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Don’t let our sacrifices be in vain, plead Covid-19’s frontline ...

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Don’t let our sacrifices be in vain, plead Covid-19’s frontline heroes

Meet some of the health-care workers who are making sacrifices and taking risks to help South Africans

Reporter
Community service doctor Mishqa Jakoet is among those swabbing for possible Covid-19 patients.
Front line Community service doctor Mishqa Jakoet is among those swabbing for possible Covid-19 patients.
Image: Supplied

As the coronavirus pandemic continues its grip, people worldwide are applauding health-care workers.

And with laboratory appreciation week taking place from  Sunday until April 25, now is a great time to acknowledge some unseen warriors fighting the virus.

“A strong laboratory infrastructure is crucial in fighting Covid-19,” said forensic pathology officer Thozamile Magali.

He said he is exposed to death daily, especially now.

Attending to Covid-19 cases is stressful, he said, because though he is trained and prepared for it, there is always the risk. He is always mindful of the situation he is in and the potential impact one mistake could have on him, his loved ones and those he comes into contact with. 

Magali has three children, aged between 11 months and 14 years. His wife and children are living with his parents in Knysna so there is no risk of him infecting them.

It is difficult dealing with all of the emotions when my support, my family, is not with me.
Thozamile Magali

“It is difficult dealing with all of the emotions related to the pandemic and my job responsibilities when my support, my family, is not with me,” he said.

He called on people to abide by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s lockdown rules.

“Please stay safe and indoors. Please allow the sacrifices of myself and so many others, including those in lockdown, not to be in vain. We are in this together, in the interest of the nation, its people and especially those who are at greater risk due to prior health conditions or low immune systems,” Magali said.

Fatima Peters, deputy director of the Western Cape health department’s comprehensive health unit and the contact tracing team coordinator, said she and her teams often work 18-hour days.

“I take a lot of strain ... When things go wrong I have to manage the anxiety, fear and frustrations from all spheres — my team, my peers, community members, NPOs.”

Fatima Peters, deputy director of the Western Cape health department's comprehensive health unit.
TAKING STRAIN Fatima Peters, deputy director of the Western Cape health department's comprehensive health unit.
Image: Supplied

She said her team ensures every patient and their contacts are monitored regularly.

“We must make sure we trace every contact because those people must self-isolate. We monitor to make sure they are isolating, monitor their health. If they have any health problems we escalate and link to appropriate care. We also counsel and educate about infection control and the challenges of self-isolating. It can be frustrating and hard, especially for poorer communities,” Peters said.

Peters is married with three sons, a daughter-in-law, an 81-year-old mother and a 68-year-old aunt, all of whom live with her.   

“My mom is diabetic and has heart failure and hypertension. My aunt is also diabetic. My greatest sacrifice is the very limited time I have with them now. Even when I am home I am writing and designing plans, making calls, troubleshooting for the front line staff,” she said.

The first thing Peters does when she returns from work is wash and change her clothes.

“Sometimes my mother is so happy to see me that she rushes over, but I have to stop her. This is so hard for me. She does not always understand why I do this.

"She has been so hurt because I cannot hug and kiss her. I keep my distance. She keeps asking if I am upset with her ... that breaks my heart,” she said.

Another front line hero is community service doctor Mishqa Jakoet, who is involved with swabbing possible Covid-19 patients.

She is based at the Lotus River community day centre in Cape Town.

Jakoet said they are at high risk for infection, but there are measures in place to protect them.

There are always things that will put us at risk, it is part of our profession, and this is no different.
Dr Mishqa Jakoet

“There are always things that will put us at risk, it is part of our profession, and this is no different.  If I had to choose a word to describe my emotions it would be anxious, but this is related to the patient and not knowing how they will react when the testing is being conducted,” Jakoet said.

To protect her husband when she returns home, Jakoet removes her clothing in the garage and machine washes it. She also sanitises her shoes.

“If I feel I may have been contaminated, I leave all clothing outside.”

Jakoet also urged South Africans to stay at home and take care of themselves and their families.

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