A year of Covid-19 in SA: Nursing sister answers 9 questions about life on the frontline
Cape Town - Sister Adele Luiters, the nursing service manager at Melomed Gatesville Hospital, has been in the thick of the battle against Covid-19 for the past year.
The hospital has treated the most Covid cases in the private sector in Cape Town and Ruiters contracted Covid-19 herself, so she has first hand experience of the suffering patients endure. Fortunately, she has made a full recovery and was recently inoculated against the virus.
IOL asked Ruiters about some of the challenges she faced over the past year.
What has been the biggest challenge professionally since the start of the pandemic?
The biggest challenge for me was allaying the fears of the staff that were working in the Covid ward on a daily basis, trying to assure them that everything was going to be okay, even when I did not know if it was going to be okay. I had to be the inspiration and the motivator to the team. Words of encouragement and support during this time were of utmost importance.
How has dealing with Covid-19 affected you personally?
It taught me to appreciate what I have, for example a job and a family that was still unaffected by Covid, even though I contracted the virus.”
What has been the highlights - and the low points - of being a frontline worker over the past year?
The highlights were seeing the patients make a full recovery when we thought that were not going to make it, and the low lights were the many losses that we suffered and especially our colleagues that succumbed to the virus.
Mentally, how has this pandemic affected you? Is there counselling available for frontline workers dealing with PTSD?
I am a realist so I do not internalise anything. I stayed positive and committed in my calling to save lives. We do have a wellness program offered by the company called ICAS. Staff are able to contact them at any time should they require mental, financial or any other support.
With the vaccine rollout, do you see a silver lining or do we still have a long way to go?
I was ecstatic when I heard that we were to receive the vaccine as it will minimise the severity of the illness should we contract the disease. I was extremely happy to have been vaccinated as part of the frontline workers, but we still have a long way to go in achieving herd immunity.
What special precautions do you take when leaving the hospital to go home?
I always make sure that I wash my hands and spray my bag and the bottom of my shoes when I leave the hospital and when I get home, I make sure that I remove my uniform immediately and shower. All items are sanitised.
How do you unwind after a day working with people who are critically ill or dying from Covid?
I would pray and thank the Lord for my blessings but you cannot unwind completely – that is just the nature of being a nurse or frontline worker.
How has your working on the frontline affected your family?
They always feared for my safety, especially my husband, who has co-morbidities, but they settled down after seeing what precautions the Melomed Gatesville Hospital have in place to protect their staff working in the Covid wards and throughout the hospital.”
A year into the pandemic, what would you like to say to the public?
This is by no means the end of the pandemic. It is going to be with us for a while still so I can only implore the public to continue to adhere to social distancing and to sanitise or wash their hands regularly and to continue to wear a mask. That is the only way that we can limit the transmission of the virus.
I was infected with the virus during the first wave and spent nine days in ICU. I would encourage members of the public or anyone to seek medical attention early in order to get treated asap. I would also encourage the public to get vaccinated when their turn comes.