COVID-19 changed how Elsies River family celebrates birthdays and Christmas
Birthdays, Christmas, and the holidays won’t look the same for COVID-19 survivors Bradley Cassels and his mother Cynthia Esau this year.
The Elsies River residents contracted the virus nearly five months ago and say they’ve “relived” the COVID-19 nightmare after Bradley’s sister contracted the virus two weeks ago.
While the Cassels-family try to make the best of the holiday season, Bradley has shared a message to all young people who plan to celebrate and socialise during the holidays. "I suggest that you have your fun but keep it safe. If you must have a get together, have it outside and keep it very small. Don't invite many people. The more people you invite, the bigger your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19.Have your fun, but not like we did a year ago. Be responsible and remember your behaviour affects the next person and their families.”
Cynthia says she always feared that her children would get the virus. After Bradley, who is a type 1 diabetic, had COVID-19, she hoped that none of her other children would contract the virus. The mom, who turns 70 this December, says she had to face her worst fears when her daughter also became infected with the virus and was extremely relieved when she recovered.
“When I heard about my daughter, I was upset because I knew what was ahead for her. The loneliness and not feeling well. I fear for her as she’s an asthma patient. I always feared she would get it and then she got it.”
Bradley says not being able to physically care for his sister was difficult, but he used technology to support her. “I did not want her or anyone else to go through what I did. When I found out that my sister had it, it made me feel helpless as I couldn’t physically be there to support her or guide her through this experience. As I have diabetes and my mom is elderly, we are both high risk and had to make sure we don’t come into contact with my sister while she was sick. It was extremely difficult for all of us.”
Cynthia recalls her own COVID-19 experience, saying her son and other children gave her hope to fight the battle. Cynthia, her partner and son had the virus at the same time and recovered at home. “I remember feeling weak and telling my son I wanted to give up, but he gave me the strength and said, ‘No Mommy, you can’t give up.’ My belief pulled me through. Their love pulled me through.”
Bradley says he didn’t think he’d make it to his 28th birthday on 10 December, but he’s grateful for another year and a full recovery. While he’s used to having celebrations with friends, this year his birthday looked different.
“For my birthday, I thought I wouldn’t make it, but I am here. Surviving COVID-19 changed my perspective and how I do things. I usually plan my birthday a year in advance, but with COVID-19 things are different. I had a very small gathering outdoors this year and couldn’t invite everyone I wanted to. After experiencing the Coronavirus, I know how easily I can get it again and I would not want anyone to go through what I did. I miss all my friends, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.”
Bradley explains that he avoids crowds and socialising and that he often makes use of technology to connect with friends. “With COVID-19 I am very wary of social gatherings. I am very aware and alert and practice social distancing and always wear my mask. I miss my friends, we don’t see each other a lot. I miss them a lot. We used to hang out often before COVID-19, but life is different now. I need to protect myself and my family and to do this, I have to do things different.”
Bradley and his siblings are also preparing to make his mom’s 70th birthday on 26 December special without hosting an actual event with friends. Cynthia made it clear that she does not want a “big party” so that they can stay safe as a family. They have also decided that Christmas will be different this year.
“Before COVID-19, we planned to have my birthday in a hall with my friends and family. But I said no, I don’t want a big celebration. We are keeping it small and safe. I am also planning Christmas Day lunch now, but I am keeping COVID-19 in mind. We need to realise that there is something that we can’t see it and it can kill us. I am planning a small gathering for my immediate family outdoors. If we want to celebrate, we need to be very cautious. We need to do it different.”
The Coronavirus isn’t going on holiday this festive season. It’s important that we stay safe by wearing our masks, washing our hands or sanitising and staying home when sick. If you've been tested for COVID-19 and are waiting for your results, please stay home.
We should also aim to have gatherings outdoors and keep them small. Our findings indicate that while hands and surface cleaning are important, air droplets cause most COVID-19 infections, as humans breathe in small droplets containing the virus. As a result, we also know that social gatherings contribute substantially to its spread. Avoid large gatherings and help us prevent super-spreader events. Western Cape Government Health encourages all residents to do their part to protect their loved ones and to prevent the spread of the virus.