How I rode out quarantine in a caravan
Pierre Botha was confined to his caravan in his yard for 18 days while he recovered from the virus
When Pierre Botha left for a family caravanning holiday on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast in March, the last thing he was thinking about was the country’s growing concern about Covid-19.
It was before lockdown was announced and he had not travelled overseas or been exposed to anyone who had the virus — or so he thought.
The night before he left, the 55-year-old outdoor sporting and gun-store owner and his family, who live in Standerton, Mpumalanga, attended a function.
When he drove off with his wife and daughter to Scottburgh the next day they were all in high spirits. It was a holiday the family had been looking forward to.
Unbeknown to them, though, was that during the function they had shared a table with a woman who would later test positive for Covid-19.
Days after arriving in the seaside town, Botha started feeling strange and noticed he had lost his sense of taste.
“I did not know what was going on. I was feeling really weird.”
I did not know what was going on. I was feeling really weird.Pierre Botha
His condition worsened: “My throat was sore, I had a fever and was battling to breathe.”
Still unaware he had contracted the virus, the family decided to return home early, only to find out about the woman who had tested positive.
Botha immediately went for testing at his local hospital. A day later he learnt he was positive.
“It’s as though everything stops. I couldn’t believe it. I became scared and feared for my family’s safety. The first thing I worried about was how I was going to keep them safe.”
Botha turned his caravan into an isolation ward, connecting it to the power and water supply systems of his house.
“I thought I was dying. The pain was unbearable. I was terrified. Every breath I took was excruciating. My lungs felt as if they did not want to work. It was as though someone was holding my mouth and nose closed all the time.”
He said the first three nights were the worst.
“You are so sick. You wonder how you are going to survive. At night I thought I was never going to make it to see the sun rise.”
Botha, who was confined to his caravan for 18 days, said when government health officials arrived at his house after being alerted by doctors to his status, it was as if something out of a Hollywood movie.
“There were teams of people in white hazmat suits, with spray canisters on their backs. They hosed down our entire home and the caravan. Every single surface was coated in an alcohol sanitiser.
“Our neighbours were petrified. People didn’t want to talk to us initially.”
Botha said his main thoughts while in isolation were about who he had possibly infected.
My lungs felt like they did not want to work. It was as though someone was holding my mouth and nose closed all the time.Pierre Botha
“I would contact those that I had been in contact with every day asking them if they were OK. It’s a horrible feeling not knowing if you have infected someone and ... wondering how sick they are going to become and whether they will survive.”
He described it as a miracle that his family and those he had come into contact with tested negative.
When he finally tested negative, the relief was “immense”.
“Every time you are about to get your results you have this incredible weight on your shoulders. It’s crushing. You don’t know whether you are a danger or not to your family.
“One of the hardest things about the isolation was being so close to my family, but being so far from them at the same time. I could see them inside the house at night, but I could not be with them.
“My wife would bring me dinner and leave it outside the caravan door. We would exchange a few words, but other than that there was no contact. It’s heartbreaking.”
Botha said alarming for him since coming out of isolation was how casually people were treating the disease.
“I have been to the shops several times. What scares me is the number of people not wearing masks and carrying on as though life is normal.
“It’s as though they either don’t know about this virus or don’t care how dangerous this thing is.”