Tshwane nurse who ’prepared herself for death’, warns: take Covid-19 seriously
Pretoria – Health worker Devinah Xelelo has no idea how she contracted Covid-19.
The nurse, 46, from Mabopane said she always used proper protective equipment when at work at South Rand Hospital in Joburg. Over weekends, or when not working, she returns home in the city.
Xelelo travels in her own car. “I honestly can’t tell where I got the virus,” she said.
“It was on Monday, June 29, and remember I had been home in Mabopane at the weekend. In the morning while preparing to go to work, I suddenly felt very tired after I had taken a bath.
“My chest was so tight. However, I forced myself to go to work and had a very long and busy day. I knew about coronavirus symptoms, but was somehow in denial.
“That night I could not sleep. The next thing I started to cough. My throat was very dry and painful. I then had no sense of smell and taste and my joints became weak. I also experienced nose bleeding and was sneezing continuously. This was followed by extreme fever, chill and a terrible headache and backache.”
The next day – a Tuesday – Xelelo spent the day sleeping at her hospital residence and crying uncontrollably. “It really affected me so badly while I was alone in my room.”
On the Wednesday, she managed to get out of bed and made her way to work. On arriving, her manager advised her to consult a doctor. “I then went to Casualty to see a doctor and a Covid-19 test was done. I kind of knew what to expect and it was very scary; I knew that people were dying because of this virus.
“I was stressed, scared and feeling sick. I did not hear the doctor when he said I should go back to work while I waited for results. But instead I went straight to my room and slept, preparing myself for death. Needless to say, the results came back positive.”
With her worst fears confirmed, Xelelo began self-isolating. “I didn’t want to infect more people. During the entire time, my family was very supportive, especially my husband, brother, younger sister and aunt. These people gave me the reason to live on and fight and defeat the virus.”
Xelelo said the symptoms became worse with each passing day and after a while, she had no option but to go to a private hospital near her area. She said the treatment she got left her even more traumatised. “I was made to wait outside despite the fact that it was very cold. The staff told me there were no beds.
“I know that in this time of the pandemic, hospitals are experiencing difficulty with overcrowding, but keeping a sick person outside for four hours in the cold is not acceptable. I was relieved when they eventually sent me back home and said I could not be admitted.
“As a nurse, I knew I was supposed to be admitted straight away, and being turned away killed me inside. I have since lodged a complaint with the management of the hospital.”
During self-isolation, Xelelo said she spent days crying herself to sleep.
The hardest thing was pretending to be doing well when family members phoned her, she said.
The biggest lesson she learnt during the 14 days was that “life is too short, and that I was very important to my family”.
She added: “Luckily I did not infect anyone in the family, not even my husband. I was aware that Covid-19 cases were rising, but never did I think that one day I would be part of the statistics.
“After self-isolation, I went for the second test, and the results came back negative. I have memories of being scared; people are dying, but I made it. Then there is the stigma; once you have had coronavirus, you are treated as if you have committed a crime as if you did something wrong.”
Her message: Covid-19 exists and it kills.
“I plead with everyone out there to take this virus seriously and do whatever it takes to protect themselves and their families. Stay at home and go out only if it is necessary. Wear your mask and wash your hands regularly or sanitise and keep your distance. I was lucky to emerge from the other side with my life intact; you may not be so fortunate.”
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** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za