My life with COVID: Ferdinand Mayiwa on losing his sense of hearing, smell, balance and taste


My life with COVID: Ferdinand Mayiwa on losing his sense of hearing, smell, balance and ...
Ferdinand Mayiwa, a Medical Social Psychologist is still reeling from the effects of COVID-19, months after he was taken ill. Photo: Citizen Digital

In Summary

  • One year into a global pandemic, there are many things that COVID-19 has taken away from us.
  • Millions of lives have been lost around the world, some survivors have been left to shoulder heavy health burdens, families have been torn apart and social and economic order has been altered
  • For a 53-year-old Ferdinand Mayiwa, a Medical Social Psychologist, COVID-19 has taken away his sense of hearing, sense of smell, balance and taste.
  • He hopes the Kenyan public can learn important lessons from his private pain.

Ferdinand Mayiwa, 53,  a father of five and a Medical Social Psychologist has grown accustomed to the sound of silence.

He lost his sense of hearing in late February this year.

To communicate clearly with the healthcare worker, who works as a Medical Social Psychologist at the Pumwani Hospital and the University of Nairobi’s H.I.V centre, we have to write down our questions so that he can read and respond.

He is also mastering how to lip-read so that he can understand what is being said to him. But it’s not just the hearing

“I cannot smell, taste what I am eating, I cannot walk properly, I cannot even smell food, one day the food was burnt, I couldn’t even smell it. I just saw the smoke and realized that it was burned and turned off the gas.” he says.

In June 2020, Mr. Miyawa fell ill in the evening after work. He experienced severe diarrhea.

Three days after, he had fatigue, joint pain and a ringing headache, but he didn’t have any of the signs and symptoms that would indicate that he had contracted COVID-19.

He wasn’t coughing, and he didn’t have any fever. When he started to experience difficulty in breathing and struggled to walk to the stage before going to work, he had to seek emergency care.

The doctors he sought attention from thought he was suffering from Menengitis.

He had a CT scan and more tests done and was asked to raise Ksh. 12,000 for a COVID-19 since his insurance cover could not shoulder the cost.

Fast forward to June 26, the Pumwani hospital scheduled mass testing at the hospital.

Three days later, his worst fears were confirmed. He tested positive and had to be admitted at the Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral Hospital.

He tested negative on July 17 and was later discharged but instead of recovering , he fell ill again, necessitating more tests for pain in his chest.

His chest X-ray was clear, however.

On August 3, he tested for COVID-19 again and tested positive for the second time.

Besides the loss of the senses, he was finding it difficult to lift heavy objects.

Between October and November, he went to the COVID-19 clinic at the Kenyatta National Hospital, but even the doctors didn’t have answers for his predicament.

“They were not understanding, they told me it was psychological that it would stop when the medication stops, but it worsened when you go to work, people tell you are a drunkard,” Mr, Miyawa says.

He recalls the day he lost his hearing

“I was watching TV I couldn’t hear the sound, so I went to the doctor, and he couldn’t hear me. I have to shout, I don’t want to go near my friends, since I got COVID-19,I have never been stable.” he adds.

According to Dr. Loyce Ombajo, the Head of the Infectious Diseases Uunit at Kenyatta National Hospital, what is happening to Mr. Miyawa is not strange, but COVID-19 still being a new disease, scientists and researchers are still trying to understand how the virus mutates, how it spreads and why it causes mild disease in some people and severe in some.

“ It is a global phenomenon, for some people, they lose their senses or have their symptoms persist for long. It is not known why. Bodies respond differently. This could be because of the immune system. Most people never have the symptoms while others have them lingering, the virus affects different organs, and parts of the body and the exact explanation is being studied.” Dr. Ombajo told Citizen TV.

Mr. Miyawa is no longer productive enough to support his family; his wife who works in a hair salon has had to borrow heavily to shoulder his medical bills and provide for the family.

He cannot afford the four tests he is required to undergo, including two M.R.I.S. He is also required to get a hearing aid.

For these, he needs to raise Ksh. 130,000 and his appointment has been scheduled for March 25.

What he says saddens him the most is the lost connection with his family, the stigma and the alienation from family and friends.

A support group for survivors is critical for him.

“My small boys are frustrated they ask me if God is punishing me, my wife is frustrated, she has to use pen and paper to talk to me.” he adds

According to Dr. Ombajo people need supportive care and there is need for mental health support.

Mr. Miyawa believes that he got infected when there was a lockdown imposed in Eastleigh.

With many of his clients, living with HIV being cut off from the health facilities, he had to deliver the drugs to them in Eastleigh, Biafra and Kariokor.

On several occasions, he was roughed up by police and bundled together with other people even before he could explain why he was in Eastleigh at the time.

From his personal pain, he hopes that Kenyans can learn an important public lesson, particularly those who will believe that the virus is real if they personally know someone who is infected.

“ If this body could talk, people will see with their eyes, stop politicizing COVID-19, wash hands and keep your social distance, be very careful, with social gatherings, corona is real, and I’m the one who is suffering.”

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