MY STORY | Life-threatening Covid changed me from an anti-vaxxer to a vaccine advocate

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Vinessa Joubert spent 42 days in an ICU after contracting the coronavirus. (PHOTO: Supplied)
Vinessa Joubert spent 42 days in an ICU after contracting the coronavirus. (PHOTO: Supplied)

She was an anti-vaxxer – hearsay and false information about the Covid-19 vaccine persuaded her to avoid the jab.

But when Vinessa Joubert (46) from Highlands Estate in Cape Town contracted the virus and spent 42 days in an ICU, she knew she had to take the vaccine once she recovered.

This is her story.

“At the end of June, my husband, Mark, who works in the finance sector, called me to say a colleague he’d been in close contact with had tested positive for Covid-19. I started to panic. I said to him, ‘oh my gosh, I’m going to die because I’m a type 2 diabetic’.

Mark, who I’ve been married to for two years, was immediately sent home and told to isolate. He developed mild flu-like symptoms and then after three days I developed a fever and lost my sense of taste and smell.

Vinessa Joubert and Mark
Vinessa and her husband, Mark, contracted the virus in July. (PHOTO: Supplied)

On 5 July I went for a Covid test and the next day I received a message saying I was positive. I feared the worst. The next morning my husband took me to the hospital as my fever was 38 degrees.

I was treated by the trauma staff who took tests and told me my blood pressure and sugar levels were extremely high.

READ MORE | I’m only 25 but Covid has left me a widow and a single mom of two tiny children

Doctors put me on a drip and sent me for X-rays on my lungs. I was then transferred to Lentegeur hospital but my condition deteriorated and I was taken to Groote Schuur Hospital because staff at Lentegeur weren’t equipped to care for severe Covid patients.

I was admitted to the high care ward and immediately put on high-flow oxygen. I suffered terrible nose bleeds and struggled to breathe. Then one morning, I woke up gasping for air and was told by the nursing staff to sleep on my stomach, which was a struggle because the beds were small.

Things went from bad to worse and on 12 July I was put on a ventilator and moved to the ICU.

I was under sedation and in a coma for around three weeks. When I woke up I saw doctors and nurses and machines all around me and I panicked – I didn’t even know where I was.

Vinessa Joubert hospital
Vinessa in hospital. She was under sedation and in a coma for around three weeks. (PHOTO: Supplied)

Professor Richard van Zyl-Smit, who is a consultant pulmonologist working on Groote Schuur's ICU Covid wards, told me that it was touch and go for me and that I’d been through hell and back. My oxygen saturation levels dropped below 80, which was in the danger zone and doctors thought I wouldn’t make it.

I was on the ventilator in ICU for 42 days. I was like a baby, very dependent on the medical staff. I couldn’t even do basic things like feed myself, brush my hair or bathe. I was then moved to the general ward and was discharged a week later on 1 September.

READ MORE | ‘My late husband was Groote Schuur Hospital’s longest Covid ICU patient’

My recovery has been very difficult. I have pins and needles in my feet, hair loss, joint pains, muscle loss, fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, shortness of breath, and ongoing psychological trauma from being in ICU.

My mom, Savy, and husband have played a phenomenal role in my recovery. They’ve helped me with breathing exercises, made sure I get my meals on time, helped me to walk and administered my medication.

I’ve been told it’ll take about a year for my lungs to recover to full capacity. I used go for 10km hikes, now I’m only able to walk 2km.

Before falling ill, I made the decision not to go for the vaccine. The negative information and hearsay all had an impact on me. Covid also hadn’t really affected me in any way – I was working from home and I followed Covid-19 protocols whenever I had to go out, which was seldom. I thought I was safe – that Covid wouldn’t get me. Why did I need the vaccine?

Now I’m the biggest Covid advocate around. I know the jab will save my life and it will save other lives too. I tell everybody I know to get the jab. I can’t wait to get vaccinated so that if I do get Covid again, I won’t get as sick as I did. I’m going to go for my first jab next week.

Vinessa with her parents, Alvie and Shavy, who’ve played a huge role in her recovery. (PHOTO: Supplied)

I also want to thank Professor Van Zyl-Smit and the covid ICU medical staff for taking such good care of me. They saved my life, and they are my heroes.

Covid-19 isn’t a hoax and the vaccine is not the devil. I’ve been given a second lease on life to share my story.”

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