“Sis, I have tested positive for COVID-19.”
Silence, as I gripped my cell-phone tighter and forced myself to breathe.
“Oh no, sis, I’m so sorry!”
A helpless, sick feeling gripped me like a vice. My younger sister, positive! Sick, with COVID-19! I felt sick with dread. I couldn’t visit her, hug her or comfort her. I was devastated! We were under level five lockdown. But of the utmost importance was – how was she feeling?
“I feel as though I’ve been given a death sentence.”
“No, sis”, I quickly replied, trying to sound confident but not feeling it. “You’re going to make it through. Lots of people get through this. Please keep me posted and let me know when you need anything. Anything at all.”
Both my wife and I are healthcare workers working in different institutions. We were both very apprehensive about exposing ourselves to this dreaded virus.
Tuesday, 31st March 2020
I received a phone call from my Boss telling me I had to go to work immediately for a throat swab. It was 20h00 and we were not happy to be travelling on the roads at this late hour. Off we went and I was at the Trauma unit for about 1 hour along with all my colleagues.
Wednesday was a very long day whilst I awaited my fate regarding my result. By Thursday evening on the work chat all the staff were posting they had tested negative. My wife voiced her concern as nobody had contacted me.
Thursday morning I phoned my Boss as I was concerned. She phoned me back in 10 minutes and told me I had tested positive.
My mind was reeling as I could not digest this information. All I could think of was all the news reports about all the deaths and rising positive cases. We notified our respective families, the support, love and concern was so comforting as we were feeling very anxious.
As I settled down for the night I was feeling terrible, irritating cough, sweating, and a blocked nose.
Friday, 3rd April
As I awoke I realised how terrible I felt. Bearing in mind there is no medication a person may take. I took Panado as this was all that was advised by the Doctors. As the day drew to a close I had this terrible heavy feeling like an elephant sitting on my chest. I did steam inhalations and nasal douches every 6 hours. We were sitting on the bed watching the news update on the progress of the virus. We were both so emotional, my wife threw a blanket over my head and gave me a hug. That night I slept on the recliner couch as I felt uncomfortable lying flat in the bed.
My heart was breaking – but I couldn’t tell her that. Would my little sister make it through? Feelings of doubt had crept in quickly. I have to stay hopeful and positive, for her sake, I thought to myself. I have to stay strong. She would surely need me to shop for her, to be there for a shoulder to cry on – who knew what she would need?
My niece quickly set up a WhatsApp group which she called Lockdown. There was no profile picture, which I saw as a sign of the helplessness I knew we all felt. Each one of us uttered brave words of encouragement, and told her how much we loved her – every day – but the air was thick with worry.
Saturday, 4th April
As I awoke I felt much better. Continued with the steam inhalations and nasal douches.
Sunday, 5th April
Spent the night on the couch again, went and lay on the bed at 05h00. Awoke at 07h00 and felt very nasal. I had a very sore throat and on inspection my wife said there were white spots on my throat and tongue. Did salt gargles and steam inhalation, nasal douches religiously throughout the day. Discovered I had lost my sense of smell:- as I was walking in the garden I broke off a leaf from the curry leaf tree and could not smell it. This disturbed me terribly.
Every day we waited for the update. Some days we would have to wait till late in the day. I kept my phone on 24 hours a day, and watched it every waking moment, in case my sister called. ‘Have you heard from her yet?’ was the question most frequently asked.
A few days later, her wife, obviously in quarantine with her, also tested positive! Double the stress for them, and also for us. Every day we asked how they were both doing. All we ever got out of my sister-in-law was ‘I’m okay’, so we never knew how bad the virus had hit her. My sister was more forthcoming. She would tell us if she had a fever, a bad headache, or she had to sit up to sleep because she couldn’t breathe properly if she lay down.
Monday, 6th April
Felt a little better today but my body was very sore from sleeping on the couch for the last few nights. Continued with throat gargle, inhalations and douches.
Tuesday, 7th April
Awoke with a fever today.
I could ramble on with a day to day account of how I felt but every day was much the same. Very lethargic, feverish, loss of smell and taste lasted for a few days.
One morning we had a Zoom meeting with the two of them. There was sister-in-law, keeping her social distance, sitting on a couch, knitting, with my sister holding the phone. ‘So, sister-in-law, how are you actually feeling?’ one of us asked. Sister-in-law put down her knitting, sat up, looked square into the camera and said in a very determined voice, “I have worked hard for thirty-five years. No frikken virus is going to take me down,” after which she calmly resumed her knitting.
We all had a good laugh at that! The relief among the group was palpable.
The virus did not get the better of them, because they had the upper hand.
I eventually received my negative result on the 21st April. The relief was something I can’t explain; it was like a death sentence being lifted. Throughout the 3 weeks my feelings drifted from despair to anger, to anxiety. My wife and I travelled this road together and we could have not done this without our family and friends who were so supportive.
We had funny times and sad times. I recall family members dropping off groceries for us. They would hang the packet on the gate and phone us to say they had delivered our groceries. My wife mentioned she felt like the Lepers in the movie Ben Hur where the lepers were sent to live out of town in a cave. The village people would come and drop off supplies for them and run away.
The virus did not get the better of them, because they had the upper hand. They are both healthcare workers, so they knew what medication to take. We delivered, along with the groceries, Vitamin C, ginger, lemons and more. Their attitude, after the initial shock of diagnosis, was strong and determined. That virus had no chance!
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