It has been a week since our isolation ended, recovery has been easy but my domestic is back and her experience through her isolation is quite shocking!
Johannesburg, South Africa (13 July 2020) – Living in Johannesburg, it has been quite concerning watching the numbers rise. Every day I see thousands more who must be just as stressed out as I was when I was diagnosed positive for COVID-19. But the good news is, it doesn’t have to be stressful at all! Not if you are healthy and ready to do what is needed to isolate yourself.
You last heard from me just as I was headed for the clear. It has been ten full days since my last diary entry and I feel like myself again. We were able to end our isolation with a consultation with our Health Department agent Tanya, and are now living life like normal again. Well, lockdown normal!
We had been relying on grocery delivery from apps and friends so the very first thing we did was go shopping for groceries as we had run really low on essentials. Still aware of the fact that germs can be harmful, we stuck to every rule as per usual, washed hands, sanitised everything but having recovered from COVID-19, there is a new peace you have when having to run errands. You no longer fear other people which is how life should be.
While shopping we called our domestic to see what she needed. She was far too humble to give a straight answer so we bought her the basics we know she uses. Some pasta, oil, pap, tea, sugar, curry powder and a few treats. We had spoken and agreed that she could come back to work once we were both symptom-free for several days.
Before I get into any of the details, my domestic would like to thank each and every person who sent well wishes and prayers. We spent her first day back sitting with a warm cup of tea, reading through the diaries, reading out the comments and recounting our personal COVID experiences to each other.
She said to me just before she left for the day, that she knows it was everyone’s prayers that saved her life and for that, she will forever be grateful for all that you, our readers did for her. I too am thankful for the love and support that poured in during my COVID struggles.
As you all know my experience I am only going to share my domestic’s experience. We will call her Angie* to make it easier to write but obviously, her identity will be my sworn secret to keep.
Living with COVID-19 in Diepsloot, Johannesburg.
Some of the details in Angie’s account of her experience left me angered. I cannot believe the struggles she faced just to get proper treatment.
So here we go…
The overwhelming fear of death was a constant in Angie’s life, from the moment she suspected she had COVID, she became frozen in fear. When she called me, she thought I would be angry that she brought the virus into our home, which I wasn’t, because it was an inevitable thing.
Once we calmed her enough to talk her through the process of what she needed to do, she was able to head to the clinic. This was Tuesday the 23rd of June. As she was calling past 7 am, her chances of being seen to at the clinic were zero.
Angie’s first symptoms were shortness of breath and coughing. She also had very little energy. She eventually got seen to at the clinic and was tested on Thursday. The nurses at the clinic were very short and Angie said they thought she was lying about having COVID-19. She explained how exhausting it was to wait for hours only to be told they didn’t believe her. At every moment, she sat in tears thinking she would just drop dead because she had no energy and couldn’t walk.
When her results came in, quite a while after mine, the clinic staff were a little more sympathetic and gave her some allergex, some ibuprofen and some other mild medications. She left with little advice on what to do. Living with her three children, her eldest took care of the others and Angie spent her next week and a half in bed.
During her entire isolation, Diepsloot was without power. This meant it was hard to reach her but thankfully a kind neighbour would charge her phone at work every few days. Angie called for advice from me the day the Health department called her. She was so scared they would take her away from her children and that she would die alone and they would never know.
Trying to calm her through that process broke my heart! She didn’t know that you can isolate at home. She thought they would drag her kicking and screaming through the streets.
The misinformation and fear surrounding this virus is alarming to say the least! If Angie had an employer that didn’t care, I think her COVID-19 would have been so much worse! Thankfully, we were able to ease her mind whenever she needed it. She said my advice for steaming with hot water and Vicks helped her, she still does it now as she says she breathes so much better and sleeps well at night because of it.
Angie is back to normal just like me, but her condition was worse than mine. She had typical symptoms, lack of breath, coughing, loss of smell and taste, constant chills and fever, fatigue and headaches. She was incapacitated her entire isolation whereas I had good and bad days.
Thankfully, she has bounced back with vigour. While I wanted her to stay home a few extra days to regain energy, she just about scolded me from stopping her being at work. I did notice she struggled though and I became quite firm that she sit and rest. I made her a bowl of macaroni and cheese on day one and made her sit and eat it. She usually only eats at the end of the day but I could feel my own body needed to rest for a bit so I insisted she did too.
After Isolation and on to Recovery
With Angie and I back to health, life has gone on as usual. I personally had a few days where I felt tired and had to take a nap in the middle of a workday but mostly I have been myself. Angie says she has been fine but I refuse to let her come back full-time just yet. I have been sending her home long before it gets dark and cold.
We are still taking all the vitamins and supplements just to keep our immune systems up. Why risk catching a common cold now? My partner went through the whole process unscathed. We are now waiting for anti-body tests to become available so we can see if there was exposure to my virus and just an asymptomatic reaction or if it is some miracle and no infection occurred at all.
I am now counting my recovery days as I would like to donate my blood to help with the trials taking place in South Africa. Good Things Guy shared an article about Convalescent Plasma and donating to SANBS (which you can read here). I plan to use my virus positivity to help others!
What can be learned?
I feel the government need to do more groundwork in educating about the processes of COVID-19. There should be more information in communities where there is a lack of power, internet and data. So anyone in government reading this, here are a few things I noticed were lacking and how you can work to fix them!
- Teach people that COVID-19 isn’t an instant death sentence. Angie was case and point, she thought she had killed us all when in fact we’re all just fine. She didn’t know that most people survive this virus.
- Educate people on the process of getting tested.
- Teach the clinic staff to not belittle people who are scared of the virus. They need to be better at handling the fearful masses. Some sympathy for them would go a long way!
- Education on additional treatment methods, such as eating healthy, boosting vitamins, keeping the chest clear, getting lots of rest and so on would benefit many people. Just having a few options helps relieve the stress of the situation.
- Create a better understanding of the quarantine facilities available. Many fear they are like prisons and that one is forced to stay at one of these facilities.
- Please fix the power! Having to go through living with COVID-19 and not having power, is unacceptable! The same is said for water accessibility and sanitation. These are not hard things to manage and once done properly, can sustain communities for decades. Just get it done!
These recommendations are because so many South Africans are unable to access the available information online due to socio-economic constraints. This may have already happened, so please correct me if I missed it but maybe an insert can be made for newspapers and sent into communities that would not have access otherwise.
If you would like more information, the South African COVID-19 website is a wealth of knowledge and zero-rated so you don’t use data accessing the information. If you too test positive, you can access the NICD isolation information here, and remember, don’t panic!
If you missed the previous diary entries, you can find them below.