Three Western Cape health-care workers live to tell the tale of Covid-19


Charm McDonald, a nurse at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, is back at work after beating the coronavirus. Charm McDonald, a nurse at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, is back at work after beating the coronavirus.
Image: Western Cape health department

Family members having to sleep on the floor, constantly disinfecting the bathroom and self-isolation.

This is what Charm McDonald, a nurse at Tygerberg Hospital, had to endure on her journey to recovery from Covid-19.

McDonald said her life was turned upside down on April 25 when she tested positive for coronavirus. Now fully recovered, she is back at work after a 14-day isolation period — and doing what she loves.

“I was in shock. It was very difficult but I realised that as a front-line worker I was at risk of getting the virus,” McDonald said on Thursday.

Isolating herself at home was a daily struggle, as she dreaded infecting her family. “I had to explain to my family that we had to make adjustments for my isolation,” she said.

Roger Morris, a porter at Groote Schuur Hospital. Roger Morris, a porter at Groote Schuur Hospital.
Image: Western Cape health department

“We don’t have a big house and my husband had to sleep on the floor. We only have one bathroom, which was particularly hard on the family, as living with someone who is positive requires all areas which are shared to be disinfected after each use.”

Roger Morris, a porter at Groote Schuur Hospital, has a similar story to tell. He works on the trauma deck at the hospital and was in daily contact with people under investigation for Covid-19. He also used public transport.

Morris tested positive on March 30 after colleagues at the hospital noticed Covid-19 symptoms and he was sent home to recover.

But he “could not safely isolate at home and feared he might infect his vulnerable household members, so arrangements were made for him to isolate at a temporary isolation facility.

“I am so thankful to my colleagues who all welcomed me back with open arms. No-one was nasty or scared,” Morris said on Thursday.

“ I will be making a concerted effort and sanitise my hands, social distance myself and ensure everyone I encounter wears a mask.

“I encourage everyone to apply measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus. We need to make handwashing and social distancing part of our daily routine and wear our masks when we go out into the public or when at work. By doing this we will beat this virus.”

He has fully recovered and has returned to work. The golden thread also runs through Margaret Fortuin’s story.

Margaret Fortuin works at the Cape Town Reproductive Clinic. Margaret Fortuin works at the Cape Town Reproductive Clinic.
Image: Western Cape health department

Fortuin works at the Cape Town Reproductive Clinic and is a “former colleague of the late Sr Petronella Benjamin, who was the first nurse to die from Covid-19 related complications”.

“After being discharged from hospital, having to be in isolation is the hardest — not having physical contact with anyone,” Fortuin said on Thursday.

“Initially I felt alone. My faith and the encouragement of family and friends is really helping me.”

Fortuin's colleagues supported her virtually while she was in hospital. She said:  “I wanted to pull through and I wanted to live.”

Fortuin and other infected colleagues started a dialogue network where they “encouraged each other and as front-line workers understood the risk of being exposed to the virus”. She is yet to return to work.






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