“In addition to taking the precautionary measures that have become a global anthem, people should change their mentality – it’s sad that there are still people out there who think that COVID is either a joke or that it doesn’t exist.” – Tebogo Chweu
South Africa is currently experiencing the second wave of coronavirus infections. COVID-19 cases are increasing at a rapid rate. Cliffordene Norton interviews two people who have recovered from the virus.
“COVID is there and COVID kills.” – Tebogo Chweu
Please tell us more about your job and what it entails.
I’m a mechanical fitter by profession – or, rather, I say it’s the career path I decided to venture into, from the few I could have had. I qualified as fitter artisan in 2013 after spending three years at the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (known as NECSA) as an apprentice, where I eventually took and passed my trade test under the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO). I’m currently working as a mechanical fitter for Eskom Rotek Industries at the Duvha Power Station in Witbank, Mpumalanga.
My job description and expertise range from as small a task as stripping, refurbishing, repairing and replacing small valves, to bigger tasks like the repairing and maintenance of heavy industrial mechanical equipment, for example, mine crushers, turbines and boiler machines.
What was your initial impression of the coronavirus?
Because I take keen interest in current affairs, fortunately I got to know about COVID earlier than most of the people I know. For obvious reasons, I pitied those who were ignorant of the fact that COVID exists and kills, but I, for one, started taking precautionary measures to try and keep this virus at bay, because I knew the seriousness of it.
You contracted the new strand of the coronavirus. What were the symptoms? Please tell us about your experience with the virus.
Yes, even though it was the first time (hopefully the last, too) I had contracted COVID, for some reason I think the new variant is worse than the first one. I came close to death, and it was scary.
It was on a Monday morning, around 10:00 am, 21 December 2020. I was on site at Unit 5 at the abovementioned power station, busy with a task allocated to me, when I started to run out of breath – and I wasn’t doing anything strenuous. That feeling forced me to keep taking deep breaths, because the normal breathing rhythm made me feel as if I was drowning. A few moments later – about five minutes – I got a splitting headache and started to feel my body temperature rising. That’s when I felt something was wrong with me, and I then went to our health and safety department and told them (in the presence of our manager) about my symptoms. They deliberated on my situation, and it was agreed that I had to go test for COVID. So, our manager drove me to Life Cosmos Hospital, where there is a Lancet lab area to conduct COVID testing. The trip added to the fever, headaches and shortness of breath. I developed a sore throat and started coughing every few seconds.
Later that day, the fever got worse; the headaches persisted, the coughing continued and my throat remained sore. I got back to where I stay, and all I wanted to do was sleep, as I suddenly felt drained and tired. As the days progressed, the symptoms increased, and my body started aching all over – especially my lower back. It hurt so much that I struggled to walk. Getting out of bed was a hassle because of the pain, and the headaches made it hard for me to lift my head off the pillow.
I lost my sense of taste and smell. I know this because certain stuff I ate, which I knew was normally hot-flavoured, did nothing to my mouth. I couldn’t smell the aroma of my food or the scent of my cologne. I got an SMS with my results 30 hours later, and it confirmed what I already knew: I had tested positive for COVID.
I was scared, very scared. I thought I was going to die and leave my fiancée, kids and family with broken hearts. I couldn’t stop crying, not because I had COVID, but because of the thought of the pain my death would cause them.
“Imagine every breath and cough feeling like your lungs are shattering like glass – let that sink in for a minute.” – Tebogo Chweu
During my isolation, I also started vomiting. I had diarrhoea, and my eyes started aching, too. So, one can just imagine – all those symptoms in one individual – a bad experience.
Does the procedure for the new strand differ from the procedure for the original virus?
I’m not really that clued up when it comes to procedures. As much as it is said that the new strand is more contagious than the previous one, the precautionary measures remain the same: wash your hands with soap for a minimum of 20 seconds, sanitise, wear your mask and keep a distance of 1,5 metres at a minimum.
Do you know where you were infected?
I have an idea where I might have contracted the virus. I was in close contact with the person in question, and that particular person tested positive three days before I got the symptoms.
Has your opinion changed since contracting the virus?
I think the issue of the change of opinion depends on what one’s initial opinion of the virus was. As for me, my opinion remains the same: COVID is there and COVID kills.
In addition to taking the precautionary measures that have become a global anthem, people should change their mentality – it’s sad that there are still people out there who think that COVID is either a joke or that it doesn’t exist. I’m one of the survivors of COVID, and I wouldn’t wish what I went through on anyone else. It hurts, literally.
Imagine every breath and cough feeling like your lungs are shattering like glass – let that sink in for a minute.
“I thought that I would never get it, and that it was just a normal flu that the media was blowing out of control.” – Shamima Badat-Beangstrom
Shamima, please tell us more about your job.
I am a debtor’s clerk. I call clients daily with regard to payments on their accounts, and I deal with those who come into the wholesaler with queries on their accounts.
What was your initial impression of the virus, before you got it?
I thought that I would never get it, and that it was just a normal flu that the media was blowing out of control.
How did you know you had the disease? What were the symptoms?
I had a terrible headache that just would not go away for two to three days, and I had a runny tummy, as well. No other symptoms.
Do you have any idea where you could have possibly got it?
One of my colleagues who I share the office with had contracted it from a family member who had attended his mother’s funeral.
Please describe how you felt and how long the illness lasted.
The first few days, I suffered from the headache and runny tummy; thereafter, I had body pain and was a little short of breath at times. I was off from work for 14 days, and for at least two months afterwards I still suffered from a runny tummy on and off.
Has your opinion on the virus changed?
Yes, it has changed. It is more dangerous and fatal, and it’s starting to sink in that this is more fatal than we believe it is. But the unfortunate reality is that many people out there are still not ready to face the reality of the situation, and they still believe that they will not be affected by this virus.