South Africa has no shortage of sporting talent, especially on the cricket pitch. Up until a year ago, Solomzi Nqweni was one of the brightest up-and-coming local cricket stars.  The gifted all-rounder, who played provincial cricket for the Eastern Cape-based Warriors, recently shared his Covid-19 diagnosis via his social media platforms.

Before Covid-19 there was GBS

Covid-19 is not the first medical battle Solo, as he is affectionately known,  has had to face. In 2019, while in Scotland playing club cricket for Aberdeenshire, the promising cricketer experienced persistent flu symptoms.  Shortly after seeking medical attention, Solo received the life-changing news. He had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). GBS is a rare disorder in which your body’s immune system aggressively attacks your nerves. Solo lost control of his muscles, including this ability to breathe. He was put into a medically-induced coma for 2 weeks so that a ventilator could do the work of his lungs.  For some time, Solo’s life was left hanging in the balance. He contracted TB, his liver failed, and his kidney failed.

Solo spent 2 weeks in a medically-induced coma Photo: Supplied

Solo remained in Scotland for a further 5 months to receive intensive treatment. He finally returned to home soil in January this year to resume his treatment at a facility in Johannesburg. While it was a great relief for both Solo and his family that he was home, the universe decided to throw him another curve ball – Covid-19.

The symptoms ranged from very mild to severe

Solo’s symptoms developed over a couple of weeks. During the first week, at the end of April, he started showing an elevated temperature during screening when attending therapy. No other symptoms were present and he continued going to his appointments.

“Fortunately I didn’t have to be hospitalised. I was so afraid of going back on a ventilator”

The next week, however, was a different story. He became very ill. Apart from suffering from common flu-like symptoms such as a sore throat and headache, he also experienced a range of other indicators. These included nose bleeds, bouts of severe fever and chills, and painful eye movements. He attributed the severity of his symptoms to the fact that this was his first bout of flu since his GBS diagnosis. He never suspected that he may have contracted Covid-19.

 The diagnosis came as a big surprise

Upon wanting to return to therapy after a week of bed rest and self-medication, a clearance certificate from his doctor was requested. Due to his underlying medical conditions and the extent of the pandemic he was tested for the coronavirus.

On Thursday, 07 May 2020 Solo received his results – he tested positive for Covid-19!

A star in the making Photo: Supplied

After his diagnosis, Solo immediately went into isolation with his caregiver on whom he still heavily relies. His treatment was symptomatic.  Upon instruction from his doctor, he simply upped the doses of common over-the-counter medications, including Linctagon C, Efferflu C, Med Lemon, Corenza C, and a soothing ginger tea. The only prescription the doctor wrote out was for a potent ointment for the maculopapular rash that he developed all over his body.  By this time, his mouth also became riddled with ulcers which made it very difficult to eat. Almost all of his food had to be blended into a soft pulp.

He bowled Covid-19 out for a duck!

By the end of week 4, he started to feel better although the rash still persisted. Solo decided it was time for a follow-up test and on 22 May 2020 he received the good news – he tested negative for Covid-19!

The 26-year-old former Grey High School student has no idea where he contracted the virus. The only places he visited in the weeks leading up to his diagnosis were a rehab facility in Johannesburg and the pharmacy.  In his household of 7, which includes his full-time caregiver, he was the only one to test positive for the coronavirus. The only thing he can think of is that he contracted it during therapy, despite all the obvious precautions being taken, as the facility treats many patients from all walks of life.

“Trust the process. Trust that you will be fine.”

Although Solo fought off Covid-19 like a true warrior, there were times that he was scared that the virus might attack his lungs. He was on a ventilator before because of his GBS and it was very distressing.  He did not want to experience that again. Having GBS made him more aware of what could happen if things took a turn for the worst.  He is very grateful that he did not experience the severe respiratory distress often associated with the virus.

Solo on fire on the pitch Photo: Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images

New challenges await

Now that he has conquered Covid-19, Solo can once again focus all his efforts on recovering from GBS.  The talented cricketer with the broad smile is back in rehab and more committed than ever before to return to the game he loves so much. God-willing, he can start getting match-fit again by the end of the year. This will be just in time to resume his cricket career during the course of 2021.

Solo has the following words of encouragement for our readers:

“I think we are heading into an environment where we need to be brave and focus on controlling the virus and how it impacts our lives. We should not be afraid of it. We should not attach a stigma to people who test positive.  It can get complicated but if you do what the WHO says and the doctor says, it can be beaten.”

Countless South Africans, and especially those living with underlying medical conditions, are almost paralysed by the fear of contracting the coronavirus.  Solomzi Nqweni is living proof that #ConqueringCovid is possible, even if you are a high-risk patient by default.

Read more on the topic here:

Positivising the Pandemic

A Sister’s Journey to Recovery

Rugby Legend Habana Addressing Food Insecurity During Pandemic

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