Covid-19 survivor celebrates birthday at home after 40 days on ventilator

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Vanessa Joubert, 46, has been discharged from Groote Schuur Hospital after spending more than a month in intensive care with Covid-19.
Vanessa Joubert, 46, has been discharged from Groote Schuur Hospital after spending more than a month in intensive care with Covid-19.
  • A Cape Town woman has been discharged from hospital after 40 days on a ventilator.
  • Vanessa Joubert celebrated her birthday at home with her family on Thursday.
  • She has called on others to get vaccinated against Covid-19 to avoid her experience.

A Covid-19 survivor from Cape Town celebrated her birthday at home after 52 days in hospital – 40 of which were spent on a ventilator.

Vanessa Joubert, 46, has been discharged from Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) after being hospitalised with Covid-19. She spent more than a month in intensive care while struggling to overcome her illness.

However, on Thursday, just more than a week after being discharged, she celebrated her birthday at home with her family.

Vanessa said:

I am so happy that I can spend my birthday, 9 September, at home. The doctors in the hospital promised me that they will ensure I will be ready to go home to spend my birthday with family. I was ecstatic that I was discharged on 1 September as a Covid-19 survivor.

Mark Joubert, her husband of two and a half years, also fell ill but did not experience the severe symptoms that saw Vanessa hospitalised.

"I had Covid-19 as well, but only had mild symptoms. Vanessa was not as lucky then, and she got very sick at home, and I took her to [a private] hospital. After being there for three days, she requested to be transferred to Groote Schuur Hospital. It's not every day that someone asks to be moved from a private hospital to a public hospital, but she heard about the good work GSH has been doing with Covid-19 patients, and she wanted to move," recalled Mark.

READ | 'I fell behind in school' - Covid-19 survivor, 19, gets his jab

Vanessa had a severe Covid-19 infection and was ventilated for 40 days, said Professor Richard van Zyl-Smit, one of the doctors who looked after Vanessa in the ICU.

"As with many of our Covid-19 patients, it was touch-and-go at many stages of her stay in ICU. We were never sure that she was going to make it. It took several weeks before we allowed ourselves to get excited about her potentially being discharged from the ICU. One distinct memory of her was her bright yellow nail varnish on her toes. It is always amazing to finally get to meet the actual person who you have looked after for so long when they finally are out of a coma, off the ventilator and able to talk," said Van Zyl-Smit.

Vanessa said the experience had been traumatic and left her feeling weak.

"Being in ICU is not easy, especially being on the ventilator all this time. I have lost so much weight, and I still feel so tired, and my muscles feel so weak. It's traumatic now being awake in ICU and having the memories of everything that I have gone through. One of the memories was when I thought I'm not going to make it. My body was just so weak," Vanessa said.

Her birthday wish is for everyone to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

She said:

The vaccine will save your life. Don't mess around, take it and save your life. You don't want to end up in the ICU on a ventilator like I did.

The experience has also changed Mark's mind about vaccination and has motivated him to get his jab.

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