Driving with J9 | I'm so sorry for your loss: Coming out of a time when cars didn't matter

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Wheels24 editor Janine Van der Post at the Toyota Supra launch three years ago. A time before masks, and sanitisers, and social distancing. A time when you could see everyone's smile.
Wheels24 editor Janine Van der Post at the Toyota Supra launch three years ago. A time before masks, and sanitisers, and social distancing. A time when you could see everyone's smile.
Calvin Fisher

It's been a long time since I wrote about driving licences or anything about motoring.

Three weeks ago I left hospital after being hit by Covid-19 pneumonia. I am slowly recovering, but I made it and pulled through while so many others have not. And I am so terribly sorry for your loss; if you've lost a loved one – a spouse, mother or father, daughter or son, brother or sister, aunt or uncle, cousin, a close friend or a colleague. I am so sorry for your loss and pain. We weren't made for this much heartache or this much loss. 

My life had always revolved around cars, until a month ago when motoring and any vehicles just didn't matter for the past few weeks. This month had made me change my perspective about many things. I had stared death in the face, and my faith was tested, but God's grace saw me through. 

Covid exhausts you; it robs you of so much, of loved ones; it has crippled the world in more ways than one. But it shows you what really matters. I had not checked emails in more than three weeks; I hardly checked the site because there were days I could barely breathe. There were so many nights I was afraid to close my eyes because I was gripped by fear of not waking up, that I would die.

Wheels24 is my baby, my second child; I am so proud and passionate about it. It has been tough not to be in touch with our readers daily, but the proverbial wheels kept turning. My incredible team did a damn good job in my absence. 

My oxygen levels had dropped to 88 one morning; my doctor had said if it goes below 92 several times, I needed to get to the ER. My husband broke down in tears, fearing for my life and rushed me to the emergency room to the hospital nearby. After several tests, I was later transferred to Vergelegen MediClinic, as BusaMed was bursting at the seams and had no room.  

The very next morning, after I was admitted and transferred, a nurse came into my room and said I was about to get a phone call with some bad news. My heart stopped, a million things went through my mind – is my family okay? Is my husband alive, because he was positive too at home!

Before I could even comprehend what she said, the phone beside my bed rang. It was my mother. I panicked, I had spoken to my husband just half an hour ago, and everything seemed fine; at least he and my daughter were okay – or so I thought? "Janine," she said, "Clavern and Sloane are okay, but your father-in-law passed away. Pa Ralph, I'm so sorry, my child." 

"NO! No, no, no, Mommy, NO!!! I screamed and could hear my cries travel through Ward H and bounce off the walls, disappearing down the corridors. Everything was deadly silent at that moment; I could no longer hear the machines beeping or the older man struggling to breathe and wimpering in anguish next door.
- Janine Van der Post, Wheels24 editor


Somewhere between the phone ringing and having picked it up, Sister Edith had already taken my hand, squeezing it the entire time and rubbing my back in comfort. 

This was too much. It hadn't even been a month since we had another huge loss in our family, after my Mom had lost her youngest sister Zelda, my and my daughter's godmother. A woman who had filled all our hearts. We were still reeling and hurting since then.

God sent Sister Edith to me that day, and if it wasn't for her, I honestly don't know what I would have done to deal with losing my father-in-law. As soon as I put the phone down, Sister Edith started praying for me, my husband, and my family. An absolute stranger was there for me, going beyond duty and helped me in one of my most darkest moments. She prayed with such conviction that God's peace and calm covered me, and I could somehow come to terms with what had happened. She was my ultimate hero. 

Nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, and other frontline workers are the unsung heroes of our country, if not the world. They put their lives at risk, have such care and compassion, yet they have their own problems too. But, you never see it, because they give their all when doing their job, saving lives daily. Sister Edith didn't have to do what she did, but I will remember her for the rest of my life. I never saw her again during my time there. I spoke to the various staff, trying to remember everyone's names. I remembered how it was storming one day and how some of them were worried about getting a taxi home or if the hospital would flood again - what about the patients, they said. 

I also read a prayer book, and one nurse asked if she could read it during a lunch break. When she returned it, I noticed she was reading the part about being a praying parent. Or another nurse who shared her story about her brother, who was on drugs, and how she fears for her young boys. Ordinary people, with their own troubles, yet they never let on, as you're their first priority, and they excel at their work on long 12-hour shifts. I have never appreciated and realised this until my time there, and if you're a frontline worker… Thank You! 

A few things pulled me through this challenging time, and the staff at Vergelegen MediClinic was one of them. The other was a message I got on WhatsApp one night; it was a video of some of my friends praying with my mother outside my ward in the hospital parking lot. It brought me to tears, and I knew then, I would get through this. My oxygen levels would pick up, and I would go home soon.

I also don't know what I would do without my parents who drove daily to drop medication, and meals for my family, and anything else they needed. Or my friends in Durban who sent groceries, and then couldn't find food for themselves a a week later due to the unrest. The hundreds of messages of daily check-ins, and offers of help in any form.



The support, love, constant messages, and prayers were monumental and kept me going. I was more determined to get home to my husband and baby girl. Nothing is more moving than the power in prayer. Our friends also went to our home and prayed for my husband and daughter the following evening, for losing his dad, and for strength and healing as they were both positive too. 

My husband lost his mother just three years ago. We had seen his dad just a week before; how could he be gone? He couldn't even bear to tell me himself; he was so worried about how it would affect me being sick and didn't know how to break the news. It hurt so bad that I couldn't be with him, to let him cry in my arms, and just be there for him. I couldn't even see him, except when they came to my hospital window a couple of times after they were out of isolation. Thank God they were asymptomatic.

I couldn't be there when he needed me the most or be by his side for the funeral. I think that's what kills Covid victims faster – the loneliness, the thought of dying alone without loved ones, no visits, sometimes no calls. Nothing. I pray their souls will rest peacefully. 

At the beginning of this pandemic, death stats were just that – numbers. Now, it's a loved one or more, every day. People we know by name, by heart, or who we grew up with. Our family, our friends' loved ones. The old aunties and uncles in our church. Our neighbours, their loved ones. It's too much, all the time. Saying "I'm so sorry for your loss" has never been said so many times. 

We were never made for such heartbreak, so much sadness. How do we keep the light shining? With that said, I had never felt so loved, and it probably saved my life.  



Life does go on, and I am back at work, and I missed motoring. I'll be writing about licences again soon; it's still a problem for many - especially those abroad with expired driving licences. I hope if your driving licence has expired locally, you have gone and renewed it or use one of the many services available to help with vehicle licence renewals or booking appointments in Gauteng before the deadline at the end of August.

I'll say again, though, nurses and frontline workers are highly unappreciated, and we need to change that, even if it's just for the sake of our sanity. To all the nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, hospital cleaners, kitchen staff, thank you for what you do so unselfishly.

To the staff at Vergelegen MediClinic and BusaMed ER, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart, I will never forget any of you.

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