Rural Hero – Langeberg nurse overcomes her fear to help others
What do you do when (like many other South Africans) you fear COVID-19? You push your fear aside so that you can help your patients. Western Cape Government Health honours staff like Sr Audrey Michaels of Bergsig Clinic in Robertson. She is nominated as a hero in the Cape Winelands because of her positive attitude towards service delivery after overcoming her fear, and for beating COVID-19.
“I prayed a lot and put my faith in the Lord so that I could radiate positivity towards patients. This way I could encourage patients who were afraid of the virus,” says Michaels.
Before she got COVID-19, she was unsure of how to explain COVID-19 to her patients, but now she draws from her own experience and encourage them to follow precautions, because the virus is also a reality in Robertson and the Langeberg.
Early in the pandemic, people in other areas of the Cape Winelands tested positive for COVID-19, but it was some time before the first person in the Langeberg tested positive. This made it difficult for staff to educate the Langeberg community on COVID-19. “In the beginning it was a big challenge. Because not many people got sick of COVID-19 in the Langeberg in the beginning of the pandemic, patients found it difficult to adapt to the new normal, such as keeping 1,5 meters from others, wearing a mask, and cleaning their hands often,” explains Audrey.
Audrey remembers how, in the wink of an eye, she went from someone with a cough on 5 June to someone who could hardly get out of bed on 7 June. She tested positive for COVID-19 and isolated herself at home. She was one of the first staff members in the Langeberg who got COVID-19. “I was very emotional. Seeing me so sick was very scary for my daughter. The worst was being alone between the four walls and that no one could come close to me. I cried through many nights and prayed a lot.”
When she became short of breath she was hospitalised for four days. It felt like she was going to lose the fight against COVID-19, but when she was at her lowest, her colleagues supported her. She received calls and messages daily. “They cried with me and prayed with me. They even did a ‘drive by’ to see how I was! In this time they were a big support to not only me, but also my parents. Thanks for that, Bergsig Clinic! I’m proud to be a part of your team.”
She still experienced shortness of breath and therefore slowly but surely started working full days again. She was afraid of becoming sick again, but she put her fears aside in order to serve her community.
While she was in isolation at home, she feared for the health of her elderly parents and her daughter. Audrey encourages others to earnestly consider going to a quarantine or isolation facility if they need to, so that they would not have that same concerns she had.
“This has been an emotional rollercoaster. I am just thankful that I survived. The virus is still a reality. Protect yourself like you would during Level 5 of the national lockdown. Wear your mask, avoid gatherings, and wash your hands often. You must do everything you can to protect yourself and your loved ones.”