Nursing sister says beating Covid-19 helped her gain insight into patients' suffering
Cape Town - “I can now treat patients better from a personal and professional perspective,” says a nurse from Atlantis, just outside Cape Town, who survived Covid-19.
Olivia Pharo, 51, is from Saxon Sea. She left her job at the local hospital after 24 years and last year set up her own clinic, Sister Pharo’s Clinic, in the Atlantis City Centre.
Pharo says that just before the end of June, she had a sore throat, dry mouth, loss of taste and shortness of breath.
“I then knew at that moment I was positive for Covid-19 because one moment I was fine, the next moment I couldn’t move and my husband had to help me to the bathroom.
“I didn’t want to go immediately as I was scared to face the reality and only went to the hospital five days later after my husband forced me,” Pharo says.
She also suffers from comorbidities such as diabetes and asthma and said the one thing going through her mind was that she would end up on a ventilator and die.
“I thought about everything. I even spoke to my husband and children and we were busy planning for the worst-case scenario,” she says sadly.
Pharo says her test came back positive, but so did the tests for her husband and one of her daughters. The other daughter’s test came back negative.
“Fortunately, my husband was asymptomatic. The news all at once boggled by mind. My children had never left the house since March 27 when lockdown started.
She says she felt guilty as she thought she had brought the virus home from her clinic; however, all staff members tested negative and her clinic was decontaminated.
But she realised she must have caught it weeks prior.
Sister Pharo opened her clinic in Atlantis City Centre in 2019 to serve the community. Photo: Facebook/Olivia Pharo
“Because of my comorbidities, doctors wanted me to go to hospital. I refused because my healing process would have been longer. The doctor was angry, but who was going to be there for my daughter?” Pharo says.
The nurse, who has been in the field for 30 years, then turned her bedroom into a hospital ward.
“I had oxygen tanks, a urine catheter, drip, steroid, and treated myself with the knowledge I have of nursing. I made sure I had immune boosters, lots of liquids, but It was an extremely long and painful project,” Pharo says.
Pharo and her husband came out of quarantine and, she says, she never imagined she would go through so much pain.
“Now, it’s just the after-effects. Covid-19 is new to all of us and the worst time during this illness is close to recovery. The body pains are like none known, it's like your bones are aching. It’s a long road to freedom for me,” she says.
Pharo says she has eight other family members who have also tested positive for Covid-19. Two of them are in hospital.
The popular nursing sister, who runs various illness awareness campaigns and educates people over the local radio station, adds, “Having gone through this myself, I can now treat patients better from a personal and professional perspective, but there is a need to eradicate this stigma linked to Covid-19.”
Pharo says many people do not want others to know if they’ve tested positive, and many times when test results are delivered or when they are called, people are not home.
Pharo advises: “If we can just stay home, we can get through this.”