File Picture: Reuters
File Picture: Reuters

Covid-19: Traumatised family say they were given wrong body to bury

By Lesego Makgatho Time of article published Jul 5, 2020

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Micheal Vukile Noda, 79, from Uitenhage, Eastern Cape started displaying symptoms of Covid-19, and when his condition got worse, his wife sought medical attention on June 16. The last time the family saw him was when the ambulance took him to hospital.

According to Vukile’s wife, Nomsa Noda, 69, he had the flu for about two weeks.

“He went to the doctor but couldn’t finish the treatment as he was admitted before he could finish it,” she said.

His condition changed and he was then taken to the trauma unit, she said. The hospital told the family that he had a lung infection.

He was then transferred to a ward and had been there for a week.

“Because we weren’t allowed to visit him, we spoke over the phone often. As we would continue speaking, he sounded weak and too tired to talk. He then wouldn’t answer his phone,” said Nomsa.

Nomsa continued to enquire with the nurses about his condition, but they continuously told her that her husband was fine.

“On the Sunday of Father’s Day, I called them to ask how he was doing and I was told my husband was fine. I asked if his Covid-19 results were back and they said they weren’t.”

But on Monday, June 22, Nomsa received a call at around 5.45am informing her that her husband, after a short and lonely struggle with Covid-19, had succumbed on June 21.

The family was not allowed to view or identify the body and it was moved from the hospital to the mortuary.

“I asked them if his Covid-19 results came back and they said they were and they came back positive.”

The family made their way to the hospital to receive his possessions and were told how to disinfect them. They got harsh treatment from a porter, who told them to go to the back of the long queue, despite having been there earlier; all they needed to do was sign off for Vukile’s possessions. This harsh attitude led to Nomsa hysterically breaking down.

“I don’t believe my husband died from Covid-19, so I asked the doctor if I could see the results. My husband’s name is Vukile and the name we were shown was ‘Vuyile’, so maybe it was spelled wrong. We didn’t receive a copy of the results, even after asking for one.”

They went back home to break the news to the family and had the funeral on June 28. Family and church members all over the country participated, paying their last respects. The service was live via Zoom. The numerous attendees (both physical and virtual) shared the emotional experience of watching the entire burial, including the cemetery ceremony.

Little did they know that the casket they watched being buried contained a complete stranger.

Then, on July 1, a pastor from her local church came over to her home, accompanied by two undertakers.

“The pastor first prayed and we were then asked to sit down. That’s when they broke the news that we have buried the wrong person,” she recalls.

When they asked how this happened, the undertakers said they were called by the hospital and were told that the family members of the person the Noda family buried could not find the body of their family member.

“They checked the corpses that went out on Sunday and realised that Vukile Noda was still, indeed, at the mortuary. We were all traumatised and everyone was very emotional all over again.”

Nomsa insisted that she wanted to identify the body of her husband to be sure it was he, and she was granted this opportunity.

“On Thursday, July 2 we went to the hospital to view his face and went straight to the graveyard to bury him for the ‘second time’.”

Nomsa shared that not everyone could make it for the correct burial as it was done hastily and gave little opportunity for loved ones to attend.

After the burial, the family received a call from the undertaker, informing them that the Department of Health would like to visit the family to offer a formal apology.

Sunday Independent

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