First, explain the role you play in the COVID-19 response?
I primarily drive the ambulances used in evacuating confirmed cases from their homes to the isolation centre. Before we leave for any evacuation, we are given PPE like gloves, nose masks, and hazmat suits. While in motion, we put on our sirens to ensure swift arrival to the evacuation site. We drivers usually don’t get down from the car during an evacuation, the nurses and members of the evacuation team usually go into the house to evacuate the patient into the bus. Due to the nature of the virus, we do not use the air conditioners when we pick people that have tested positive to the coronavirus, this is to promote the circulation of air. Then they are transported to the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba.
Other than driving evacuation ambulances, what other role have you played?
Initially, when I got enlisted to join the response from my LGA, I was asked to help transport the samples from collection sites to the laboratory for testing.
How has the work affected your family?
The work has not been easy on my family, I have not been able to go home. I have been living at a hotel. Unfortunately, most Nigerians do not believe in COVID-19. Due to my exposure and experience, my family is very aware of the risk involved. Hence, they are very concerned about my safety.
Is it that they are frightened about your status?
Of course, they are. Usually, when I come home, they keep a distance from me *laughs*. I have not ever had symptoms that relate to COVID-19. Well, the thing is I have had the opportunity of conversing with medical doctors who have laid down precautionary measures needed to protect myself and boost my immunity against the virus. I have been encouraged to take vitamin C and fruits, to mention a few.
Since you work as a frontline driver, have you experienced any patient in a critical condition?
Yes o!!! I have seen patients that have had to be revived or stabilized with oxygen masks. For example, there was a patient in critical condition that we had to evacuate. Fortunately, we arrived early and were able to revive her with oxygen while for others, when they get sick with COVID-19, they assume that they can self-medicate which can be dangerous at times. I try as much as possible to inform confirmed patients, to seek professional medical help instead of taking unnecessary medication from local dispensaries. The biggest dilemma facing Lagosians in general regarding treating medical conditions is the misuse of medication. For example, one may have a common cold and proceed to use medicines for headaches while the actual condition worsens. This is exactly what is happening with the COVID-19 response in Lagos.
Have you seen anybody that has died during evacuation?
Yes a few about 3 to 4 deaths.
Have the deaths had any effect on your mental health?
Not at all, I am not affected. As I said earlier, the major issue affecting most people is the lack of awareness and information on preventive measures needed to prevent being infected with the virus. Like me now, after a long day, I always take my medication, supplement with fruits, and get enough rest.
Give me a breakdown of a typical day for a frontline driver.
First, I work Sundays to Saturdays. Luckily, I do not sleep a lot, “Kerosene ni mi” (I am kerosene). I am ready for duty anytime around the clock, my roommate can attest to that. For example, a few days ago I was called by a doctor to evacuate a critically ill patient from a hospital to an isolation centre. Even though the rain was pouring heavily, I was able to evacuate the patient successfully.
What advice will you give the public?
My advice to the public is that no one is above the virus and immediately you discover you have been exposed to a confirmed case or notice any symptoms, do endeavour to visit your local health care centres or hospitals. Another thing is that for some people the fear of the virus is responsible for their deaths. In one of our female wards, a patient died after hearing of her roommate’s death. On a positive note, few of my colleagues have been infected and have survived, So COVID IS ONLY A DISEASE AND NOT A DEATH SENTENCE.