"Vaccinating saved my life," says COVID-19 survivor who cheated death;

49 Year-old mother of four is full of praise about excellent clairwood hospital car and staff attitude, first class infrastructure, and overall good "Sponge baths and warm towels" treatment she has received;

"This is an eye-opening example of NHI in full effect," She says;

Such sentiments are like music to HEalth MEC's ears

19 September 2021

KWAZULU-NATAL Health MEC Ms Nomagugu Simelane has welcomed a COVID-19 survivor's overwhelmingly positive account about her stay at Clairwood Hospital, saying that the story is one of countless acts of heroism by healthcare practitioners across the province, which occur daily, but often go unnoticed.

Reacting to Khabo Sithole's heartfelt congratulatory Facebook post, which has gone viral, MEC Simelane said: "It is very heart-warming to see something like this, as it underscores what we always say: that we have working systems; and that when healthcare practitioners uphold the highest professional standards, they touch people’s lives in the most profound of ways. It really is a proud moment."

Ms Sithole, a recently-retrenched Human Resources Practitioner originally from Umlazi, first developed a headache on the Saturday of 4th of September 2021. She developed body aches, a bad cough and the headache worsened. By Thursday, she had become very sick, and was taken to her GP, who subsequently diagnosed her with COVID pneumonia and recommended that she be admitted to hospital.

She had received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine two weeks before.

Speaking to the Department's Corporate Communications Unit on Saturday (18 September 2021), Ms Sithole recalled initially not having high expectations about her impending hospital admission, despite being sick.

"I remember when I first heard that Clairwood Hospital was going to be used for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, I thought they were just going to put rows of beds in a big hall, and give us nurses to look after us. I thought it would be a skimmed, linear facility, with minimal level of care and service."

But this was nothing compared to the "eye-opening" experience that prompted her Facebook post, with 214 likes, 119 comments and 29 shares in one day, where she wrote that:

"This whole time I've been here, I'm being fed three meals a day, with protein, fibre and carbs, and given lots of bottled water to drink throughout the day. My isolation room, with its own bathroom, has been kept clean by kind and professional cleaners. My bed has been refreshed once a day.

They even kept my phone charged at all times so I can talk to (my 10 year-old daughter) Zoey when feeling fit to do so.

"I've been on 24hr ICU monitors for the first 10 days...being cared for by all sorts of different specialty nurses the whole time. I've been seen by a minimum of two doctors per day, and given updates on my condition. I've also been given a plan going forward, so I know what next to expect. I've also been encouraged to just keep doing what they ask of me and keep praying.

"I've been given cocktails of medication both intravenously and orally. The doctors even taught me how to sleep!!! I've even been taught how to breathe by the physiotherapists. When things were tough and I couldn't help myself, the nurses gave me sponge baths and would even help wipe me...with warm damp towels!!!

"This is an eye-opener for me. I grew up on public health facilities. When I was blessed to be able to afford it, I used private health facilities. This facility that I've been in for the past two weeks does not say public health facility. Not in the slightest. The level of these operations are of private health facilities. I wonder if I've just tasted NHI.

"Anyway...now that I'm expected to come off oxygen machines, having been on 100% oxygen support, down to 60%, to 40%, down to 4% yesterday and 2% today (Friday)....now that I'm expected to come off oxygen support in a day or two...the people here are saying they are not done with me.

"They now need me to stay here, under their care and watch, for 10 days after my last oxygen input...just so that they are sure I'm good, before they can send me home to Zoey!!!!

"Thank you all for the love and prayers. Keep them coming."

Such feedback has been music to the ears of MEC Simelane, who has led from the front in mounting a formidable war chest for the battle against COVID-19. This has included the recruitment of more than 15 000 contract employees, as well as the reconfiguration of hospitals such as Doris Goodwin, Richmond, Clairwood, Dundee, St Francis, Siloah, Bethesda, Mosvold, Wentworth, GJ Crookes and Niemeyer Memorial hospitals. It also extends to the establishment of four Field Hospitals, at Clairwood, Royal Agricultural Showgrounds, General Justice Gizenga Mpanza and Ngwelezane Hospitals.

Delivering on these infrastructure development projects often meant chairing lengthy planning meetings in which strategies were developed and implemented, and numerous site visits conducted to follow up on the construction progress - with MEC Simelane ready to crack the whip where she felt the pace was not quick enough.

During the interview, Ms Sithole could not stop gushing about the high level of care that she has received.

"The nurses and doctors were friendly and engaging, and didn't have any airs about them. They were kind. I found a decent and respectable place at this hospital. Even the isolation ward that I'm in looks like it's fit to accommodate someone who will part with a huge cheque upon their discharge.

"When you get received in the way that I have, you get a sense that people care. This one nurse kept saying, 'We are here to help...we're here to help'...It was as if she was saying, you're not a burden to me by being here. I'm here to do what needs to be done.'"

She is unambiguous that getting the COVID-19 vaccine saved her life.

"I know that getting vaccinated helped me. My body has been developing its own antibodies, thanks to the vaccine.

"If I had not been vaccinated, my body would have been fighting on its own. But because I'm vaccinated, my body was able to fight in conjunction with the strength that the vaccine has given it."

She regards her experience as a glimpse into the huge potential that the National Health Insurance (NHI) policy to overhaul and improve the country's healthcare system.

"In my mind, if this is what NHI wants to do for someone like me, who deserves to be treated with dignity even though they may not be able to afford it, obviously South Africans should be pushing behind it.

"When I said who's paying for all of this, it wasn't so much about picking a fight than to say, we are always talking about money being misspent. Why are we not telling South Africans when money is correctly spent? Why are we not telling these stories?

"I have nothing but gratitude. Thank you, thank you, and thank you to them for their patience with us. We're (sometimes) not the nicest people as South Africans, but the eyes do see. To the MEC, her staff, and to the Premier, I have nothing but words of gratitude. What they've done and continue to do is wonderful. I really hope the Lord will bless them abundantly, so that they can assist many more others who are ailing."

MEC Simelane has, meanwhile, wished Ms Sithole a full and speedy recovery, saying: "We wish her and all patients and staff who have been infected with COVID-19 everything of the best. An experience like the one shared by Ms Sithole this is a drop in the ocean, because the vast majority of our workforce are hardworking and dedicated people who wake up every day with the sole intention of helping those who are in need. We are very proud of the staff and management of Clairwood Hospital, as well as the Infrastructure Development team that delivered this world-class facility, and many others, in record time."

ENDS Issued by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health

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