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City of Banjul
Saturday, September 18, 2021

If you don’t have your health, you have nothing

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I have been ill for three weeks, got infected by Covid-19 and it was tough.

During the first week, it took a lot of effort just to turn around in my bed. I am grateful that I am normally a very healthy person, my immune system is strong so I became well without getting hospitalized. I was forced to make one check-up at the hospital because I had problems breathing. As I was there, I got to know that the whole hospital was full of patients. Not only the rooms but also the corridors and whatever space they could find to place a bed.

After the nurses had taken some blood tests on me, I had to walk to another room to wait for the doctor. The corridor was so crowded so it was hard to move. I passed some hospital beds in a space where they normally don’t treat patients. People were coughing and struggling with their breathing. During my visit to this hospital, I was amazed that all the nurses who took care of me, and the doctor too, were so kind and patient. They were on their feet all the time, but still, they had a smile on their faces and time to answer questions. I am so grateful for how they took care of me, Covid-19 is a scary illness.

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During my first week of illness, I was almost unable to eat. I had lost the senses of taste and smell which are very common symptoms of this illness. Our senses are something we take for granted as long as we have them, but when we lose some of them for some reason, it is life-changing. Eating food is not only a matter of feeling the taste of it, the smell of the food is just as important. When you lose both these senses the food means nothing to you. I wasn’t hungry at all for two weeks, so I had to force myself to eat to get my strength back. Two other common symptoms of Covid-19 are nausea and diarrhea. Porridge was almost the only food I could eat in the beginning, but I had to struggle with swallowing the food because of nausea. Two hours after every meal it came out again, the backway.

The body is losing water and nutrition because of these last two symptoms. If I didn’t have help during my illness, I don’t know what would have happened to me. I was terribly ill and I needed help with everything. I am lucky enough to live in a country where we have good healthcare, well-educated doctors and nurses, and trusted medications. I am also lucky enough to afford to buy the medications I need, but also food, so I can get healthy again. I have had plenty of time, when I finally became well enough to think about anything else but existing, to think about my brothers and sisters in The Gambia.

I have seen the registered number of Covid cases in The Gambia. I’m sure many more have been infected, but as you don’t have health care clinics everywhere, it is hard for you to get tested. The symptoms of this disease are various, so it can be hard to know if you just have got a normal cold, or if you have been infected with Covid-19. I didn’t suspect Covid at first, in my case, but as my condition became so much worse I understood that it must be worse than a cold. I was even too ill to get tested the first week, I just lay in my bed and slept most of the time. It must be very hard to live far away from any clinic or hospital, fearing that you will die because of the lack of professional help.

When I visited the hospital, my doctor told me to be observant on my breathing. As soon as I got problem breathing I should call for an ambulance. So what if you live somewhere where there are no ambulances? What if you are in a hurry to get proper treatment but you can’t because you have no transport? And if you had transport but you couldn’t afford the treatment? Too many die because of lack of proper healthcare in The Gambia. Too many suffer because they can’t afford the healthcare that exists. Too many die because there are not enough ventilators for those who are too ill to breathe on their own. If there would be ventilators you can’t be sure that they are working because of the lack of maintenance or a sudden cut of electricity.

I wonder if our politicians walk around blindfolded. Don’t they see how people suffer? Don’t they care? It seems that as long as they get their good salaries nothing else matters. Food prices are sky rocketing and no one can explain why. Salaries are still as low as ever, for most people, and the little money they get has to be stretched thin. Too many have no income at all and those who normally are depending on the tourism have no money at all because of the pandemic. Is this news for our government? Are they not following the news? Are they not out and about among people to see how they live and listen to their problems? Silly me, I should know better! Of course they are not out and about, what if someone would approach them and demand changes? No, it is better to hide inside an office or inside a car so no one can reach them.

What our government fails to see is that it is important to communicate with the citizens about matters that concern them. People need to know why everything has become so expensive and if there is any plan to help people to survive. It seems like those who rule our country are living in a bubble where nothing can reach them from the outside. Do they climb into an imaginary bubble, or behind an invisible shield as soon as they get elected? For us, outsiders, it seems like that. The signal our rulers are giving the citizens of The Gambia is that anyone who is starving has only him/herself to blame. Anyone who dies from a desease that easily could have been treated also has to blame themselves. Why don’t people just travel to Senegal where they have better hospitals?

Oops, maybe because they can’t afford it! Why on earth should any Gambian have to travel to Senegal to get treated? We have hospitals in The Gambia; equip them with whatever they need and make healthcare affordable. So far not much has become better in The Gambia. We can’t blame the pandemic on the government, but we can blame them for how they have handled the situation. Everyone knows that income from tourism is a huge part of The Gambia’s GDP. Because of the pandemic, there has been no tourism, so how can we help all the dependent people to survive? Should they just wait at home until the pandemic is over? What about these small details like food, school fees, rent, etc? How to get money to survive? Is there any plan for this from our government? Sadly enough we have seen that they don’t care, but still, they expect to remain in power. Pathetic!

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