It started with a simple cough and culminated with the doctor barking orders for him to be wheeled into the ICU. Moses Njagi, chair of the Kenya Parliamentary Journalists Association, feels lucky to be alive today.
“I never imagined I would be one of the statistics,” says the senior political reporter with The Standard.
When a slight but persistent cough drove him to MP Shah Hospital on a Monday, July 20, he thought he would be done and over in no time. He was given medication, then the doctor requested a CT scan done.
“Immediately after the CT scan, the gentleman asked if I had been accompanied. I told him I’d come with my wife and he said, “please don’t go back to her”.
“He said I had an infection and feared if I went back I would transmit the infection to her,” says Njagi. The CT scan indicated he was Covid-19 positive, but they took swabs to confirm before he left with instructions to isolate himself and wait for conclusive results. Two days later, they called to tell him the diagnosis had been confirmed.
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Struggle to breath
His wife, Immaculate Ikulu was scared at first. “Then I told myself I needed to be calm and composed so that we could get through it,” she says.
Ministry of Health officials also said they would test her and his other primary contacts but they never showed up, so she took got herself tested at Sh8,900. She was negative. Njagi, however, got worse.
“By Thursday, I couldn’t even sleep for more than five minutes. I was struggling to breathe, the cough had become serious and I had blood in my sputum that kept increasing,” he says.
“I could hear him coughing at night from the other room. I had googled and found that blood in the sputum meant it could be bronchitis or pneumonia so I felt he had to go back to hospital,” she says.
At around 3am, they went back to hospital. He was immediately placed on oxygen. Later, he was taken to the isolation ward and placed on higher levels of oxygen. By 8pm, he had to be moved to the ICU because his levels were reducing fast and got to 80 per cent. Normal levels are 95 per cent and above.
“That was the first time I heard a doctor barking orders like in a movie when there is an emergency. Later on when I spoke with him and I understood why. It had gotten to a level where a one or two minute delay is the difference between life and death,” he says.
“I even tried begging to be allowed to tell my wife I was being taken to ICU but they said there was no time.”
It seems that he lost consciousness before being sedated and put on a ventilator, as all he remembers are the ICU doors being opened as he was rushed in and the doctor asking him to trust him, that he would come out of there alive. That was on July 24.
At home, his wife was losing it. The hospital had called and told her they had taken him to the ICU. “At that point I was so scared and I really cried. You read the stories about Covid-19 and you know what it can be like. When he was in ICU I was panicking and I had anxiety and fear but I told myself I needed to be calm. I told God to spare him and called my neighbour, who has been very supportive,” she says.
Njagi’s lungs were damaged, he had pneumonia and his kidney suffered acute injury. He had to undergo several procedures to clean his blood.
“The funny thing is that I woke up on July 29 thinking I had been admitted the previous day. It was only when I was given back my phone that I saw the date and I was shocked,” he says. He was still on high levels of oxygen, and on July 31 he was taken back to the isolation ward.
His wife had been writing about their journey every day and when she got news that he was out of ICU, she was elated. “I wrote that that was the best day of my life,” she says. She was the one who told Njagi what had transpired.
In the isolation ward, groggy, weak and fatigued but grateful to be alive, he saw other Covid-19 patients go through all the different ways the virus affects people, but thankfully, no one died during his stay.
“The general handling of Covid-19 patients is very strict. Your movement within the isolation ward is monitored. There are even some lines drawn so that you don’t cross. To be discharged, you have to test negative twice,” he says.
The bill, which came to Sh1.8 million, was cleared partly by insurance with intervention from the company and the rest through family and friends. He has since been discharged and now, bright and chipper, is feeling great.
“Anyone who has haboured an iota of doubt should take it from me, that it is very real and very serious,” Njagi says.