Covid almost killed me – All Saints Provost

In 10 days, he moved from feeding thousands of souls to being fed everything, including air.

His strength left his body. His breath threatened to cut off. Reverend Canon Sammy Wainaina, 48, saw his life play our before his eyes, like a movie. Covid-19 seemed ready to take him to the next life.

He did not give up hope. Because of his faith in God and the prayers of family and friends, he waited for a miracle.

 Now Wainaina has another mission — to present himself to people who have never met a Covid-19 patient and those who doubt that the disease exists.

Talking to the Star six weeks later, he terms his experience as 10 days in the valley of the shadow of death.

Reverend Sammy Wainaina, the Provost of All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi, wants you to know that Covid-19 is real. And deadly.

A testimony in his words

It began with the usual flu-like symptoms on the last Tuesday of May. On my way home, I passed by the pharmacy and bought some antibiotics, anti-histamines and painkillers as was the norm whenever I had a cold.

I barely slept that night. The next morning, I had developed a cough which I tried so much to suppress during my live talk show — The Provost’s Desk, held every Wednesday.

That day, we joked with my colleagues about who would follow suit if I was infected. That is how far we hoped it would go, a joke.

 I do not know what David was going through when he wrote Psalm 23 but I can relate to him when he talks about the valley of the shadow of death.

I emptied all my engagements scheduled for the next three days after realising that my condition was getting worse. I went to Aga Khan Hospital to test for Covid-19 where I was also diagnosed with pneumonia and was put on treatment.

Even then, I was highly suspicious that I had Covid-19 but I kept encouraging myself that it was just a normal flu.

Sammy Wainaina during the intervew on July 9.
MY STORY: Sammy Wainaina during the intervew on July 9. Image: WILFRED NYANGARESI

By Monday, I was very unwell; I remember going to bask outside and could not get up from the mat I was lying on. I had to be helped by my children who picked me up and took me to the bedroom to sleep.

The hospital called later with the results which they delivered very casually. I’m glad I had already prepared my mind for any outcome.

The normal procedure is for a doctor to call you and then the hospital sends an ambulance to pick you up.

The bombshell

“Is that Sammy? You should be in an ambulance on your way to the hospital,” the caller said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Oh! You don’t know that you are Covid-19 positive,” the caller replied.

At that time, my phone was on loudspeaker with my wife and children hearing the conversation.

I took a shower and then called everyone to the living room, including our three workers, before my wife drove me to hospital.

“I am Covid-19 positive. It is likely that you are too but that is no cause for alarm. I will organise for a test to be done for all of you here at home. Your dad will be well,” I said to them before praying.

In a bad place 

I spent 10 days at the hospital. I was admitted on Tuesday and the next day my condition deteriorated. That day, death stared at me, drooling. I was in pain, I could not breathe properly, my chest was pressing against my bones.

I rang the emergency bell notifying doctors that I was at a bad place. When the doctor arrived, he ordered  my immediate transfer to the ICU because my blood tests indicated that the inflammation was very high.

From Wednesday to Saturday, I was in the ICU before I was returned to my room after my condition improved. God fought for me.

Fight against stigma

While in hospital, I sent out a text revealing that I had tested positive for Covid-19 to sensitise people that the coronavirus is real. I also expected to be stigmatised and wanted to deal with it using facts.

True to my instincts, when news reached my neighbourhood, our home was now perceived as the ‘Covid house.’

My wife and our three children also tested positive whereas the workers were luckily negative.

The stigma was so deep that once when my children were taking a walk, a nearby shopkeeper closed up when they were spotted from afar. The shop opened after they had passed.

The cathedral was also perceived as a Covid scene and people thought that there were tens of people here with the virus. We had to invite the Ministry of Health to test everyone. None turned out positive.

Sammy Wainaina during the interview at his office on July 9.
I SURVIVED: Sammy Wainaina during the interview at his office on July 9./Image: WILFRED NYANGARESI
After I was discharged, I would sometimes take a walk to regain my strength. Some of the neighbours were afraid to get close to me and would greet me from a distance.

Even my own family did not know how to handle me after my discharge. I could see fear in their eyes – until my doctor at Aga Khan told us to live our normal lives but to take care not to infect our workers.

However, I did not allow the stigma to affect me. Today, I am fit, healthy and back to work.

What you need to know

What Kenyans also need to know is that you can contract Covid-19 but also recover from it. Yesterday, (Saturday) my family and I were declared free of Covid-19 after undergoing a series of tests at Kemri.

Through this experience, I have learnt the importance of building a strong bond with our families.

You can have the money, big homes and cars but what will help in you in such situations is the social capital built with your family and friends.

For the six weeks I have been away, I have been well taken care of by my wife, children and our workers. As a clergy, my life is about serving people and I did not know that one time people would reciprocate by supplying our needs.

We also need to ensure economic stability by saving more and spending less. As a family, we needed supplies for the three weeks we were quarantined and what could we have done without savings.

I have also learnt the importance of a healthy lifestyle which played a great role in my quick recovery. Being physically active helped me to respond well to the oxygen therapy.

To my members at All Saints Cathedral, I am indebted to you – thanks for your love and care.

Don’t rush to church 

As we reopen churches, let us be a community of hope. Having faith is critical and is the only thing that pushes you on in dire times. Do not lose it.

Please don’t rush to churches in the name of religious freedom; let us care for one another. Follow the Ministry of Health guidelines and take care of your families. The responsibility is not on the government but yourselves – don’t be careless with your lives.

I continue to pray for God’s blessings for all of you.

(edited by o. owino)

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