As the Gauteng Covid-19 infection rate continues to climb, tales of horror are emerging from recently infected citizens. Ilona Coetzer was among the two-thirds of employees at her workplace who recently tested positive for the virus.
Coetzer tested positive on 18 June and has since been isolated at home with her three-year-old daughter. Coetzer’s nine-year-old son, who was writing exams, had to stay with family friends to avoid getting infected.
At home, Coetzer was sleeping with a mask on in fear of infecting her daughter. She said when she started feeling sick around Youth Day, her nose and throat felt congested and she was short of breath.
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“One moment I feel fine, the next moment I am out of breath and suddenly exhausted,” Coetzer said. She experienced an intense pain down her spine along with a pressing headache between her eyes and neck, followed by cold chills.
Coetzer was taking various medications and vitamins, zinc, painkillers, cortisone, antibiotics, cough mixtures, MedLemon, ivermectin as well as homemade concoctions such as ginger, lemon and brandy.
“The brandy mixture was so potent it made me weak in the knees, but it worked for the sore throat. The ivermectin tastes bad but it also seems to be working,” Coetzer said. But her symptoms kept changing.
“I can’t taste coffee or smell Vicks. It’s really funny, one day you have an earache, the next day you cough.”
She said the worse part was not sleeping properly.
“You think you are asleep, but you are not, you are awake, and it’s because you are scared that you might die.”
Ronel Vermaak, her husband Clifford, and their son all recently contracted the virus. Vermaak said her husband was traumatised after he was admitted to hospital and spent 10 days on a ventilator.
“He said he could hear how people fought for their lives while other patients were being pushed out of the ward and never returned,” Vermaak said.
Vermaak took her husband to hospital after he started coughing nonstop a week after going into isolation.
“It was very emotional because I didn’t know I if would ever see him again.”
She said the difficult part was not being able to reach her husband for two days.
“When I phoned the hospital they said he was in a stable condition, for now, that’s all.”
Last week, she had to buy an oxygen tank before her husband was discharged from the hospital.
“I picked him up on Saturday with the oxygen tank on the back of the bakkie with the pipes connected to the front where we sat.”
Another victim, sports broadcaster Robert Marawa, said Covid-19 is “brutal”.
“It is brutal, that is the one word I have been using. The brutality of it all… once you have it, you feel it,” he said.
“I started getting severe hot and cold flushes, I took my son with me and we went for the test. He was negative and I turned out to be positive.
“The initial experience was extreme fatigue, you know when you feel like you have run a Comrades, but all you have done is woken up and done nothing. You are exhausted, you just want to lie down and chill.
“The doctor advised me to get an oximeter test to gauge my oxygen levels, that was at 92 (mm Hg). That is still okay for some people, but he said it was not good enough and they needed to take me to hospital. They did X-rays and MRI scans and could tell I had that liquid on my lungs. That is when I was diagnosed with Covid pneumonia.
“I was in ICU and high care, as well, for about three or four nights, that was scary as hell. I was on oxygen and being given the strongest medication and steroids and all manner of things.”
“I was not in Joburg, I was down in KZN at the time. What Gauteng has experienced in the past couple of weeks, that is not exactly the case in KZN, there was a hospital bed, there was oxygen.”
“I am now going for physiotherapy, I had my first session last week, because this illness brutally attacks you. I remember just trying to walk down a staircase, I felt like I was 87 years old … it really messes with you.”
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