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My COVID-19 scare: Nursing in the time of Coronavirus

My COVID-19 scare: Nursing in the time of Coronavirus

Aurum nurse Sthandwa Mdlalose works at a Gauteng clinic where a fellow health worker tested positive for COVID-19. Sthandwa was in direct contact with her and was therefore at risk of contracting Coronavirus. She tells us about her experience, as she anxiously waited for her test results, fearing that she was going to become one of the more than 300 health workers who have contracted COVID-19 in South Africa to date.

“I received a call telling me a (nursing) sister at my clinic had tested positive for COVID-19. It was like a punch to the stomach. I was devastated. As a nurse I knew that most people who get Coronavirus recover, most without even needing hospitalisation. But when it is someone you know; you fear the worst. I thought of her and the last time I saw her, looking well and in good spirits as we chatted. My worry and concern for her were soon overtaken by when I realised that I had been in her consultation room. I had come into contact with her.  What made me panic was that I already had symptoms, I had a runny nose and a cough. Even in the time of Coronavirus, I had brushed these off as the common flu, until that call. We went to the clinic the next day for testing. When I arrived I just sat in my car, crying. I was afraid to walk into the clinic because if I were negative, I could be infected and if I was already positive, I would infect others. I eventually pulled myself together and went in and got tested and was told to self-isolate at home while I waited for the results. As a nurse I had obviously been keeping abreast of COVID-19 information from the Department of Health, Aurum, and the news. This all seemed to be happening out there, to other people, far from my reality, until now. I was not in a good state of mind, I added myself to the COVID-19 stats of the day, agonising over how many people I had possibly spread the virus to, without knowing it.

Trying to self-isolate in a family home made things harder. It meant locking myself in my room with my spiraling thoughts. There was an immense outpouring of support. My Aurum and clinic colleagues checked on me constantly, my mother and daughter prayed for me, but the fear persisted. Aurum arranged for counselling from ICAS and it was in those conversations that the darkness that clouded my mind started to clear. I started to realise that imagining the worst-case scenarios, blaming myself or anyone else was not helping. Instead, the counsellor helped me realise that whether I had COVID-19 or not, I would still be Sthandwa and a dedicated nurse, caring daughter and loving mother. The heaviness in my heart began to lift and by the time I got my results, I felt like a conqueror. When I heard I was negative the first person I told was my mother. She had been my pillar of strength and her faith was unwavering all along but when I told her, her relief made me realise she was just as afraid as I was but had hidden to support me.   

Since being back at work, I give the same education about COVID-19 that people were giving me. Nursing is my calling, even if it means being at risk.  After I got over the initial shock, it was the support and information which helped me and that is what I will continue to do for my patients- support, treat, inform with compassion.”