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Life in a COVID-19 ward

To try to ease some of the fears concerning COVID-19 and the Eastern Cape hospitals, SUE SHAW from Aberdeen, shares her recent experience in Midland Hospital, Graaff-Reinet. She tested positive for COVID-19.

I was wrong!

My first symptom, although I didn’t think of it at the time, was a bad bout of diarrhoea on Friday, July 10. Saturday and Sunday I was fine. Monday night, soon after going to bed, I experienced a most frightening and sudden “attack”, feeling dizzy, with tremors, and became extremely agitated. My husband took me to Aberdeen hospital, and on examination, it was found that my blood pressure was very high.

Throat swab uncomfortable, but quick

The doctor was called, and considering the previous diarrhoea, decided that a COVID-19 test was necessary. A throat swab was taken, which was a little uncomfortable but quick. I was given medication and sent home to isolate.

The duty nursing sister preparing the IV antibiotic for Sue Shaw. Photo:SUPPLIED

The doctor checked up on me regularly, and was concerned that my blood pressure was not responding to the medication. Last Friday morning, he arrived with the news that I had COVID-19.

Aberdeen hospital has no facilities for isolation, so he arranged for me to be admitted that evening to Midland Hospital. Protocol dictates that COVID-19 patients must be transported to hospital by ambulance, and so I arrived at the COVID-19 ward at about 23:00.

I was very nervous and uncertain what to expect, as this was my first admission to an Eastern Cape state hospital.

Staff’s caring attitude

I have been very impressed, with the facilities and the dedication, the professionalism and caring attitude of the vast majority of the staff.

The first night, I was scared, tired, stressed and very cold, as there was only a sheet and a thin blanket for me. I didn’t sleep much that night, then was seen briefly by a clearly exhausted doctor the next morning.

I was prescribed the standard “COVID-19 cocktail” of vitamins and other supplements, an anticoagulant injection, IV antibiotic, paracetamol, cortisone, as well as specific medication for my blood pressure.

Wide range of symptoms

The nurses say that they see a wide range of symptoms, and of ages. I was older than most patients.

The hospital has three “holding wards” for patients with symptoms (mostly needing oxygen support) while they wait for test results. Each has three beds.

The regular nursing staff have been augmented by COVID-19 contract nurses, and usually in the COVID-19 ward, there will be one permanent sister and one contract worker. Sometimes there is only one sister on duty at night, due to staff shortages for various reasons.

Most of the patients are from Graaff-Reinet, but some seriously ill patients have been transferred from Jansenville.

Going home to isolate

On Tuesday, I was delighted to be told I was stable, and could go home on Wednesday to complete my isolation. My husband received the news that he had tested negative, which is a huge relief to us both.

A bonus on Tuesday was experiencing the arrival of eight new hi-tech beds from Bhisho.

These beds can be adjusted for all sorts of sleeping and resting positions, which will make a big difference for patient comfort.

Dispel the stigma and misinformation

Most people seem reluctant to share a positive status, but I feel it is important to dispel the stigma and misinformation.

Most people seem reluctant to share a positive status, but I feel it is important to dispel the stigma and misinformation.
Sue Shaw

I have received incredible support from my family and friends, and also from many contacts around the world after I posted on Facebook that I was tested positive.

Local friends have rallied round and sent in some blankets, hand cream and treats.

The daily messages of concern and offers of practical help and prayer have been inspiring, and I have been humbled to discover how many people really care.

Praise to hospital staff

The staff here are doing a wonderful job under immense pressure from an unknown and sometimes deadly pandemic, and deserve the highest praise.

It is heartening to know that we have such a facility available in our small Karoo town.

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