WATCH | Isolated and overwhelmed: Prison official nearing retirement talks about his Covid-19 fight

  • 59-year-old correctional services official Edmund Felix contracted Covid-19 at work over the Easter weekend.
  • The father of three isolated in a separate bedroom for 25 days before returning to work. 
  • He says his family and his faith were the two things that carried him through the challenging isolation period.

Over the Easter weekend, Edmund Felix, a 59-year old correctional services official at the Warmbokkeveld facility, realised many of his colleagues were falling ill. Initially, he didn't think anything of it.

But on the following Thursday, when a fellow member tested positive for Covid-19, Felix, who was still asymptomatic, asked his wife to prepare a separate room for him when he got home. 

"I wanted to stay on my own because at that stage I didn't know if I had it or not. There were a lot of my colleagues going to the doctor, so I wanted to stay separate from my family," he explained. 

Felix worked late that day, setting up lockdown protocols, and arranging new shifts after one of his colleagues tested positive. When he got home that evening, he decided not to go to work the following day, but instead consulted a doctor. 

"That night I crept into the house, through the back door and silently got undressed. I told my family not to touch me because I could have contracted the virus," Felix explained. 

Felix was one of 110 correctional officers to get tested during a mass testing drive at the centre on Saturday 11 April.

He said:

I wasn't showing any symptoms that they were describing to me. Sore throat, flu or anything like that. That Saturday night, I was feeling anxious, with a knot in my throat as I waited for my results.

The following day all of his colleagues received their results and they all came back negative. He thought if he didn't hear anything, that he would probably be in the clear. 

Testing positive

Twenty-four hours after taking the, he received a call from the doctor. The first thing the doctor asked was whether he smoked or drank.  

"He asked me how old I was and then told me that I had tested positive for the virus," Felix said. It was later that evening when he felt the virus take over his body. 

"I was sweating and was in a panic," he explained. 

 Edmund Felix, a 59-year old correctional services
Edmund Felix, a 59-year old correctional services official at the Warmbokkeveld facility. (Bertram Malgas, News24)

One of his daughters came to see what was wrong and tried to calm him down. His family prayed for him and read from the Bible.

"We read Exodus 31:8, before I took a pill to calm down," he said.

Lonely isolation

Felix says his time in isolation was lonely. He credits his strong faith for carrying him through the 25 days spent separated from his loved ones. 

"In isolation, it's just you and the Master. Your faith plays a massive role during this time, because you don't know what is going to happen," he said.

The career warder, with 35 years of service, plans to retire at the end of this year. He said he never wanted to retire feeling stressed or with any problems.

Only hours into his first day back at work after recovery, he was overwhelmed at the pressure he felt.

Felix said another visit to his doctor, and plenty of exercise, got him back on his old self. 

"It was a massive challenge and if it was not for His grace and love… I wouldn't be here today."

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