NEWS

Actor and producer Onechi Lwenge shares his covid story

More and more Zambian celebrities are coming forward with their stories about contracting covid in the hopes of spreading awareness and Onechi Lwenge is no different. 

The ministry of health posted the Actor’s letter to his fans on Facebook in the hopes that it will encourage Zambians to take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. 

Actor Onechi Lwenge wrote as follows…

To Hell and Back

My Journey Surviving Covid-19

If someone had told me at the beginning of December that I would spend New Year’s Eve on oxygen at the UTH Covid-19 ICU Isolation ward, I would not have believed them.

Like a lot of Zambians at the beginning of December, I was… complacent. We had survived a previous wave of Covid in the first half of 2020. Though devastating, we met it at high alert. Learning to wear a mask and sanitize vigorously was the norm. But time passed. By the end of the year, I was attending to my regular calendar of social events that come up at this time.

What started as a simple cough was ignored as I went about my business. But as the days progressed, the cough persisted. One evening my colleagues and I went for a nightcap after a successful function to a popular night club. I remember looking out at the hundreds upon hundreds of people present after we entered and thinking to myself “Not one single person here is wearing a mask,” and we carried on enjoying the festive season.

Concern began to take hold when the cough was not going away. Instead, there was now a dreadful fever, aches and pain in the body, a strange feeling like a coat on my tongue which interfered with enjoying food. A lack of appetite gripped my body and without being able to eat I began to wither. It was at this point that I decided to test to rule out. Breathing was beginning to be a challenge as well but I kept it to myself not to alarm anyone.

A day after the test, I received the life-shaking call that I was positive. By this point, my difficulty breathing was so apparent that the doctor recommended that I come to the UTH immediately. Gripped in fear and panic, my family shed tears as we packed my bag to the hospital. I looked at the people God had instructed me to look after and felt defeat as I was going to be hospitalized. Who was going to look after them? Would I return?

By the time I arrived at the hospital, my difficulty breathing had reached its peak. I could barely stand. I was screened, x-rayed and admitted to the ICU Isolation ward with severe pneumonia. Had I not been admitted that night, I would not be here to tell this story I am certain. As the new year rang outside with fireworks and fanfare, my deteriorating condition made the future uncertain.

The 7 nights I spent in the ward were among, if not, the scariest times I have ever experienced. The accommodations, however, were decent. The team of doctors were very hardworking though quite stressed and overworked. Our rooms were designed for single occupancy but they had to readjust this to provide for double occupancy so as to meet the demand.

There comes a point where you are in so much discomfort and pain that the thought of death begins to flirt with you. Before long, it consumes you. I had to face the reality that I may never see those I care about the most ever again. Nights faded into days. Jab after jab, doctors and nurses coming and going at all hours of the day and night. My thoughts drifted to my mother, my son and the love of my life. I needed hope.

Being in isolation means no one can visit you. The only company you have is the person you share your room with and the doctors and nurses, who are covered head to toe in white overalls. You learn to identify them only from their eyes. Sometimes you don’t know who is talking to you. It’s then that you crave being in contact with those you care about.

I befriended some people inside. When we mustered the strength to speak to one another, it temporarily concealed the pain and trauma of isolation. But even those moments were interrupted regularly by a call or a message that another friend, acquaintance or loved one has died from Covid. That’s when I understood that it is by God’s grace alone that I am still walking this Earth. This pain of daily loss continues up to now.

In those dark moments of being in the ward (with a speculated 20% survival rate), prayers from loved ones around the world brought comfort. I began to respond favourably to the treatment received. Before long I was taken off the oxygen and began to breathe on my own before I was discharged.

I am very appreciative of the doctors and nurses at UTH that treated me. Their expert care is the reason I am still here and honestly your best chance at survival of this disease. Ultimate gratitude goes to God. I have to believe that God gave me a second chance at life for a reason. Which brings me to society at large.

You miss the strangest things when you are in isolation. For me, it was sunlight touching my skin. In the car ride back home, I dropped the window and put my arm out to feel the golden rays of the sun on my flesh. But as I adjusted my sight, I noticed that the majority of people were not masking up. Not distancing. Having gone through what I had just done, I was horrified.

My message is simple. We can only fight COVID-19 together. Which is why we must unquestionably adhere to the Five Golden Rules to end covid-19 infection:

  1. Mask up
  2. Social distance
  3. Frequently hand wash or sanitize
  4. Stay home and avoid crowds
  5. Seek medical attention early

To those that still think Covid-19 is not real or another internet hoax, I say this; I was lucky to survive, will you?

Onechi Lwenge