Corne van Zyl while battling Covid in ICU. She has since recovered. Picture: Supplied
Corne van Zyl while battling Covid in ICU. She has since recovered. Picture: Supplied

Journo tells of harrowing Covid-19 ordeal with six days in ICU

By Zelda Venter Time of article published Jan 19, 2021

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Pretoria - Six days in ICU due to Covid-19 and two days in a normal ward has left a city journalist fearing for her life.

Group deputy editor of Rekord newspaper Corné van Zyl was discharged from the Zuid Afrikaanse Hospital a few days ago following her nightmare battle with the dreaded virus.

Speaking to the Pretoria News, Van Zyl said she was at the best of times afraid of blood and needles. But this did not come close to the anguish and intense fear she had of dying, especially in hospital.

“It was simply a nightmare I would never wish upon anyone, and something I never want to encounter again. Covid-19 is real and it’s out there. I sanitised all the time, wore a mask and avoided going out.

“Yet I still got it… who knows where. It could have been during a quick trip to the supermarket. One cannot be sure, as it lurks everywhere.”

Van Zyl said that not only did she experience anxiety attacks for the first time, but she had never been so scared in her life.

“I was so scared of the unknown, of all the strange sounds in the hospital, the needles and all the stories I have done on Covid-19 and what I have read in the news.”

Van Zyl said she and her family opted to spend a quiet Christmas at home. The day before Christmas, she felt under the weather – a bit of a cold and some sinus issues. She did not think much of it and coronavirus was far from her mind.

While she was a little tired, she did some DIY at home. But the day after Christmas an intense tiredness struck her. While not a person to take a nap, she would fall asleep in a chair. Yet she attributed it to being tired as it had been an exhausting year.

But that night she woke up in a sweat with a temperature of 39.7°C, and she had intense kidney pain.

“I immediately knew I had Covid-19. I self-medicated and isolated myself in another room. On December 31 I went for a test so that I could know for sure.”

Van Zyl said she received the news the next morning that she had tested positive.

“It felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach. I was terrified and for the first time I had an anxiety attack.”

As her symptoms worsened and she started to hallucinate, her husband took her to hospital – something she tried to avoid as she did not know whether she would return home.

“I still thought that they would simply treat me in the casualty ward, but the next moment I was wrapped in plastic and wheeled to ICU – to the furtherest room.”

Van Zyl said it was terrifying lying in an isolated, dark room. When she needed a nurse, it would take up to five minutes before one could attend to her; the nurse first had to get kitted in protective gear, which included layers of gloves.

“They cannot simply come in and touch you. Therefore they do everything they must in one visit. They have to sanitise from head to toe after they have attended to me. It is a whole ritual.”

Van Zyl said that when she was moved after six days to a normal ward, she went outside to stand on the lawn on her bare feet. “It was wonderful to be alive. I will never take anything for granted after this.”

She has been recovering at home since, but it will take her some time to get over the emotional aspect of the virus.

“I plead with people to take this seriously. The physical aspect of it is no joke, but mentally it’s overwhelming.”

Pretoria News

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