Welcome Hlatshwayo went to battle with a monster, and narrowly escaped the clutches of death.
This is how the 46-year-old described his recent three-week battle with the Covid-19 coronavirus, a virus that has infected more than 553 188 people in the country so far and had claimed more than 10 000 lives by Saturday.
“I’m coming [back] from the dead,” Hlatshwayo told City Press this week. “It’s by the grace of God I’m alive and He gave me a second chance to live – I nearly died.”
His fight with Covid-19 landed him in the intensive care unit at Mediclinic Midstream in Centurion for six days. He was hooked up on a ventilator, which he credits for saving his life. But the construction company owner feels real conversations need to be had after he witnessed the disparities in the quality of healthcare in two provinces where he sought help, and between the public and private health sectors.
He was discharged from hospital last week.
Rewind to three weeks ago. Hlatshwayo was working on a school building project in Kokstad in KwaZulu-Natal. He said he travelled to Port Shepstone to buy building supplies and, before entering the shop, a clerk told him to buy a face mask. He also wore a face shield.
In hindsight, Hlatshwayo said he must have contracted the virus during the exchanges he had while buying and putting on that mask.
“From the moment I put that mask on, it was as though something went straight up my nose and was piercing. I figured it was dust that I had inhaled as the masks were quite dusty,” Hlatshwayo said.
Within days, Hlatshwayo said he started feeling feverish.
“I did everything – mhlonyane, onions, garlic and ginger [concoctions], steaming and your ACC 200 [which treats symptoms of sinusitis], but they weren’t helping. I consulted a doctor in Port Shepstone and was given a prescription for medication to use while we awaited my Covid-19 test results,” he said.
His results came back positive three days later. He decided to travel back to his home in Standerton in Mpumalanga.
“My son Thami drove me home to Standerton and, within three days of me being home, I started developing worse symptoms. I started coughing blood, and that’s when my family took me to the government hospital there. I was admitted for one night and placed on oxygen,” he said.
As his health deteriorated, the lack of resources at the hospital led him and his family to decide to move him to a private hospital in Centurion.
“I could tell I would not receive the care I needed there as it [the hospital] was plagued by load shedding. When I needed to take a bath the next morning, there was no hot water.
“Imagine, being sick and having to bath in cold water … I had to pay cash for admission at the other hospital in Centurion because I didn’t have medical aid. I’m fortunate that I did have enough money to pay, because if I don’t think I would have survived,” Hlatshwayo added.
“Government is busy digging graves instead of buying ventilators and equipment that can save [the lives of] sick people in small hospitals, like in my town. I was helped by money, but what about others who cannot afford that and get to a hospital with no oxygen support for them?”