Chronic illness during COVID-19 and making healthy lifestyle choices
Living with a chronic illness especially during the COVID-19 pandemic has been quite overwhelming and feelings of fear and anxiety slowly settle in when encountering people in public spaces or shopping centres. According to the Western Cape Government Health, people with chronic illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes are considered high-risk candidates for COVID-19 and the chances of contracting severe symptoms are probable.
With Healthy Lifestyle Awareness Day commemorated on 21 February, Monique Johnstone, Communications Officer for Western Cape Government Health, decided to share her story of living with chronic illness to raise awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
“As an essential healthcare worker and living with hypertension, the importance of a healthy and balanced lifestyle is important to keep my chronic illness under control, together with taking my medication daily. This is my story and I want people to know the impact and damage living with a chronic illness along with being overweight can have on your body when contracting COVID-19.
“Before contracting COVID-19, I joined a walking group in August 2020 at the age of 38 and started a healthy eating plan to control my weight and gain back my healthy lifestyle of which I lost control due to my busy work and fast-paced personal lifestyle with my kids. Walking with a group of motivating people after work, gave me the confidence to continue my healthy lifestyle and I started walking five to eighteen kilometres, four days a week.
“My blood pressure was under control and I felt less tired and drained. By just walking every day, my breathing, heart rate and stamina improved.
“In December 2020, I contracted COVID-19 and suffered severe symptoms such as coughing, breathing difficulties, nausea, headaches, tiredness and a fever that lasted a few days. On day nine of isolation, I encountered breathing difficulties and was rushed to a private hospital and received oxygen to assist me with my breathing.
“I was still overweight, but I believe that because I started my healthy living lifestyle three months before I contracted COVID-19 and lost a few kilograms, my body could fight this virus and I survived, thank God.
“I realised that taking my body and health for granted is the worst injustice I can bring upon myself, especially when I have comorbidities.
“The specialist caring for me in the hospital during my COVID-19 recovery said that besides my chronic illness, my weight was a concern in the fight to overcome COVID-19 and it scared me!
“After seven days of hospitalisation and after a month-long post-recovery journey, I started walking to a healthy lifestyle path again. It wasn’t easy and I struggled with my breathing after contracting COVID-19, but with consistency and not giving up, I persevered and my breathing continued to improve. Post COVID-19, I have conquered a combined 30-km walk and managed to start jogging to get my lungs strong again and my body excited for living a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
"I want people to take their health seriously. Start by walking each day, changing your eating habits and taking your medication daily. By the end of each week you will start to feel much stronger and more excited to push yourself harder to achieve your goals.
“I’m back in action at the office, taking the necessary COVID-19 precautions and back to loving my job and working in healthcare facilities interacting with patients and staff and sharing their stories of hope. I am so emotional and excited that the vaccines are here in Cape Town and our frontline workers are finally going to be protected from this dreaded virus. I can’t wait to receive my vaccination!”