Grabouw nurses overcame COVID-19 by supporting each other
Professional nurses at Grabouw Community Health Centre (CHC), Sr Thabisa Jongolo and Sr Faith Notoshaya, say they overcame COVID-19 by supporting one another.
Sr Notoshaya accompanied her children back to the Eastern Cape on 1 May 2020 (to take them back to their place of residence as allowed under lockdown regulations at the time), she then returned to her home in Grabouw on 7 May 2020, which she shares with Sr Jongolo. On 9 May Sr Notoshaya started experiencing body pains, a severe headache and fever. Her healthcare worker advised that she go to her nearest clinic for a test. On Monday 11 May Sr Notoshaya had a COVID-19 test done and received a positive result the evening of 12 May. During this time she quarantined and did not return to work.
“When I first received my test results it was so unreal to me, I had heard stories about COVID-19 and its symptoms but according to me I just had the flu and I was already starting to feel better,” says Sr Notoshaya. She says she quickly needed to face the facts and that she needed to isolate herself. Her biggest concern was her housemate, colleague and friend, Sr Jongolo, as they share everything in their home. Sr Jongolo also has an underlying chronic autoimmune condition, Myasthenia Gravis, which is a neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in the skeletal muscles.
After sharing the news with Sr Jongolo and their managers at Grabouw, their managers immediately decided to test Sr Jongolo for COVID-19 and place her in a quarantine facility. “The 13th of May was a bad day for me, receiving the news of Faith and then being separated and having to go to a strange place alone,” says Sr Jongolo.
Sr Jongolo says her situation was made worse by the stigmatisation she experienced. “Members of the community posted information relating to us on social media. They said we purposefully exposed babies and other staff members to COVID-19. This was not true! When I read these posts, I had a severe panic attack and had to be admitted to Caledon Hospital,” recalls Sr Jongolo. She was later discharged and taken back to the isolation facility.
Due to a backlog at the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) at the time, Sr Jongolo had to wait longer than usual for her test results and only received her positive result on 20 May 2020. “I was not surprised when my results came back positive and I assured Faith that she need not worry about me testing positive, for all we know she could have gotten the virus from me as I did not have any symptoms,” says Sr Jongolo
After testing positive, Sr Jongolo remained in the isolation facility where she received meals, laundry service and daily monitoring. Sr Notoshaya remained at their home where completed her isolation period. With both their families living in the Eastern Cape, Sr Notoshaya had to rely on friends to buy essential groceries which they left outside her door along with cooked food. She says their kindness helped to support her during a difficult time.
Sr Notoshaya and Sr Jongolo supported one another with messages, phone calls and video calls and constantly reminded one another that they need to overcome the fear of the virus in order to overcome the virus.
Sr Notoshaya and Sr Jongolo advise all those who test positive to remain calm and not allow the fear of the virus to get them down. They explain that support from your community is important and stigmatisation only causes anxiety and could lead to worsened symptoms. Sr Jongolo has now joined the COVID-19 contact tracing team and is using her personal experience to help and encourage other positive cases.