‘It felt like we broke up’ - Wife on the pain of self-isolating from her essential worker husband

Illustration. Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash
Illustration. Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash
  • Iman and all adult members of her family are essential workers.
  • Her husband, Adiel, was in self-isolation after suspecting that he contracted coronavirus at work.
  • Though he is now out of isolation, Iman continues to live in fear for the family's safety as most have underlying medical conditions.

The world has been turned upside down because of the Covid-19 pandemic. South Africa is currently in staged lockdown, and we’re all always on edge in fear of the virus. 

This is an even bigger issue when you’re a high risk person or an essential worker. Iman Davids is both. Her husband, parents, and two brothers are also essential workers, and they all live in the same house. While the house has been renovated so that they each have separate sections and entrances, the risk they all face is quite high. 

READ MORE: 'I fell in love with my cousin's fake boyfriend, they were trying to make her ex jealous' - Woman married 28 years

“I fear for my health due to my chronic asthma. I fear my children contracting the pandemic. I am having to decide to stay with them, being high risk myself. I fear for the rest of my family as my mother, father and brothers are all essential workers, so the risk of one of us being infected is twice as high because we live under one roof,” she says. 

Iman, a 29-year-old pharmacy intern at the local clinic and Adiel Davids, a 30-year-old locum pharmacist, have been married for three years. 

One day, he called her on his way home from work and told her that he could have been exposed as a doctor at the pharmacy treated a positive Covid-19 case.

“We didn’t have a big discussion about it, but when he came home, he went straight into isolation in my daughter’s room, and she slept in my room after it was disinfected,” says the mother of two. 

READ MORE: Woman married 14 years: 'He booked a marriage appointment at Home Affairs instead of proposing'

This all happened a few days before Ramadan, the month of fasting that Muslims observe, and is usually a time to focus on family while sharing suhoor and iftar meals.

“He started isolating on Wednesday. Ramadan started on Saturday. He got the all-clear on Monday when we heard that the doctor was negative, but it was so stressful,” says Iman. She would drop both meals off at his door before sunrise and after sunset so that he could eat, but he couldn’t be with the family. 

“It was really weird. We would chat via WhatsApp and have video calls, but we’re a very affectionate couple, so not being able to touch him felt unnatural. I could tell he felt alone. It was like we broke up,” she says. 

READ MORE: In love since she was 13: Woman married for 40 years is proof you don’t need a grand proposal

Having to explain the situation to her kids was also an unforeseen circumstance, says Iman. “They had a lot of questions, mainly ‘is daddy going to die?’. I think they understood my explanation, but they like to hug him when he gets home, so it was hard.”

Both Iman and her mother, Shafieka, who works for a medical supply company, are not going in to work due to chronic asthma and Shafieka having had a recent lung infection. Their respective bosses have been very supportive of their decision. 

READ MORE: Woman shares how Tinder boyfriend’s ‘worst ever’ marriage proposal eventually led to their breakup

The entire household would have iftar together during Ramadan after Adiel was no longer at risk, but it was a rule then, and still is now, that when they get home, it’s straight into the shower. Clothes are immediately washed, and nothing is touched before they are sure that everything is clean. 

The family is also trying to keep exposure to a minimum, so they stay away from shopping malls, etc. 

Iman says she and Adiel often talk about the what-ifs due to their line of work. “It was a major relief [to find out he was negative], but we also thought about what if he was positive? The entire time he was isolated, we kept wanting it to be over and trying not to think the worst, but what if it was the worst? I was so relieved that he wasn’t positive, but also, this highlights how high risk our family is.”

READ MORE: Love and coronavirus: It could bring you closer, but there's a risk of increased domestic violence

This is the reality for so many families with essential workers. This is what it’s like not just for pharmacy assistants, but doctors, nurses, petrol attendants, shop assistants, cashiers, and teachers who have to possibly expose themselves every day to do their job and keep food on the table. 

*Names have been changed to protect their identities

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Do you think it's important to get married in this day and age?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, it's important in order to create a family unit and for companionship
23% - 1180 votes
Not at all. Being single is far more liberating
9% - 458 votes
There is no general answer to this, it's each to their own
49% - 2546 votes
Yes, society still frowns on unmarried people, especially women
1% - 68 votes
It depends on whether you are able to find a compatible partner
18% - 918 votes