By Leighton Bennett, Chairman of the Safety First Association
Both my wife and I have been hospitalised due to Covid and this first-hand experience has prompted me to write about the experience, as there is a general perception that this Covid virus pandemic is a joke. Let me tell you it is a horrific and tragic survival experience I will never ever forget.
I got home last week after a week in high care and am now slowly recovering and gaining strength.
My wife was discharged and got home two days ago, after spending 29 days in hospital. She will still need several more weeks in recovery before she will be able to work again.
Both of us run businesses, a cat hotel (cattery) and my OHS consulting business. We adopted and followed all the Covid virus management safety protocols and still we don’t know how we got infected.
My wife’s Covid experience
It started with my wife not feeling well on a Friday and she went for a nasal Covid test which recorded Covid Negative, but over the weekend she felt terrible with a dry cough, chest pains and breath shortness. I took her to her doctor on Monday who, based on her symptoms said she has asthma, Covid and an x-ray confirmed pneumonia in the lungs. She was medicated and sent home to recuperate.
By Thursday midday her oxygen in the blood reading was 86% where it should be over 93%. I rushed her to the doctor who ordered an ambulance with oxygen cylinder to transport her directly to one of the northern suburbs hospitals. Some four hours later I phoned the hospital to be told she was not admitted to the cited hospital, neither was she answering her cellphone. Where was she? I was extremely worried. When I had last seen her, she she was in a shocking condition trying to breathe and she was not mentally present. The psychological and emotional stress hit me badly. I immediately thought that she is not in hospital as she has died and is now lying in a mortuary somewhere.
At 19h30 that evening my wife’s friend managed to get hold of her. She was in casualty on oxygen at another northern suburb hospital. Absolute relief after I had suffered hours of mental anguish.
The reality is that the hospital’s don’t have any Covid spare beds so you will be sent anywhere where a bed may be available. When I went into hospital some 10 days later, they were planning to send me to a hospital in Klerksdorp, when a northern suburbs hospital high-care bed became available for me.
Hospitals are currently over-flowing with 3rd wave Covid patients and are now forced to apply survival triage Covid case management. This is where a Covid patient may not be admitted into ICU if his or her chance of survival is limited, whereas others will be if they have a better chance of survival. This is not a story, this is the realty that doctors are forced to make, life and death decisions not daily but hourly, during their long 20 hour day on shift when they see some 120 patients per day.
My wife’s condition went from casualty, to a Covid ward, to high care, to sedation on a ventilator in ICU all in under 24 hours. Her condition got to a stage that she had multiple body function failures, namely asthma, Covid, pneumonia, water accumulation surrounding and interfering with her heart function, a collapsed lung, kidney and liver failure and suddenly elevated blood sugar levels due to the medication clash between the Covid and diabetes control medications. My wife actually died and with adrenalin injected into the heart and heart massage, she became a miracle who managed to survive. She later reported hearing the staff order a body bag for her.
Currently her body is like a laptop that has just being rebooted, where everything has to be re-switched on and re-connected. She had to learn to walk again and was on a high litres/minute oxygen supply to get plus 93% oxygen into her blood stream. She only got home after she could breathe the normal 21% oxygen in the atmospheric air for a day or two, and she was not allowed home until we had an oxygen cylinder supply at home, for emergency purposes. Should a relapse occur, she would not be readmitted to hospital as there are no beds available with the Covid 3rd wave happening now.
My Covid experience
My Covid experience started over the weekend after my wife went into hospital. I felt unwell, had a dry cough and such severe leg and calf cramps that I couldn’t sleep for three nights. I went for a throat Covid test on Sunday which was negative. I went to see my doctor on Monday who, based on my symptoms, said I have a false negative Covid test and prescribed antibiotics, nebulizing, heavy vitamin doses and Ivermectin for a week. As the week ended, I was weak, had lost my appetite and started feeling physically useless.
On Tuesday evening my son took me to hospital where I lay in casualty overnight breathing oxygen. The next morning they started searching for a Covid bed for me. I was lucky to get a bed at a northern suburbs hospital where an x-ray confirmed I had a bacterial lung virus which only tested positive for Covid on the 7th Covid test. I went straight into a Covid ward and was then moved to a medical ward as all my Covid tests were still negative, and then a positive Covid test resulted in my medical ward mate being placed in Covid isolation and me relocated to the Covid high-care/ICU ward. This was an adapted maternity ward that had been converted to a Covid beds ward to provide more beds space.
Mornings and evenings, two bags of meds were delivered for the hospital pharmacy to give me three intravenous high dose steroids and vitamin drips that made my hand tremble like I was having Parkinsons. I was originally on 4l/min oxygen allowing me to get the 93% blood oxygen level required to breath safely. I later went off oxygen altogether when I could breathe atmospheric air for three days before being discharged.
A serious complication is that the Covid medication clashed with my diabetic sugar level control medication such that my sugar levels went up to 28.6 (with a likely diabetic coma at 32).
I am now home but still struggling to re-control my diabetes sugar levels condition with blood sugar testing every 3-4 hours currently. In hospital I was getting diabetic insulation pen in-stomach injections for up to 18 insulation units at least twice per day with on-going regular blood sugar tests.
The Covid ward reality
Over and above our Covid experience one needs to know the life and death drama playing out each day in the Covid wards.
Both northern suburb hospitals that we were admitted to have converted their maternity wards into Covid high-care and ICU wards.
The doctors look like astronauts in filtered air-fed face helmets, while all the medical staff are totally covered in Covid blue clad body PPE, face shields, face masks, gloves (changed per patient), foot sleeves, etc, and all are exhausted from the long hours they are working. The medical staff are a crew of “Blue Angels”. Medical hazard waste boxes are everywhere.
The real struggle is seeing an ICU sister tending to a patient on a ventilator desperately trying to breathe and only able to draw 20 to 30% oxygen into their blood stream, where normal breath requires over 93% oxygen in the blood. Regular dry coughing episodes end in a situation of total fatigue and no energy.
No hospital visits are allowed so you don’t know the condition of your significant other or family member, especially if they are ventilator sedated to stop them pulling out the ventilation piping. To make things worse, there is no cell phone communication. You feel totally cut-off.
This is another psychological and emotional stress as you may not be able to “say good bye” or be able to be with or support them at the crucial moment.
My wife and I know five people who have died from Covid – both cattery clients and friends. Hopefully no more will occur. Both our businesses have been closed for over two months now and will only reopen when we have recovered and regained enough strength to be able to function again.
I decided to share our experiences as too many people have no understanding how horrific the Covid pandemic is.
I hope our experiences have given you a revised view of this virus and the importance to practice safe Covid management techniques and methods.
Please don’t take chances.