Covid-19: Cape Town man finally home after spending 65 days in a Maldives hospital

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Andrew Coetzee.
Andrew Coetzee.
  • The Coetzee family is jumping for joy after the head of their household arrived back in South Africa after contracting Covid-19 in the Maldives.
  • He was in hospital for 65 days.
  • The hospital would not discharge him until he coughed up the R200 000 for his medical bill.

A Mitchells Plain family is rejoicing following the return of a loved one to Cape Town after he had contracted Covid-19 in the Maldives.

Avril Coetzee told News24 that fetching her husband, Andrew, from the airport on Sunday afternoon felt like witnessing a "real-life miracle".

"I haven't seen my husband in more than three months. My kids missed their dad. It was a real ball of emotions as we watched him get off the plane and make his way towards us at the airport," said Avril.

READ | 'Mom, I have the virus. It's time for me to go home' - retired firefighter dies weeks shy of being eligible for vaccine

According to Avril, hospital staff had told her they were doing everything possible to help her husband, but there were no guarantees that he would make it out alive as his condition was "very bad".

"He was not able to get the vaccination before he left the country as his age group was not eligible for the jab yet, but would be getting the jab once he is assessed by a doctor soon," she said.

Andrew landed in the Maldives on 24 July for a two-week stopover to quarantine, ahead of a move to Saudi Arabia to start his new job as a diving technician.

READ | Woman dies at Cape Town retirement village hit by Covid-19 despite precautions

According to Avril, Andrew was due to stay in Saudi Arabia for about two months for his new job. Andrew developed Covid-19 pneumonia while in the Maldives, spent three weeks in a hospital bed and two more weeks in an induced coma.

He had also suffered a stroke while in the coma, leading to paralysis in his right hand, and he had to undergo rehabilitation.

He said: 

I was in the hospital for about 65 days. The staff members told me I was in a ward with other Covid patients who had since all died. It was a very difficult experience. The staff told me I was a fighter as I was one of the handful of patients who had made it out alive.

Andrew said the hospital in Malé would not let him leave until he coughed up the nearly R200 000 for his medical bills.

Avril said: "We managed to pay R15 000 on 1 October towards the bills, and negotiated with the hospital to pay off the rest of the money going forward."

According to the family, the hospital's recent communication indicated that they had about two years to pay off the rest of the bill.

On Tuesday evening, the family celebrated April's birthday.

Andrew Coetzee
Andrew Coetzee with his family at the airport.

"We had [invited] no one over. We celebrated together as a family. It was the best birthday present I could've asked for. To have my husband back home just in time to celebrate my special day is a blessing in disguise," she said.

Andrew said he had not fully recovered yet, but had managed to fetch his youngest child from school on Tuesday.

READ | FDA could authorise first Covid pill before the end of the year

"My youngest kid was on cloud nine when I pulled up at the school. As kids are, they showed off to their friends to show them that their dad came to fetch them. It was a wonderful moment," he said.

According to Andrew, one of the life lessons he learnt from his ordeal in the Maldives was not taking anything for granted.

"Cherish every moment with your family. Take your vaccinations. Life is short. I was... at death's door, and through some miracle, I made it out alive, and I will forever be grateful to God and my family and friends for helping me pull through," said Andrew.

If you come across Covid-19 vaccination information that you do not trust, read Covid-19 vaccine myths debunked: Get the facts here. If you can't find the facts you're looking for, email us at the address mentioned in the article and we will verify the information with medical professionals.

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