KENYA:City lawyer’s tale: They did everything right and still got sick

July 2020 the Star ;They did everything right, even went to extremes to prevent infection. They still caught Covid-19.

Nairobi lawyer Eddy Orinda, 41, shares his Covid-19 experience, saying we should always be our brother’s keeper.

He, his surgeon wife Faith Orinda, their six-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter all tested positive and got sick. All have recovered. 

Orinda, a commercial lawyer and a legal epidemiologist, said the family has always been health-conscious and keen on avoiding the spread of infectious diseases.

A legal epidemiologist studies the law as a factor in the cause, distribution and prevention of disease and injury.

As his wife is a surgeon, the family is even more careful.

The family has always taken extra health precautions, which they increased when the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in March.

“We got ourselves into a lockdown before the official lockdown, cancelled non-essential engagements and followed the WHO protocols on Covid-19,” lawyer Orinda told the Star.

They developed their own house rules, including a head-to-toe bath for anyone coming from outside and immediately washing laundry with disinfectant.

They cleaned their shoes with diluted bleach before storing them and did the same with parcels, keys and other items.

“Given all these precautions, our experience contracting the virus surprises everyone who knows us, but again, little is still know about this virus,” he said.

Orinda said there’s little information about what to do if you test positive. There’s also little information about where to get free testing, as many Kenyans can’t afford tests that can cost more than Sh10,000.

“We would have wished to keep our experience private as with any other health issue,” Orinda said.

“But the question, ‘Do you know someone who has Covid-19?’ informed my decision to go public. I hoped to alert our loved ones, both family and friends, that Covid-19 has hit close to home and that it was at home.”

Questions by the public confirmed his fears regarding lack of public health education.

There are people who will get the virus and not even realise it, some will treat it as a flu, some will get tested, find out they’re positive and be fine, the lawyer said.

Unfortunately, many may not have access to treatment if they get seriously ill.

“We called for an ambulance the night that I was taken ill but there were no beds in any isolation room. My wife is a doctor, she quickly isolated me and took every precaution to protect herself and the children,” Orinda said.

She sought help from her colleagues and a group of doctors who are mothers, Doctor Mum KE, where she got support and advice on how to manage every symptom.

But what about most others whose spouses are not physicians?

He expressed thanks to Dr Mola Lola, Dr Kisia and the family physician Dr Mogere at AAR.

“We went to see the doctor and twice the results of other investigations were unremarkable, in fact, I’d never had such great results.”

They felt reassured and went home but a week later the symptoms persisted and a Covid-19 test was recommended.

All tested positive.

“We would have infected many people during that one week of not knowing what we were treating. I’m glad my wife’s high level of suspicion made us continue self-isolation and home treatment for Covid-19,” Orinda said.

The country cannot have enough beds to handle a pandemic and little is being done to prepare the public for home care to deal with the mild to moderate infections, he said.

“This is causing panic and affecting everyone psychologically. Stress affects immunity by lowering the body’s ability to fight diseases, so how do we expect to win a war with already wounded soldiers?” he asked.

Orinda said the discomfort was like inhaling water while swimming or showering. He compared it to the childhood incident when a fizzy drink comes out through the nose.

Imagine experiencing that for days. “Remember, this has nothing to do with testing” involving nasal swabs, he said.

“Everyone in my family experienced different symptoms, mostly headache, muscle pain, loss of the senses of taste and smell, loss of appetite, stuffy nose, dry lips despite high fluid intake.”

Orinda’s six-year-old son coped better than anyone and his symptoms – headache, stomach pains and a low-grade fever – lasted only for 24 hours.

His 13-year-old daughter was better than expected for teenagers. It felt like a bad flu, then she developed insomnia, probably due to anxiety.

His wife still experiences “brain fog” and fatigue that affects her normal life but she didn’t have a fever.

“My experience was horrible. Some days it felt like malaria, some days like typhoid, some days like flu and some days a combination of all of them. Most of the time, I wasn’t sure what I was experiencing,” Orinda said.

He said he is anxious about the quality of life in the future, especially because it isn’t clear what the long-term effects of Covid-19 are.

“All the same, I’m happy to be alive.”

Asked about lessons from his experience, Orinda said it is important to always check on your neighbours, especially when their routine changes. 

“When we decided to inform some of our neighbors, it was sad to realise that one family had already suffered from Covid-19. We felt bad because we had noticed that no one had come out of the house, not even for a while, but we assumed everything was okay.”

He said it’s good to share information and be open about your experience. “You might just help someone be safe or better still save a life.”

He shared their experience on social media and realised how much people are lacking in public health education, especially  on what should be done if someone tests positive or suspects they have Covid-19.

“We need to ensure that we are in good general health. It’s confirmed that underlying conditions like diabetes and hypertension can complicate Covid-19, affecting the prognosis.

“If there was ever a time for lifestyle changes to be taken seriously it is now. It takes time and dedication, but that is the only sensible thing to do,” Orinda said.

He advises:

Go for a general check-up to rule out any underlying conditions, and most important, have them under control and keep safe.

Boost your immunity now, so your body is able to fight should you be infected.

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