What do you do if you think youÂ might have coronavirus? When *Grace, a media professional in her late 30s living in Nairobi, started to suffer from fatigue and a dry cough, she wondered if she should get a test for the disease. And if she did, what then? She talks to KenyaBuzz about her experience.
â€˜The cough wasnâ€™t life-threatening but it was really annoyingâ€™
Itâ€™s strange how this happened. It came in three stages. On February the 20th, I had a cold, and took over-the-counter medication. I didnâ€™t think anything of it because I had no fever, no cough. After that, I tried running. I usually run 10km, I didnâ€™t get to three. Then my son developed a fever for two-three days, and after that we both developed dry coughs [around mid-March]. It wasnâ€™t life-threatening, but it was really annoying, weâ€™d be up at night coughing. I did go to the chemist, to one I trusted. I wore a mask. She asked me to face away and cough, and then said, 'Oh, you sound just fine.'
â€˜I couldnâ€™t smell my perfumeâ€™
Our dry coughs disappeared. Then I woke up one day and I couldnâ€™t smell anything. I was feeling so much better, and I thought, â€˜Iâ€™m going to dress up, Iâ€™m going to put on some perfume.â€™ I put it on and couldnâ€™t smell it, and thought, â€˜This is weird.â€™ I put it on my arm, and I still couldnâ€™t smell it. I brewed coffee â€“ I couldn't smell it, and I drink a double Expresso. I then tried to smell Dettol, I even put Vicks under my nose. I could feel the menthol, but I couldnâ€™t smell it. I researched and researched â€¦ and [found] it could be a sign of Covid-19 [coronavirus]. There were two schools of thought â€“ one that it was a post-exposure symptom, and another that it was the start.
â€˜Then I lost my sense of tasteâ€™
I waited a day, I still couldnâ€™t smell anything â€“ garlic, hand sanitiser, coconut oil, anythingâ€¦ Then I lost my sense of taste. Coffee was just a warm liquid. But I could taste sweet things, but anything bitter, I couldnâ€™t. I ordered wine from a guy who knows what I like. And I told him, â€˜You know I donâ€™t like sweet wine.â€™ But then I realised that the [sweetness] was the only element I could taste.
The test: Do I, or donâ€™t I?
On the advice of my doctor, I went for a test, as the loss of taste and smell are indicators. What was also an indicator was how my fitness was affected. I thought, â€˜Do I go, donâ€™t I?â€™ I talked to the Ministry of Health. They said, â€˜We have no test kits, youâ€™re not a serious case, weâ€™re overwhelmed at the isolation centres.â€™ They kept asking me, â€˜Have you been exposed to it?â€™ But how would I know? Nobody has published a list of who has it. Do I know the name of every single cab driver [Iâ€™ve taken a ride with]?
I got up the courage to go to Aga Khan hospital. I had a protocol for how Iâ€™d dress, shower when I got home. I took off my jewellery, I didnâ€™t take a bag. I wore a band around my head, glasses, gloves and a mask. When I got there, I was amazed at the level of laxity. I expected a different entrance, but went to regular A&E. I went in and nobody took my temperature. I got a ticket to be seen by the nurse, who said, â€˜You shouldnâ€™t be wearing gloves.â€™ A lady at the cashier counter was [sitting] there with no mask, lots of jewellery. There was basically no protocol. Nurses were sitting together, chatting. There was no protective gear [PPE]. I came back out [of triage] and they said, â€œOh, itâ€™s Covid, go back to the first desk [near the entrance].â€ I went there, and they told me to go to accounts. That took forever â€“ 2 Â½ hours. I had to go to another counter to get the PPE payments done. It was Ksh 10,000 for the test, Ksh 2,000 for a consultation, and Ksh 5,000 for the PPE. Then they had to find a room. And the nurses were still sitting together, chatting.
They finally disinfected a room for me. The doctor came out and was fully kitted out [in protective gear], and took a nasal swab. They said, â€˜This might be uncomfortable.â€™ After that, I went to Quickmart for groceries. I know itâ€™s a terrible thing, but I had to get groceries. I called ahead to get them to pack it for me, but, you know, itâ€™s Kenya. The hospital said theyâ€™d call me with the results. I called them, and they said Iâ€™d get them by email. But the guy then said heâ€™d call.
At the time of going to print, Grace was still waiting for her results to find out if she had coronavirus.
*Grace is an alias.