– The survivor
Nomonde Baatjies is sitting in her bed at home, wrapped in her dressing gown, still weak after fourteen days of hospitalization in intensive care.
“I was breathing all the time with an oxygen mask,” recalls the 71-year-old grandmother.
Diabetic, suffering from hypertension, she came close to death after contracting Covid-19 in June. “What I was afraid of was death,” she said, remembering the sleepless nights in a “busy” hospital ward.
“In the morning, you see a new patient, and for the other patient who was there, you don’t know if he left the hospital or something else.”
Her daughter was persuaded to see her mother “in a box wrapped in plastic”.
But Nomonde Baatjies thwarted the prognoses and appears today to be a miracle.
A week after leaving the hospital, she regains some strength. “Yesterday (…), I sat on a chair and I called my children: + Bring me flour, yeast +. I made donuts!”
“We are left with 30 to 40% fewer staff to treat double the number of patients,” says Dr. John Black of Livingstone Hospital.
In the Eastern Cape province, more than 800 health workers have contracted Covid-19. Twenty-four of them died.
Here, staff depend on donations of protective equipment. “It’s a constant battle,” says John Black.
Cleaning workers went on strike last month to protest their working conditions. Trash accumulated in the hallways, patients ended up sleeping in dirty sheets.
“We were already under pressure before the Covid,” sighs John Black. So “the extra pressure leaves traces”.
“The big problem is that we don’t know how long we’re going to keep doing this. It would be nice to know there is a finish line.”
– The nurse
“I learned about it yesterday,” said a 53-year-old nurse on the first day of her self-containment. The day before, it tested positive at Covid-19.
“I had chills, a fever,” she says, relieved to have mild symptoms.
For this nurse who wished to remain anonymous, her Covid result is not a surprise.
The clinic where she works has seen an increasing number of suspected cases recently.
“I had to examine a patient who was out of breath, (…) they do not want to wear a mask when they have so much trouble breathing,” says the nurse.
And the staff does not have suitable equipment, she denounces, explaining that they had to reuse disposable aprons.
“We sprayed them with hydro-alcoholic gel at the end of the day and we didn’t know if it was effective or not.”
The government should “go out of its way to make sure (…) that we receive equipment every day”.
After months of non-stop work, she told herself that she was going to take advantage of the illness to rest. But “I am not sleeping. Maybe it is out of anxiety to wonder how it will end”.
– The Undertaker
“They came to see the remains,” said Sello Headbush, owner of a funeral home. “But we are not allowed to show the remains of the Covid dead.”
His small family business has seen a 50% increase in activity since the start of the pandemic.
Several times a week, she had to prepare the remains of the Covid-19 patients, who were conscientiously enclosed in two body bags.
“From here, the remains go directly to the cemetery where only my staff with protective equipment is allowed to touch the coffin,” says Sello Headbush, sighing.
“It causes a lot of distress” to families.
So when possible, Sello Headbush arranges for the hearse to pass by the family home, so that they can pray in front of the vehicle.