She tends to loads of patients every day and donning personal protective equipment and Covid protocols are second nature to her. But in July this year, occupational health nursing practitioner Juan Munnik, 57, contracted Covid-19. From the day that she tested positive, it took less than a handful of days for her health to slide backward so rapidly that the end of her world became a stark reality. It can happen that quickly.
“I was actually ready to die,” says Munnik. “I couldn’t breathe, I asked God just to come and take me away.”
She says it was one of the most difficult moments of her life and while she felt highly emotionally charged, she was unable to express it.
“I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak or cry.”
Munnik was diagnosed on a Friday and at the time, she was asymptomatic. She says it felt as if a train had crashed into her chest.
“I was diagnosed on a Friday. By Saturday and Sunday, I started to feel pain in my body. By Monday I started to feel really tired, and, on the Tuesday, I could not breathe.”
But she said that she had no fever and didn’t get a cough.
“I was just extremely tired, and my body hurt all over. Later that same Tuesday she was in a semi-comatose state and cannot recall much apart from the fact that she woke up with her entire family at her bedside.
“They came to say goodbye.”
Watch Sr. Juan Munnik share her Covid-19 horror
“It’s something that you can never describe, the scenes going through your mind in that moment,” says Munnik, reliving the moment through tears.
“You know that you are ready to go, but you don’t want to go because you’ve got your children, you’ve got your husband, you’ve got your grandchildren and you want to see them getting married and going to school and grow up.”
Yet she says the only thing that she was able to focus on at the time was getting oxygen into her body.
“I lost two weeks of my life with Covid, and it was one of the worst experiences I have ever gone through.”
When she contracted Covid, Munnik had not been vaccinated.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to get to a vaccination centre yet,” said Munnik as she emphasised that everyone should make getting the jab an absolute priority.
“Please don’t wait. I don’t wish my experience on anyone.”
She says that vaccination would have prevented the rapid deterioration of her health and likely spared her and her family a lot of heartache.
“Once vaccinated, it’s still possible to become infected with the coronavirus but the severity of illness will be significantly toned down.”
If it wasn’t for her job in the medical profession, and colleagues giving her husband a crash course in intensive care nursing, Munnik says she would not have made it.
“Injections, oxygen, drip changes and around the clock care was the only way that my husband and my colleagues managed to keep me from dying,” she says.
Munnik’s colleague, a medical associate at Medicare24, Zaandre Hitzeroth, says that if she was jabbed first, the chances of her coming this close to death would have been greatly reduced.
“She would have probably not required specialised interventions and most probably not ended up gasping for breath,” he says. Hitzeroth reiterates the importance of preventative measures, too, saying that a quick spray and rub of sanitiser is not good enough.
“You should spend at least 30 seconds sanitising your hands,” spreading it evenly across your hands, he advises.
“The spritz you get at shops and malls does nothing in terms of protection.”
Add to that, he says, the number of people who wear masks below their nostrils and don’t take proper precautions.
“This is a vicious virus, and half-hearted efforts to protect yourself is just not going to do the trick.”