Contracting COVID-19 is not something one could wish one’s worst enemy. The experience of Coronavirus complications is never a sweet tale to tell at all. Many have died of it. Those that came out of the treatment table alive are lucky and always have testimonies to give. Among these privileged persons is the ace Sports Analyst, Segun Agbede popularly known as The Pundit. Agbede is one of the most consistent pundits in Nigeria. He has traveled far and wide analyzing sports. He contracted COVID 19 early January 2021 and having spent about 10 days in the Yaba Isolation Centre, he bounced back to life and felt a need to educate Nigerians on the reality of the deadly virus, In a media chat with veteran journalist Jimi Disu, Agbede gave a detailed account of his COVID-19 experience and life at the Lagos state Isolation Centre in Yaba.
How do you feel now?
I much better, I just started work on Monday but I said I’m going to be running a 3-day a week for now so I can get my energy level up to where they were. It drains every source of life from you.
How did it all start?
Please you are going to give me permission to sing a song that I sing every morning because if there’s any conviction that I have got from this, is that God is truly God. Because I know where I went, it’s only God. The song is a Yoruba song. I will sing it very briefly; “Iyi ye o, Olorunmi Oba ton gbo adura, ogo ye olorun mi, Oba ton gbo adura” (chorus sang 2 times). I sing that song every morning. I am just giving praise and all honour to God Apologies to those that do not speak Yoruba.
On the 26th of December, I was in Igbara-Oke my home town and I couldn’t sleep all night. I had this funny body pain, I woke up with a squeezing headache. So I went to see my mum that mum you see because I was going back to Lagos to say bye-bye. I can’t really talk; just give me something for my headache. So I had breakfast and took it. I travelled a lot in the month of December, all of a sudden I just thought it’s a journey; all those journeys catching up on me. I got to Lagos, I got some rest. You know I was still going to the studio on the other side. But I just realized that I was getting weaker and weaker and my next thought was Malaria. I don’t get ill often, so I spoke to my guy to wish him a happy birthday I told him I am not feeling well and he asked me have I seen the doctor. I said no. he said have I taken a test? I said no then he said do something now, let’s ascertain if it’s Malaria or not. I was so sure it wasn’t COVID-19 because I used to put on my face mask, I use to do this, I use to do that. No! And it was presenting the symptoms of Malaria anyway; fatigue, body pain and so on.
Could you smell or taste at that time?
Honestly, that one test I gave myself. I could taste and smell, I didn’t have that issue but what I had was increasing fatigue. Where I started noticing was when my appetite was slipping away from me. I was losing interest in food on a daily. I couldn’t even drink water because the taste in my mouth was so bitter. So obviously you are taking Malaria drugs and not eating well, I was getting weaker and weaker. So from Friday and by Monday, I was supposed to have a visit of my good friend who came to my house just to say hello. He came in and I looked to have been really funny. Then he said guy what’s your problem? I said “I am not feeling well” what is it? Malaria. He called another friend of mine, Seyi Akinwunmi. He’s the first vice-chairman of the Nigeria Football Federation, an Igbobian and he was my classmate. When he calls up Seyi, the first thing Seyi said was that ore se oti se COVID test? Then I said COVID test ke? (Have you done the COVID test?). He now said omo lose COVID test (go for COVID test). So Seyi was kind enough at that time, it’s as if the affects your mind or brain. I was sleeping away from reality. I couldn’t really coordinate and my family was not around. So I was home alone, there was nobody to help me do this do that. So Seyi now sent money, he got contact with my brother-in-law, Dr. Ayo Ogunsanya, my wonderful sister Tokunbo and my neighbor, Bayo Shodipe. I have to mention their names because if not for them I wouldn’t have made it. By the time my friend came around on Monday, I think did the test on Wednesday and the result came out on Thursday. They called me for the result and they say guy I have COVID o! It was positive. So by Friday when I told my brother-in-law, I told Seyi that I was looking very poorly. Seyi was kind enough to get an ambulance to take me into the Yaba Isolation Centre Friday, the 8th of January.
What occurred to you when you sighted the Isolation center, when you walked in into the ward?
First thing first I couldn’t walk; I was assisted from my house. The ambulance came to my house around 10 at night. The driver drove like a banshee. You know when you watch those movies and the ambulance driver was driving like mad. You can imagine the traffic on a Friday night from my end on the Island down to Yaba. I don’t know how he did it. He never stopped. What occurred to me by that time because I was too weak to walk I just knew that I needed a solution to my problem. I must agree I was kind of pensive. Truth be told I was scared when I got to the Isolation ward and all the stories you have heard about it. When I got there the first thing I noticed was the bright light, very clean, very hygienic that calmed me down a bit. And then the professionality of the nurses, they ask you the question. Thank God my oxygen level never dropped below normal. So I didn’t need oxygen. Unfortunately, that is the killer in COVID. It affects the respiratory system. For most people that died, there are two ways COVID kills people; it rather affects your respiratory system that you get enough oxygen, obviously, you are going to die or secondly, it will organize your body against you and if your blood is not thin it will coagulate and blood cloth. That’s why some people actually die of COVID 19 after. It targets heavy vulnerability of the body that’s why people talk about the underlying conditions.
Did you have any underlying conditions?
My BP was on the high side but thank God no diabetes, no asthma and all of that.
Did you think you are gonna die?
To be honest with you, I gave testimony of Sunday at church. When I got in there my thoughts were very morbid because the problem of being in an isolation center is the very word isolation. You know normally if you go to the normal hospital as it were, you have your friends and family around you. It is contagious you know. There no family, no friends. You are on your own.
What about other patients, Could you mingle with them?
Yes of course you can hug them, we are all contagious. I met some great guys there but for private issues, I won’t mention their names. They are good guys; I am talking of people from of works of society. And I was saying please if you are seeing any symptoms now or anything don’t feel ashamed or feel bad. I don’t think you can get better treatment anywhere else. Forget the so-called blue-collar hospitals go to Yaba Isolation Centre.
Did you have to pay?
No, it’s free. I have to give Lagos state government kudos.
What about the drugs?
The drug is; the ones that they have they give you free and the ones they don’t, you have to get your family to buy it.
But unlike the private clinics who ask you do deposit 5million, 10 million naira and things like that, this is free?
Once they have space, they take you in.
Is feeding free?
Yes, feeding is free but the food is atrocious. Funny story I think my second day there, of course, doctors do ward round. They come and check you. Any complain since it is a web question. Then I said that the food was terrible and she just looked at me funnily, this one no know wetin dey do am. But I must complain the food is terrible, you are just eating it to survive.
Are you allowed to self-feed?
Yes, my people were arranging food for me every day. There’s one Iya Oyo Amala that I was eating every day with boneless goat meat. It was awesome.
How many days did you spend there?
I got in on the 8th of January and to the glory of God I walked out of there with my own two feet, I bounced out.
But when you thought you were going to die, can you tell me some of the sins you committed that you remembered?
With all humility and no iota of exaggeration, by the time I got to the isolation center, I thought to myself so it’s over. No more family, no possession, you are alone. You know you come to this world alone and eventually, you will go alone no matter what money you have. And I tell people that just spend their lives arbitrarily. How many houses can you sleep in? How many cars can you drive? At the end of the day, you are going to go with nothing. And I thought to myself if I go here if the things that I brought in because I have to pack them back. You know people die around me.
Did you actually see somebody in the process of dying?
Well not in the process, there was a gentleman in the bed behind me. You know it’s a hospital ward. The bed directly behind mine, and that’s where I was so touched because I didn’t know people were dying. I was in a bad state myself. I can’t see myself. I gave attention to it. I was too rapt up trying to get myself right. But this particular guy, I noticed the matron. I even had to call her after to thank her for what she did for that guy. She was so suspicious of the way the guy was; he was on oxygen, he has monitors around him and everything, I woke up in the night to go and pee. You have to walk outside the ward to the sanitary facilities outside the ward. It’s quite decent I must say this; I mean decent sanitary facilities, running water, the ACs in the ward is going at full blast that you need to cover up and I noticed something funny. I couldn’t hear the beep. You know the monitors in the hospital. There was a streel around him. So I just looked at him, he was just still with the cowl over his face were passed while I was looking.