Musa Otieno: I thought Coronavirus will kill me, but stigmatization almost did.

By Shadrack Andenga Odinga

Kenya’s football most capped Captain Musa Otieno, has come out strongly with a message against stigmatization to Corona virus victims.

Popularly known as Otero, the public figure found the going tough after going public with his diagnosis.

“On July 25th at around 6 pm after my fever worsened, I had no choice but to go to hospital. I had difficulties in breathing and the fever could not just go away so I went to Mbagathi hospital for a checkup and after getting tested, I was told to go home and come for my results after three days,” sadly said Otieno who added that his symptoms grew from bad to worse.

He could not stay at home and after consultations with close friends, he was advised to seek help at Kenyatta National Hospital on the same day, instead of waiting for the Mbagathi results. His condition was growing worse with difficulties in breathing.

Athanus Obango Obala, a long time childhood friend who is now vying for the FKF Executive committee post took the initiative to pull some strings. 

He swung into action calling FKF deputy chairperson Doris Petra as they tried to find a doctor who could help.

“After two hours at KNH, around 10 pm a nurse came and I explained to her my conditions. She slammed the door behind and cursed Mbagathi Hospital for sending a Coronavirus patient her way without a referral. I dint see her again. Luckily, another gentleman of Somali origin came and immediately noticed me, he called me by my name and helped me,” a dejected Otero remembered.

At 10.30 PM, the best he could get was to be isolated at a room resembling a store after a chest X ray, with his wife by his side; the terrifying ordeal was not over yet. But at least his elder brother Barrack ‘Ogoji’ Ouma and his nephew Frank were present to give him a shoulder to lean on, in addition to his wife.

He spent three days at ward seven, was weak, could not walk or move his limbs, neither did he attend to the call of nature for the three days. the nurses there he recalls, treated him like an alien.

Musa Otieno did not lose hope, but stigmatization right from the onset of his treatment was wearing him out.

A senior doctor doing his usual rounds quickly noticed him and shouted orders to the nurses.

“Do you know who this guy is? How can you be so insensitive? This is our national hero?” Otero remembered the doctor shouting to the nurses as they immediately transferred him to IDU ward 42, which according to him was better, had warmth and food served was okay.

After nine days, he started physiotherapy since his muscles were all weak. He had to start all over again and build his immune system.

“The beds were terrible. The mattresses are so thin and also taking into consideration that I am about seven foot, five inches, I was struggling to get sleep on a bed of about five feet long, my feet were always outside. It was terrifying and disheartening to see other patients already calling their loved ones and saying last words or issuing instructions on how to acquire assets, they simply gave up,” said Otero.

On 4th of August, he was released and sent back to Mbagathi Hospital. He had to stay one more day before going home. He recalls the nurses throwing a blanket at him and showing him a Hallway that had no curtains to its windows, the nurses told him to choose a bed. He was traumatized and wished the next morning could come in minutes as mosquitoes tormented his night.

After the hospitals ordeal, the doctor told him to self-quarantine at home for 14 days, luckily he has an extra bedroom at home.

But what shocked him was the way his neighbors treated him. No one wanted to come close.  He remembers those close to him paying the ultimate price.

“My wife’s friends were told not to visit us and she found herself alone. My closest friend Pius Karanja and workmate at Kick Off to Hope was told by neighbors to shift even after getting tested and found negative. They locked him out of his rental house and he had no place to stay for some days. At my foundation we were about a 120, but by the time I came back, I found only 15 parents left,” said Otero.

The man who played for Harambee Stars 105 games before retiring was used to people around him, but now found himself with only a few.

He seats at the Nairobi County Sports Council and remembers none of the members even making a call to offer a word of encouragement.

The truth was that people now feared him, but to him life had to go on as he had no choice.

Musa Otieno is very grateful to his brother Barrack Ouma, his nephew Frank, his wife and longtime friend Robert Mbatia who is also the MCA for Uhuru/K-South ward. The four were always there in person.

When he came back to Kick Off to Hope at Maringo estate, Dr Khraph primary school where members of his foundation meet, the 15 women who stuck by him out of the 120, were there to welcome him back and prayed for him.

He insists that he is lucky to be a public figure, well known with some connections and that is why at least he got some treatment, but he pities those who are not known, have no connections and are from economically challenged areas of Kenya.

Musa Otieno has always been a light of hope during desperate situations in Nairobi’s Eastland’s. He is now back on his feet, coaching and exercising as was his norm and his message to the public is that stigmatization can actually kill you just after surviving Corona virus.

Otieno is also calling upon the government of Kenya to treat victims of Corona virus with dignity in times of sickness and in times of death so as not to cause panic and hysteria among the public.

With the Corona virus pandemic still a menace in third world countries like Kenya, the big question now is how do we integrate survivors like Musa Otieno back into society?

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