KZN man shares Covid-19 ventilator ordeal
DURBAN - While false information and conspiracy theories about the Covid-19 virus persist, South Africans have been infected at an average rate of just over 14,000 cases a day in the weeks leading up to the new year.
Amid the second wave of infections, a new variant of the virus, shifting lockdown regulations, rampant misuse of Covid-19 funds by state officials and public debate about the existence of the virus itself, more and more people are dying.
For one particular KwaZulu-Natal family, however, the Covid-19 virus and its validity were shown to them in the most concrete way.
During an exclusive interview with the African News Agency (ANA), Bradley Naidoo, 33, and his wife, Sharlene Naidoo, 28, who both tested positive for Covid-19, shared their terrifying story.
Bradley, a non-smoker and non-drinker for the past decade, was admitted to the uMhlanga Hospital, just north of the Durban CBD, on July 5 after experiencing “almost all” of the Covid-19 symptoms.
But Bradley’s condition quickly worsened as he started to lose the ability to breathe.
“While in trauma, there were no beds available in eThekwini,” Bradley said, adding that he had to wait overnight for a bed.
“My condition deteriorated during the week. By the 11th of July, I was admitted to ICU and was intubated and put onto mechanical ventilation,” said Bradley, who is a devout Christian.
“The treating doctor called my wife and told her that my lungs had decomposed and there wasn't anything more he could do but pray. My wife was also positive with Covid. Thereafter, someone started a rumour that I passed on, which was even more devastating for my family. I was in a medically induced coma and on the ventilator for almost four weeks.
“I was slowly weaned off mechanical ventilation and put onto BiPAP, then onto CPAP, which are non-invasive ventilation methods (breathing through a mask).”
Waking up after so many weeks, with hands strapped to the bed, was very scary. They tied my hands so I wouldn't pull out the tube in my throat for the ventilator. A day after I pulled the tube out of frustration, it was Jesus who saved me here.
“Thereafter, I was diagnosed with Covid pneumonia. While trying to breathe on my own and fight pneumonia, I had succumbed to ICU delirium. These were my worst fears that appeared to be real to me. This lasted a few days, thank God. My oxygen stats started to pick up, and they then moved me to a general ward. That was the day where I got to look in the mirror after five weeks! It shocked me to see how I looked!”
In the short time he was fighting the Covid-19 virus in uMhlanga Hospital’s ICU ward, Bradley lost 18kg and he couldn’t walk. He would have to undergo rehabilitation before enjoying this pleasure again.
He also couldn’t bathe himself or feed himself, because he was too weak to do so. But Bradley was breathing again on his own.
“I had to keep telling myself to fight to get out of there.”
After being discharged from uMhlanga Hospital on August 9, Naidoo, with the help and dedication of his family, regained his strength and is once again pacing up and down the Spar Group’s hallways.
Sharlene said that the five weeks in which her husband was in hospital were the most “scary”, “traumatic” and “mentally draining” days she had to endure.
“I was alone at home. Then I also tested positive for the virus. Besides myself, I was so scared for Bradley because I heard his condition had gotten worse.
“I had to go live with my parents because I couldn’t manage on my own any more. I couldn't breathe properly let alone drive myself to see him in hospital. I just kept telling myself to keep fighting, that’s all I could do,” said Sharlene.
Both Bradley and Sharlene agree that besides it being a respiratory illness, the Covid-19 virus attacks your mind just as quickly as it does your lungs.
“If there's one piece of advice I would want everyone to know is that Covid instils fear. It brings fear into your mind, which adds to the condition you're in,” he added.
“God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love, power and a sound mind. Please keep our health workers in prayer, they are true heroes and I am forever grateful to them,” Bradley said.
“Bradley is the strongest man I know. He doesn't smoke or drink alcohol, he had a perfect bill of health. To go through what he did, physically and mentally, wasn't easy. He fought to be alive,” she said.
On the week of Bradley’s discharge from hospital, the couple celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary.
They wanted to share their story to inspire hope and bravery among those fighting the virus throughout the country and the world.