Against all odds, Ilse de Lange beats cancer AND Covid-19
Pretoria - In anyones book she shouldn’t be alive today… Her doctor suggested that she phone her family to say her final goodbyes.
This is the story of Pretoria East resident Ilse de Lange, who not only survived chemotherapy for advanced cancer, but also landed in the high-care unit of the Wilgers Hospital fighting Covid-19 for most of the past few weeks.
Against all odds, De Lange is now recovering at home.
She said when she started feeling ill a few weeks ago and could not walk from her bed to the toilet without panting, she should have known Covid had her in its grip and that it wasn’t the ovarian cancer she had been fighting for the past eight years or the low red blood cell count caused by her latest chemotherapy treatment.
“But for some reason I insisted that I’m fine and waited for a whole weekend before making an appointment to see the doctor at the oncology unit where I’m being treated.
“By 10am that day I was so ill that my husband took me in immediately. I was put on oxygen, given a Covid test and a hospital bed was arranged.”
De Lange was told in advance that she needed to be admitted to hospital for blood transfusions, so she already had her bag packed and was ready.
What she did not expect was to be wheeled out of hospital only three weeks later.
“I was as weak as a kitten and on full-time oxygen, but I was alive and overjoyed to be able to go home.
“When my new internist, after meeting me for the first time and taking my medical history, told me he did not intubate patients he felt there was no chance of survival. He suggested that I should phone my family if I had anything to tell them and I should have known this was serious stuff.
“I phoned my husband in tears. I had him in tears as well by the end of that emotional call. I also sent one last message to my daughter before going to bed that night.”
De Lange said she was not surprised when she was moved to a high-care unit for treatment with high pressure oxygen after she started battling to breathe. She developed pain in her chest in the early morning hours.
“High care is a strange experience. You get a catheter and you’re hooked up to machines for both your breathing and for the nurses to check your vital signs 24 hours a day.
“For eight long days I was stuck in a private room with only the nurses, my carers and the cleaners to talk to. No visitors are allowed, so messaging was the only way of communicating with my family and friends. I believe it was not only an experienced internist and excellent medical care, but also God’s grace that saved me from dying in that high-care ward.”
De Lange said when she was finally moved to one of the general Covid wards, she was still on oxygen but slowly improving. Even her internist was somewhat surprised and told her that she is “jolly lucky to be alive”.
“I saw a lot of fellow Covid patients coming in – most of them in the middle of the night. What I also saw in abundance during my stay in hospital was the incredible patience, love and caring of the nurses.”