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CORONA VIRUS IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE, STOP STIGMATIZING PATIENTS ~ RECOVERED PATIENT SPEAKS OUT

Exclusive Q&A Interview with the youthful County Executive, Mr. Kassim Were, a recovered Covid-19 patient.

Mr. Were, the County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Social Services, Youths, Sports and Culture tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday 19th July 2020; news on his Covid-19 status was broken to him by the county boss, H.E. the Governor, Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya. What followed immediately was a guidance and counselling session for him and his family.

We caught up with him this week on his farm harvesting maize and sought to know the experience right from the day the news broke, his experience at the isolation facility and his interaction with people since his condition was made public.

Reporter: Waziri l have come all the way from the office to your farm for this interview. I must carry some maize back with me.

Kassim: (..laughing..) Yes, yes, you can carry as much as you want, provided you do not ask me for transport..

Reporter: That is fine, first let us deal with business..I have come here on a simple assignment Waziri, to know about your experience as a Covid-19 patient.

I ask if the interview can go on as he continues with his work but he suggests we do it under a tree, within the farm. We get there, only to discover breakfast had been served on the spot earlier as used utensils are still in place. Tea and porridge with sweet potatoes were on the menu alongside sweet bananas & guavas as the dessert. He pulls a traditional (makanji) chair for me and makes himself comfortable on the grass and we start the interview straight away.

Qn: What made you decide to seek for medical attention Waziri?

Kassim: I started noticing all the symptoms l have been hearing about Covid-19. I was coughing, was having high body temperatures, my joints and body were weak, l lost appetite and my sense of taste was quite unusual. That is when l decided to seek for medical attention from the County.

Qn: After the diagnosis and the doctor had disclosed to you that you are Covid-19 positive, how was the feeling?

Kassim: The news was communicated to me through the Governor; he wished me a quick recovery, asked me to ensure l disclose all the people l had interacted with for contact tracing and assured me that all will be fine. The medical team who had been on standby then came into my bedroom, we had a Guiding and Counselling session together with my family and then l set off to the Mumias Level lV isolation centre in a county ambulance.

Qn: Tell us about your experience at the Mumias Level lV isolation facility.

Kassim: ..huh.. l arrived when l was badly off, the doctors received me quite well, they began their medical procedures straight away, put me on a ventilator, monitoring my entire body system, tested my blood samples and did all other important tests. For my case, Covid manifested itself through high sugar levels; by the time l got to the facility it was around 25, so it had to be brought down to the normal levels between 4-9. I was put on medication with a proper diet.

Qn: After your results were made public, did you face any form of stigma?

Kassim: People feared meeting me and even saying hi…(laughs..) of course even now very few come to my compound as compared to previously. But l am intergrating slowly back to the society, you have to build their confidence that you are healed. You can not force them to like you at once, you have to find a formulae of intergrating back to the society and that is what l am currently working on. You have to talk to people, tell them about your experience and assure them that you cannot infect them with the disease; it is a journey. I am sure the staff in my ministry are even worried of my presence in the office this coming week… (smiling)… but they should be assured that all is well.

Qn: After you tested positive for the virus, did you make an effort to inform the people you had been in close contact with to also go for testing?

Kassim: Yes l did, and the beauty is that none of the people l interacted with tested positive of the virus including my wife and children. l have been the most careful person since l tested Covid +. I always protect myself and everybody close to me including my close family members. I am glad that none of my contacts tested positive.

Qn: From your experience as a Covid-19 patient, what would you like to share with the public?

Kassim: It is true actually that Covid is real, people need to be careful, follow the directives from the Ministry of Health on social distancing, washing of hands, sanitising and staying at home, if need be.

Reporter: Your Parting Shot?

Kassim: Before the medical officers clear you to rejoin the outside world and allow you to inergrate with people, they have to counter check that you are totally free of the virus.

I will be happy to see a society that does not stigmatize recovered or present Covid-19 patients, this is not a contagious disease that you carry in your entire lifetime after contracting it; once it is treated it dissapears and can only re-appear if you get in close contact with an infected person. Even after recovering people need to be careful…. (he breaks into a broad smile…)… Watu waache kuogopa, “wanigotee” tu kama kawaida, if anything I should be the one guiding them on what is required.

* Mr. Kassim Were is the immediate former CECM for Trade, Industrialization and Tourism.

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