The safe delivery of a baby by one of Nigeria’s Ebola Survivors, Dr. Ada Igonoh, may have taken scientists by surprise, as they earlier maintained that survivors of such highly deadly diseases like Ebola hardly conceive.
Further, it is reported that even Ebola survivors conceive, they have very serious challenges and difficulty carrying the pregnancy for nine months. It was also said that such people find it difficult to deliver the baby safely. However, studies are yet to understand why this happens.
While Nigerians continue to celebrate the birth of the Igonoh baby, described as a divine gift, Vanguard spoke to the man who made the difference when Dr. Igonoh was down with Ebola – Mr Godwin Igonoh.
Full of appreciation for the Nigerian media and the management of First Consultant Hospital Godwin Igonoh, Ada’s husband, spoke to our correspondent revealing that Ebola did not affect his intimacy with his wife even though he initially had some concerns.
By Chioma Obinna
HOW did you deal with the concerns you had initially?
For me, I read so much online but not all information in the internet is correct. So I had to take time to talk to people who knew more, like the Chief Medical Director of First Consultant Hospital, Dr Benjamin Ohiaeri.
He made himself very accessible so I could put a call across to him and ask my questions. Then, the things he told me I researched them online and found out from credible institutions and doctors that have spoken. I found out that those things were actually true.
So having First Consultant available served like a library of experience and knowledge. That was how I dealt with the concerns that I had.
Once the concerns were taken care of, it was a lot easier for everything to fall in line.
What was your reaction when you learned she was pregnant?
I was not really sure. I asked, are you sure? Please check again. Pregnancy means a lot to women and men. Both want to have kids.
She said she was sure she was pregnant. I was excited also but I managed my excitement throughout the process. The morning sickness starting coming, she is also a doctor so she helped to explain things to me. I also went online and read them up.
She being a doctor helped, I think is good to marry a doctor because she would help you understand in the layman’s language what’s really going on. First Consultant played a vital role in our lives because they keep helping us understand what needs to be done.
Were there challenges during the pregnancy?
She travelled at 28 weeks. When she was here, we had regular appointments at First Consultant often. A lot of things were managed and it was quite a peaceful pregnancy even though there were worried that they needed to take measures that nothing goes wrong.
Were you scared getting intimate after she was certified Ebola free?
I was not really scared because research shows that men are more at risk because they said semen in the testicles could retain the virus for a while so they advised men to abstain from sex. But they said there was no known history of women retaining the virus. But we actually gave it a few months after she was declared Ebola free. After some time, I felt like…what is the big deal? I am already in the same house with her, so it could be either way. Fluid contact is inevitable between couples. For me, I wasn’t really worried.
What was your reaction when she was confirmed Ebola positive?
It wasn’t funny. People say what they like in the news, but so much of what you see in the news is streamlined so that you can publish. They cannot tell you everything. So many things happened at the background with our experience with Ebola, and only God saved us.
I lost 20kg in two weeks and I could not eat. I couldn’t understand the situation. My mother died in 2002; there I was again, dealing with the possibility of my wife’s death. And every day I went to Yaba, I would hear that this or that person just died.
Imagine when I heard on CNN that a female doctor died, and I turned to Aljazeera and it was a male doctor that died. So the question then was who really died? I drove all the way to Yaba to confirm. Firstly of all, when I heard that on the news, I called the hospital, but her lines were off.
I called the matron; she said she was not on duty. The matron called another matron that was on duty who said she (Ada) was fine. So you could see all the emotional pressure and stress that I went through. At a point, it became difficult to handle. But I think crisis is a time you need to dig deep to find a reason to stay positive. For me, being a Christian I dug deep and held on to God.
How did you face the challenges of discrimination?
As an employer, it is going to be tough but you need to distinguish yourself. My wife had Ebola they may be careful but when it comes down to money if I pay, you won’t refuse to work for me because my wife had Ebola it does not make sense. Again, it brings to the fore the issue of what really matters. I attended a meeting where people were criticising people that had Ebola and I was there. But they never knew. They went through all the motions then I told them that my wife had Ebola and they were all shocked.
Expression of power
Until now you never knew my wife had Ebola but now you know you are looking at me differently. Before now, you have criticised people that had Ebola and talked about probably keeping them at bay pending when we are sure they are free.
Reactions on news of baby’s birth
When I heard my wife just delivered, because it is something I rehearsed, what do I do is the question I asked myself. I see having kids as an expression of power by couples because with much power comes great responsibility.
I always managed my excitement with the sense of understanding that there is a responsibility that comes with having kids. And that is what we really want to focus on. If you live in the euphoria that you have a child without actually preparing to take responsibility to be on ground to support that child to add to the society then you missed it.
When they told me she had a baby safely, I said yes, we need to get to work because she is going to need parents that are reliable and dependable and can teach her integrity. So for me, beyond the excitement, basically I try to remind myself that now you have a child you have to be responsible enough to do more than usual.
Why did she go overseas to have the baby?
We all know that government is doing enough but we have lot to do in the country’s health sector. I think it is only fair if you can get the best from the other side you go get it.