Emmanuel Milimo is the programmes manager at Pharm Access Foundation.

For the last two years, Milimo has been training healthcare workers in how to submit Covid-19 data on the Covid-Dx, a digital platform used by counties in the Lake Region Economic Bloc.

Since the onset of the virus, Milimo had not contracted and thought he had ‘survived’ all the COVID-19 waves. Then he contracted the Omicron variant.

He tells his story.

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“I had successfully ‘survived’. I had not really got any signs of Covid manifesting in my body ever since it was first diagnosed in Kenya in March 2020. For some time, I thought I was right in the action but had never been hit.

“On December 17, 2021, I woke up with a sore throat, fever, muscle pain and loss of appetite and taste. From my heart of hearts, I knew I was onto something. Key symptoms indicating I had Covid-19 were right there. However, the symptoms were not mild.

“So this is real? My worst fears were right there with me, staring at me! ‘How will my family take this? Will my wife relegate me to a room and lock me in it? Will my family panic and start a WhatsApp group? Will my wife blame me for bringing Covid to the house? This is just the worst news I can give to anyone!’

“I realised I wasn’t going to be in bed for the two weeks and had to take action. I walked to my wife who was busy preparing breakfast and mentioned to her that the way I was feeling, I could be having Covid and I wanted her to know so she takes precautions.

Positive result

“She turned to me, surprised, and after staring at me, she asked me what I would do next. She also asked me if I would be going to be isolated at a hospital… I sensed anxiety setting in and quickly jumped in with explanations about how it would be all right.

“Just to be on the safe side, I went for the test and within a short time, I got my results, a confirmed Covid-19-positive result. The moment of reality! I remember adjusting my mask and for a few minutes, I was blank. It is like someone had formatted my brain.

“I wasn’t sure whether to just walk away. I just felt helpless. I needed someone to tell me something even when I know a lot already about Covid-19. For some reason, I felt I was the only person on earth. There was a palpable silence that I couldn’t explain. I guess this is what they call reality setting in.

“I was requested to provide a second sample if I wished to also know the variant I could be having. Why not. At least I had a chance to contribute to the body of science, the genome sequencing of the variants.

“I really wanted to know what variant had attacked me, having escaped Delta. It was the Omicron, the highly infectious variant. The feeling of the mild symptoms is not good to the actual patient. 

Severe symptoms

“I immediately headed for home isolation after picking drugs from the hospital. This also meant that for the first time, I couldn’t travel upcountry for Christmas to be with my family members, a first one for me; my mum was expecting me at home. This had never happened.

“Fast forward, to the symptoms, even though I was not hospitalised, the symptoms took its toll on me. There was a time I could not even open my eyes because the headache and the flu were too much, not forgetting body and throat pain.

“The feeling was far from being termed mild. If the flu illness puts you in bed, that’s not mild. I had taken my two doses of AstraZeneca and still felt uneasy, how about someone who is not vaccinated and is infected? The symptoms could be severe,” he cautions.

“When you are attacked, you are alone. If you can avoid getting infected the better and do not be so careless that the variant is mild, remember it is killing people. In as much as we are saying it is mild. 

“I was happy to be vaccinated twice, which I am sure has helped me to stay safe. I recommend everybody in the country get the jabs as soon as they can.”