Months ago (this was the second week of February), I had just returned from Lagos, when news began to spread that the dreaded coronavirus was gaining momentum in Nigeria. I panicked. Was it possible I had come in contact with someone at the airport who had coronavirus? After quarantining for two weeks, my heart rate was returning to normalcy when I discovered I had come in contact with someone who just returned from Spain.

That was the last straw. Next day I carried myself to the screening center at ISTH. I got tested, and waited anxiously for 48 hours for my test results. While waiting, I even developed some imaginary symptoms of COVID-19, complete with sore throat, fever and headaches. I prayed and prayed ooo, but it wasn’t until my test results returned negative, that my symptoms suddenly disappeared the way they came. That PANIC/SCARE has stayed with me till date.

Consequently, I made sure I never joked with regular hand washing, and social distancing. When Churches opened, my parishioners felt my precautions were a bit much. They didn’t understand that it was as much for love of them, as for my personal safety, that I was taking the pains to do all that. I didn’t want to think about what could happen to them if I got the virus.

I don’t consider myself a jittery fellow, but when it comes to the realm of the unknown, no one wants to be a Guinea Pig.

When news filtered in that a colleague of mine came down with COVID-19 recently, the panic I had experienced months ago returned with full force, but with it came faith as well. You see, I had gone back to this cozy place in my head that though coronavirus is real, it was on ghost mode (after all, since it’s inception, it had found a way to avoid everyone I know, thanks be to God). Imagine how I felt now that the coronavirus had actually found its way to someone I personally knew; a Catholic Priest for that matter.

Anyway, we began saying the masses and the rosaries, and after a few days at the care facility, my colleague returned healthy, and we had a little conversation over the phone. I wanted to know how he felt when he saw his test results. He laughed and said, “O boy, I think say na die don come be that o. But after some days there, I realized first hand that COVID-19 isn’t a death sentence.”

He went further to say he never had serious complications, and at no time was he short of breath. God be praised! He did note that he was well treated with hydroxyl chloroquine and zinc, amidst some other drugs he didn’t know. It was good to share a few laughs over his experience. For me, it was such a huge relief. I know it must have been the same for him and his entire family.

However mild his experience was, it again reminded me that coronavirus was real; the mental anguish is real. The fear and panic that comes with testing positive is real; which is why we must stop downplaying it.

Some doctors I know have testified to the reality of this virus. So even if you feel like you have faith capable of moving a mountain, please know that not everyone has faith as strong as you do. Know that men and women of God who had stronger faith succumbed to the virus. So don’t be careless. Take the necessary precautions. You don’t want to end up at a treatment center as a result of COVID-19.

Finally, remember that as we speak, many who were admitted due to coronavirus complications never returned alive. Remember that many families have lost loved ones, and remember that we aren’t better than those who have died.

We continue to pray to God for a new dawn; for healing to the sick, and peaceful repose to those who have died. Amen.

© Oselumhense Anetor, 2020.