Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Moses Ondieki, a medic, never imagined that so much would be required of him as a professional and family man.
The laboratory technician at Pathologists’ Lancet Kenya, in charge of testing for Covid-19 samples, has had to make painful but critical sacrifices for the safety of his family and for the good of Kenyans.
As part of the drastic changes to protect his family from contracting the disease, he has moved out of his family home to live alone.
“My life has changed completely. I moved away from my family to keep them safe from the virus. I also did not want to live in an apartment where there are people because of the risk of exposing them to the virus. I live alone,” says Ondieki, a father of three.
Like all families of frontline workers, his family is concerned and have unending questions.
“My young daughter cannot understand why I never come home nowadays. But I believe it is for the good of all and it is temporary,” he told Sunday Standard.
Knowing the delicate nature of his father’s job, his 21-year-old son knew what it meant when the first case was confirmed in Kenya.
“It’s like he knew I would be on the frontline in this fight and that would come at a cost. He kept asking ‘daddy what will happen now that everybody will be coming to Lancet for tests?’” he shares.
As a medic, though he has faced many high stress medical situations that put his skills to test, he admits that the pressures and challenges that have come with Covid-19 are unprecedented.
Indeed, this is akin to a war situation.
“We are really in the middle of the war. Like a soldier when you go to battle if you come back alive you thank God but there is the likelihood you may get shot. I have handled people who are positive for coronavirus, I pray I don’t contract the virus but there are those ‘what ifs’...,” Ondieki says.
Knowing that he is at the forefront, he is equally vulnerable to mental distress, he takes a deliberate action to keep close ties with his social support system.
“I make sure I visit them once a week. But I keep social distance. I just sit in the car and we talk. Though I don’t get out to interact with them, they are always happy to see me. It’s not much, but it means everything to me and them,” Ondieki says.
Sleeps hungry some days
In addition, he calls them every day in the evening to bond and check on them. Inasmuch he is putting up a brave face, he admits that living this new normal is not easy.
There are long and lonely nights when he goes to bed hungry because he arrives home late and by then he is too tired to cook and the next day he has cleaning and laundry to do.
Maintaining this new life is also expensive because it means extra costs of renting a second home and running it.
There is also the anxiety of whether he has contracted the virus or not and for that every fortnight he does a Covid-19 test.
He tests numerous Covid-19 samples per day because of the high demand. “The public is in panic. People who are not sick or just have headaches are flocking the lab for tests,” he says.
But what keeps him going?
“My faith, my family and fellow Kenyans. We are in this together and together we shall overcome...”