the world when it comes to many things including health care, but it goes to show that when there’s a sort of widespread panic, regular supplies can be depleted fairly quickly.

At my place of work, we’ve had a Doctor’s death as a result of COVID- 19 and few are infected alongside some nurses. I work in a state; it’s the headquarters of CDC and a hospital where it’s the first liaison. During the first week that it broke out, we had to wait 48-72 hours before we got test results back, it’s much better now. We have enough test kits. I’m pretty sure, our Hospitals( 2 branches) was the first to report the first cases in the state. One of which I worked permanently and the other occasionally. As a practitioner, I would be honest, it was very scary seeing how rapid COVID- 19 infected people. It was

certainly airborne. We ran out of beds and medical supplies and we were at full capacity. Paramedics were attending to patients in their vans. It was crazy. I panicked for sure but I knew I had to be strong for people. I was especially scared for my kind of clients. Pregnant women were more at risks. We initially assumed younger and those without preexisting health conditions were low risks, not until we started recording deaths of patients with perfect lungs. No history of intoxication on alcohol and smoke, good health and never travelled, this was when I began to really panic, especially when we don’t have vaccines ready for COVID-19.

Read also: How govt can effectively combat COVID-19 outbreak- ACUF

It has been a sad experience globally and I believing an end will come soon because the number of lives lost on a daily basis is alarming. It pains my heart when I see these figures daily in America. We as healthcare workers are doing our best and can only keep hoping. Coronavirus really took the world by surprise. Remember it was made known to all at the end of 2019 from a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, a city in the Hubei Province of China. From there, it spread like wildfire, became an epidemic in China and now in various countries of the world.

The virus became COVID-19 in February 2020, as announced by the World Health Organisation. It is interesting to know that people are becoming more aware of the virus and are eager to find out what it is all about. Even patients are now better informed. Those who have recovered are sharing their stories and symptoms they experienced, including their healing period so that others can learn from it.

Having said that, it hurts more to know that thousands of lives are being lost and many countries are not left out.

In different parts of America, the figures are alarming. The numbers of lives lost in Missouri are not as much as other states in America. In Missouri, the government and the healthcare workers are consistently creating awareness and doing their best to control the mobility and mortality rate. My colleagues in Florida do

call to share their experiences with me and it is truly heartbreaking knowing the number of patients they have seen die and that they have come in contact with. It is the oath we swore, we will do our best to protect lives and I pray God brings us out of this situation faster that we hope for.

I have family in Nigeria and I reach out to them to check on their wellbeing as they do to me too. We need to reach out to family and loved ones in times like this. Love indeed is what we need. It is obvious now that life is very fickle, you can be here today and gone tomorrow.

I will advise that everyone must take washing of hands seriously, use alcohol based sanitizers and most of all stay at home. I can’t emphasize that enough, stay at home, keep safe so that as the healthcare workers are doing their best to save the patients brought in with the virus, the numbers do not have to continually increase.

My role as a critical care nurse includes caring for patients in critical care environment, performing basic patient assessment and care plan and working with the Multi Disciplinary Team (MDT) to plan and implement care to patients in the critical care unit. Caring for patients with noninvasive and limited invasive ventilation and also caring for patients with single/multiple organ failure.

This Covid-19 season is a very difficult time for everyone, especially essential workers. We are working tirelessly day and night to save as many lives as possible and to help stop the spread of the virus.

UK is on a lockdown just like many other countries, we as healthcare professionals are managing the situation by encouraging people to stay at home, working tirelessly to treat the sick people and trying to prevent death where possible.

It is incredibly difficult to practice social distancing when saving lives but using the Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) provided is all we can use and hope to God it is enough to protect us.

One of my fears is that a vaccine may not be available for a few months (according to the

WHO). I am hoping for a cure or a vaccine to be made as soon as possible so the world can get back to normal.

My advice to Nigerians is to stay indoors and only come out for essential travels such as going to get food or to exercise. As it is difficult to stay inside for days at a time, it is advised to come out for 1 hour a day to exercise and breathe fresh air, and when out to maintain a safe distance (2 meters).

There are a number of things the government could do to help one of which is to start local production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the essential/ key workers that will be at the front line during this unprecedented times.

My experience is different from other health care workers because we are in different areas. My experience so far is that of horror, fear and uncertainty. My work place has provided us with what we need to face this monster. But outside the work place is the uncertainty that stares us in the face. My advice to all Nigerians is to please stay at home however; we must be active while you do so, wash your hands regularly and eat healthy meals. My tips, avoid cold water and air conditioner, drink mostly warm to hot water to keep your airways and respiratory system clear. Remember this virus is a respiratory infection and warm to hot drinks can flush down any buildup mucous. Support your immune system; this is very important by taking vitamin C, garlic, ginger and lemon. This is not a medical advice but it has helped me, my family and friends.

I work every day, I am even mandated to work extra hours. Life as it is this few weeks is scary and uncertain. My ways of keeping my self and family safe and healthy is first to stay home when I don’t have to work. Secondly, by constantly washing our hands and sanitize my house every other day. I and my husband do the same type of job; my family is in a greater danger every day we work.

I make some home remedies that I learned. Garlic and honey, we take one spoon everyday including my children. I mix garlic, ginger, lemon plus honey, we take that twice daily. We also take vitamin C and magnesium. When we come back from work, we keep our clothes in a bag and keep them outside the house until when I am ready to do laundry. I am doing everything humanly possible to keep myself and family safe from this virus, but at the end of the day, God has the final say, we pray and believe God for his protection.

For those who still doubt the existence of this virus, please this is not the time to be fooled by what you think, take every advice serious. This virus knows no boundaries, has no respect for class or royalty. Help those in the frontlines by staying at home and practice standard hygiene.

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