Catherine Murombedzi and Dr Anna-Mary Nyakabau
WE remember all healthcare workers we have prematurely lost to Covid-19 in Zimbabwe.
In the line of duty, they have perished.
Gone too soon, as they battled the pandemic. Professional lives, lost in the line of duty, serving to save, lest we forget.
Have you ever placed yourself in the shoes of a frontline health worker?
Have you ever thought of their families?
Have you imagined the fear in 2020, when they left for work, while we stayed at home to minimise risk?
Have you ever considered yourself going into a battle front to save the nation?
So, let us take a moment to say: “We will remember your dedication to work.”
We will forever remember all we lost to Covid-19.
May the souls of all healthcare workers we lost to the pandemic Rest in Peace.
The term, global village stood out to show how interconnected we all are.
There have been pandemics, in history, which affected a region or areas of similar geographic outlook.
A recent pandemic, over 40 years old now, HIV, knew no region. However, the mode of transmission was not airborne, hence the effects did not make everyone vulnerable.
HIV spreads mainly through sexual encounter with an infected person, through birth, mother-to-child-transmission, through use of a contaminated object, such as sharing needles among drug users.
Today, science is working round the clock in search of a vaccine.
HIV got the world united with the pooling of resources, giving birth to the Global Fund, (GF) in 2002.
The HIV story remains topical and is an issue for another day.
Last month, the medical fraternity took time to remember their colleagues gone too soon. In a sombre memorial service, all health care centres simultaneously remembered their workmates lost to the pandemic.
Dr Tinashe Gede, the spokesman for the memorial event, said it was only proper that we spare a thought in memory of all health care workers gone too soon.
“Gone, but not forgotten, we will forever remember you,” said Dr Gede, as he struggled to keep the pain inside.
After all, doctors and nurses are people, like us, they too, fall ill. In the line of duty, they remained resolute to save and serve.
A photo collage of the deceased medical practitioners now hangs at ZIMA (Zimbabwe Medical Association) offices in Harare with districts expected to do the same for all their colleagues.
Below an oncologist, Dr Anna-Mary Nyakabau, shares her experiences during her fight with Covid-19.
Healthcare workers need to exhale too, we need a listening ear, we are human beings, like everyone else.
Friday morning, I went to work as usual. I observed all the prevention measures, I have washed my hands in the pandemic era than all my life time hand washes combined. I had this cough and stuffy nose. As usual, self-diagnosis is the order of the day.
“It’s just the hay fever,” I told myself!
The more the symptoms, the more the denial compelled me it was hay fever.
A clever radiographer said to me, “Chiremba, could this not be Covid-19?”.
This got me thinking, but of course I brushed it off and I assured her it was hay fever.
Fortunately, I always wear a mask and I insist on social distancing.
I was trying to protect myself!
Of course, I was protecting co-workers through protecting myself.
In the evening after dinner, I was seated in the kitchen with my children at home.
Fatigue hit me like I had been lifting weights all day.
I attributed to excessive work before excusing myself and went to sleep early.
The next morning, I was woken up by a ‘tsunami’ like experience.
I had never had such an experience at all.
The feeling, I cannot describe it at all.
Those who have had Covid-19 can testify.
I had a feverish feeling, headache, muscle aches and other feelings like there were insects (majuru) crawling in my body, fatigue and pain struck me.
No doubt this was a crisis.
My daughter came to my bedroom and immediately, she knew I had Covid-19.
We both felt death was imminent, I could tell my daughter panicked and was scared.
The thought of my loved ones, including my children, particularly my special son Simba, my dear old parents, my siblings, friends and others played in a film, only I could see. I immediately consulted my spiritual fathers, alone.
I held my rosary as I lay in bed and decided to recruit all forces to fight this ravaging menace.
Every day, death made the news, people were prematurely being snatched.
The fact that it was the same time three heroes were being buried at the National Heroes Acre did not help.
In fact, I switched off the radio during the burials as I could not face it!
I told myself out of intuition, I would do my part to help me in the struggle to survive. I took medication to control the cough, aches and I decided to drink lots of water (warm and cold).
I took regular breathing exercises and slept in the recommended prone position.
I went into self-isolation.
Mai Sheila, my house help for decades, would leave food on the door and sanitise every time she got near my room.
I gave her N95 masks.
It was important that she did not get this disease at all!
If she did, who would take care of me?
A colleague, Dr Mukapa, visited me and he was caring and reassured me of recovery.
Imagine risking his life to come and see me. Dr Sandra Ndarukwa, a junior colleague, who had just recovered from Covid-19, kept supporting me. She bought all the medicines she thought I might possibly need!
I look back and count my blessings, I had more than enough medication.
I never got to the stage of needing all the meds. Dr Ndarukwa even hired an oxygen tank, just in case of emergency!
Such love gave me the will power to keep on fighting. I was dearly loved and I felt it.
My son, who is abroad, sent his doctor friend to check on me too.
My daughter, who was around, was my nurse checking my pulse, temperature and oximeter regularly. She sadly got infected as she nursed me.
Despite that, she continued to take great care of me. My siblings and brother in-law took over all the expenses and that removed much stress from my weary body.
The flip side of this story is that this experience was a life university.
I learnt to value life with a different perspective. Having been on the receiving end, I felt what it means to have a potentially terminal life-threatening and isolating disease.
There were moments I was desperate.
Though I knew I had Covid-19, the day the diagnosis was confirmed was the most difficult. The nurse who did the antigen test confirmed the diagnosis.
What was missing on that day was some counselling.
I knew everything about Covid-19, however, I felt something was amiss.
I yearned to be counselled, that support pillar is the bridge I was missing.
I was desperate, I remember calling the nurse at St Clements Clinic, she listened through and was so supportive.
I was looking for sleeping medication.
I could not find any in my room.
I was pacing up and down the whole night in between taking medication and breathing exercises. The reality of Covid-19 struck me.
That could have killed me.
I was down and under.
Believe me or not, the best counsellor, the following day, my best counsellor was Sibo, a lady who is a marketer at a private company.
She called me and could tell I was down.
She performed miracles that up to now I cannot understand.
It taught me lessons that in life, you can never know who will come to your rescue.
Indeed, she saved my soul.
Kudos to Sibo.
In addition, Sibo is around the same age as my children. Every person, never mind the age, is important in life.
My outlook to life is now different.
I know what it feels to be a patient.
I know the value of counselling; it is a part of treatment.
As we remember all healthcare workers prematurely lost to Covid-19, it was not in vain.
We will remember them.
For those who today still toil to save lives, let us hold their hands and allow them to exhale.