South Africa

How I am surviving Covid 19 - real life testaments from the infected

They are some of the faces of the Covid-19 pandemic: three South Africans who contracted the disease - and these are their stories on how they are fighting daily to defeat this deadly pathogen.

Nazeera Malik* knew something was wrong when she began getting chest pains and experiencing shortness of breath. The 32 year old, who hails from Joburg, now fears she has passed the novel coronavirus on to her elderly parents.

“The thought of having possibly infected my parents pains me. They could possibly die because of me,” said a tearful Malik. “I was extremely shocked and felt despair when I found out. I tried to figure out how and when I could’ve contracted this virus and couldn’t find the answers.”

Malik took all the right precautions. She limited her movements and wore a mask and gloves when she went out. She would even shower immediately after getting home and sanitise the goods she had bought. “While shopping I made sure not to browse for unnecessary products as this would’ve led me to touching more goods and increasing my risk.”

But still, she tested positive on May 8 and was contacted by Gauteng health officials. Her parents were tested on May 10. “I provided them with the names and details of every person I had been in physical contact with over the past 14 days. They then visited my home and tested my family and loved ones. We are still waiting for their results.”

Officials assessed her quarantine room at home, which they said was adequate and safe.

On most days, Malik experiences mild symptoms of the disease, but on certain days she goes through excruciating pain. “I experience moments where I feel fine and fit and moments where I feel extreme pain in all of my muscles and my chest feels as though someone is crushing it.”

Psychologically, however, Malik has struggled. “I called the SA Depression and Anxiety Group after I received my results as I couldn’t cope with the news and with the stigma I was experiencing from my boss and colleagues.

“I felt as though they weren’t taking responsibility for operating without following the appropriate safety protocols (there were no sanitisers at work, no social distancing, no adequate screening).

“I felt as though I was being blamed for possibly infecting my colleagues and there was no sense of admission of wrongdoing on their part.”

* Sixolise Babalwa and her family recently tested positive for the virus.

Unlike Malik, they know the source of their infection.

“My mom is a doctor at a clinic in East London. We contracted it from her as two of her colleagues also tested positive for the virus,” said Babablwa.

“My mom tested first on May 8. Her results came back on May 10; the rest of the household tested on May 11 and received the results on May 15.”

Her mother informed the rest of her family of their test results.

“My mom got a call while she was sleeping, and called all of us to her room and insisted we stand by the door. She then told us the bad news and gave us instructions on how things would work from there on, including everyone wearing a mask inside the house, and not being allowed in her room.”

The Babalwa family are now all quarantined in their rooms individually at home. Her mother was initially rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties and spent a week in ICU before being discharged.

Babalwa says while it’s been a difficult few weeks for her and her family, she has tried to remain positive.

“I was shocked when I got tested positive to be honest. But I soon realised that I needed to accept it so that I could recover and beat the virus. My niece looks up to me so I need to be brave for her.”

She and her family “went above and beyond” to avoid infection. “We took precautions which included sanitising surfaces every day. Whenever someone goes outside they have to sanitise, when coming inside the house they need to do the same.

“We took our vitamin C daily. We could only do so much. My mom is the one in contact with people, so we will have to try putting up further measures to make sure that she doesn’t bring it to the house again.

“Since the whole household is infected it has been challenging. We constantly have to ask family or friends to get us essentials that we need as we can’t be in contact with other people.”

Babalwa says she and her family members will be retested next week.

Alaric Prins, a researcher at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, in Cape Town, always believed that contracting the coronavirus was an eventuality. On May 15, he learnt he had Covid-19. “I’m overall quite a healthy individual so my biggest concern was, ‘what if I had infected my parents?’ Both of whom live with chronic illnesses.”

Prins was tested on May 5 through a door-to-door community screening process in Cape Town. “It just so happened that I started showing flu-like symptoms a few days before so I was very lucky.”

He is self-isolating at home. “I only leave my room to use the bathroom, which is regularly sanitised. Food is left outside my room and all my eating utensils are kept and washed separately.”

He has received support from family and friends, which has made a “huge difference”. Even strangers on social media have reached out. Prins pleaded with all South Africans to adhere to all rules and regulations set out by the government and health officials.

“We have to do our best to curb the infection rate as much as possible... please stay home as much as humanly possible. Keep practising social distancing. As always, one has to assume that you could possibly be an asymptomatic carrier and there’s the risk of transmitting it to others.”

* Not their real names.

The Saturday Star

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