“They treated us with respect, care, and consideration”
Dennis Ruiters says he has resided in Grassy Park for most of his life. He was born in the Eastern Cape in 1954, moved to Cape Town with his parents in 1963 and has lived in Grassy park and surrounds since then. He shares fondly, “In 1976, I got married to the most beautiful woman in all of South Africa.” Both Dennis and his wife Francina contracted COVID-19.
On the evening of the 10 July, Dennis attended Retreat Day Hospital as he did not feel well. He shares how he felt weak and experienced shortness of breath. These symptoms concerned his family tremendously and they insisted that they take him to Retreat Community Day Centre for assistance. The next morning he was admitted to Victoria Hospital where he spent a few days. Dennis was then referred to the Hospital of Hope at the CTICC. He says it was difficult for him to eat, as he had no taste in his mouth, but the doctors continued to encourage him to try and eat a little bit at each meal. Despite the doctors’ encouragement and continuous care at the Hospital of Hope, his condition deteriorated and he had to be transferred to Groote Schuur Hospital where he spent several hours in ICU. “At times I did not know where I was and I have no recollection of being moved to ICU, I experienced lameness in my legs, shortness of breath. When I woke up I wondered if I had a heart attack as there so many pipes in my body and oxygen on me. When the doctor saw me regaining consciousness, she called me ‘Miracle boy’”.
After a couple of days at Groote Schuur, Dennis was well enough to return to the Hospital of Hope. He says he wants to express his appreciation for the medical staff in the Province. “I especially want to thank all healthcare workers. I really believe it was a great decision to have the Hospital of Hope for patients like us because I have seen so many people come in and then leave. EMS staff were so busy. The way they treated us there was excellent. I really loved that. I don’t know all the doctors’ names, but they treated us with respect, care, and consideration. We had good relationships with them. From medical doctors, to the physiotherapist and dieticians, I am so thankful for the energy they put into treating us. Even cleaning staff, to see how they took great care to clean the facility – every one put so much effort in to their duties and it was so evident.”
Dennis shares that every patient was treated with care and dignity. “Even at night there would be someone on duty and responsive to patients in need of care. You hear patients calling for help, jumping out of bed, just to be able to cough or to breathe comfortably. I knew that I had a support system of people praying for me. Therefore, I did not give up hope – instead I felt the need to pray for other patients as I felt there were others that were worse off than me.”
Dennis was discharged from the Hospital of Hope on 27 July 2020, having spent 16 days in admission between the various facilities.
Francina Ruiters, his wife, shares that two weeks prior to going to the day hospital, Dennis had been experiencing night sweats and fever and she was extremely concerned about him. She recalls at night how she would hear her husband call out “Lord help me”.
Though the process of tracing and testing all Dennis’ close contacts, it was identified that Francina contracted the virus from her husband. She could not isolate safely at home, as there were young children in the home. She therefore volunteered to isolate safely at a Quarantine and Isolation facility. “It did get lonely at times, but it was the safest option for me, as I did not want to put my family at risk. It was hard, as I did not share the news with Dennis, I did not want to stress him out as he was in hospital and not in a good condition.”
Francina shares how thankful she is to their family who assisted with transport to the doctor and where needed after their recovery. She says the day that Dennis returned from Hospital, the neighbours came out in the cul-de-sac and clapped hands. The family children had made posters to welcome Dennis back home. “Here in this road we are like family. We are one community. We stand together and support each other.”
Sharing about his thoughts on COVID-19, Dennis says: “There are so many things that come out of this COVID-19 experience. I do pastoral work, and I have found that other people’s trash have becomes other people’s treasure, in the sense that people are literally having to struggle to search for food. There is so much we can learn from lockdown, for yourself and your own spiritual journey, especially as you hear how many people are searching and asking when church will be reopening.”
Mr. Ruiters acknowledges that he and his wife attended funerals during the time and could potentially have been where the virus was picked up. He therefore urges the community to act responsibly. “They must not think that because numbers seem to be declining that we are safe. Still wear your mask, still be careful. I am talking from experience. I did not ever think that I will get COVID-19, as I had things to do. And yet I did get COVID-19 and only by the grace of God, I got through it. And therefore I would say to Grassy Park and everyone – be careful, wear your mask, sanitise, and remain vigilant.”