Kenya: Ray of Hope as Health Ministry Introduces First COVID-19 Survivors

A sigh of relief reverberated across the country Wednesday when the first patients to recover from the deadly coronavirus were introduced.

In a teleconference with President Uhuru Kenyatta, Brenda Cherotich from Keongo in Ainamoi constituency of Kericho County radiated a lot of energy after she was given a clean bill of health by the Ministry of Health after being quarantined at the Mbagathi Hospital.

In what perhaps helped to sooth the anxiety for those who have contracted the virus and are still in self-isolation, Brenda narrated her ordeal to the world.

She said she started feeling unwell when she jetted into the country from the USA.

Brenda said she first experienced a cough a day after arriving into the country from a two and a half months visit in Texas, USA.

"I went to the US on December 19 and when I finished my stay I travelled to Cleveland and then [to] Chicago where I had a 10-hour layover. I then went to London and this is where I think I may have contracted the virus or on the plane [while coming] back home," said Brenda.

She said she contracted the virus either in the US, London or on her flight to Kenya.

"After three days in Kenya, I checked into Mbagathi Hospital having developed coronavirus-like symptoms and I was immediately taken into isolation," Ms Cherotich said during a televised interview.

Brenda, a former Miss Kericho County Tourism pageant 2018 winner, is from Keongo village in Ainamoi constituency.

She attended Kericho Primary School where she was one of the top students before proceeding to Moi Girls Eldoret. She later joined Multi Media University where she studied a Bachelor of Science Degree in Telecommunication and Information Engineering. She graduated in June 2018.

Wednesday, her parents -- Peter and Jenifer Rono -- said they had been very anxious but hopeful for the three weeks their daughter was in self-quarantine.

They said Brenda -- who is their last born among their eight children; five sons and three daughters -- had travelled to the United States of America in December 2019 to attend her brother's graduation at the University of Texas, and returned on expiry of her three-month visa.

"When she did not come home immediately after her return, we called to inquire what was happening and she asked for a few more days, only to learn through a television announcement by the Health Cabinet Secretary that a person fitting her description and previous itinerary had been taken into isolation," said Mr Rono in a telephone interview with the Nation.

It was then that they dispatched one of their sons working in Nairobi to check on her. That is when their worst fears were confirmed.

"The news was devastating, given that we did not have prior knowledge of the case. We went into shock as information filtered in," her mother said.

"It came somewhat as a relief when we managed to talk to our daughter a few days later on the phone. She encouraged us to be positive as the situation had not worsened," said Mrs Rono.

Brenda's father said when the news broke, the family, who are ardent Africa Gospel Church (AGC) members, resorted to prayer led by Reverend Fares Chirchir. They have been praying for her recovery everyday.

"When we spoke to her on Wednesday morning as part of our daily routine, she was not aware she would be released as she was waiting for results of the second follow-up test. The first had come out negative," said Mr Rono.

"Our neighbours alerted us that our daughter was on television in a conversation with President Kenyatta and we rushed to the house to catch up with the news. It was as shocking as when she was quarantined, but this time we shed tears of joy after she recovered," he said.

The couple revealed they had been subjected to a lot of stigma as a result of their daughter's condition, "but God has been faithful to us. He has answered our prayers."

"We are forever grateful to the doctors, nurses, chefs and cleaners who supported our daughter while in quarantine. The same goes to all those who prayed for her and sent get-well messages," said Mrs Rono.

Mr Peter Mutai, a Kericho resident, said the news is encouraging, saying it has confirmed that it is possible for the country to beat the disease.

Although she won't forget the experience for the rest of her life, Brenda can now go about her normal business -- even though she has gained celebrity status of sorts.

"You are no longer patient number one, we can now call you Brenda. I am calling on Kenyans to follow the example of this wonderful Kenyan," said President Kenyatta.

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