MY STORY | ‘My late husband was Groote Schuur Hospital’s longest Covid ICU patient’

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Winston Cogill died after a long battle with Covid-19. (PHOTO: Supplied)
Winston Cogill died after a long battle with Covid-19. (PHOTO: Supplied)

Claire Cogill, a 53-year-old small business owner from Diep River in Cape Town’s southern suburbs, hoped her husband, Winston (54), would pull through and come home to her.

But it wasn’t to be. Although he seemed like he’d make it after spending 122 days in Groote Schuur Hospital, Winston, a data analyst, slipped away in July.

This is Claire’s story.

“Winston’s battle with Covid-19 started in early October last year when he developed flu-like symptoms. Initially he downplayed them, saying it was just a cold. That’s the kind of person Winston was – he wouldn’t tell you when he was sick.

However, his condition deteriorated, and he agreed to go to Victoria Hospital in Wynberg where he tested positive for Covid.

At the time, I was quite relaxed. I assumed he’d probably be there for two weeks or so and then come home healthy again.

Claire and Winston would have celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary this year. (PHOTO: Supplied)

Two days later he was transferred to Groote Schuur Hospital. He spent five days in a general ward before he was moved to the intensive care unit because his oxygen levels were dropping.

Just before they transferred him to ICU, I spoke to him on the phone and he told me he was doing better – but shortly afterwards the hospital called to say he’d been sedated.

There wasn’t much time to be emotional about things because I had to jump in and manage the house without Winston. We don’t have children together but Winston’s daughter, Hannah (21), lives with us.

He improved enough to come off sedation and we’d video call almost every day. Winston was on a ventilator so he couldn’t talk but he managed to communicate with hand gestures.

Looking back now, those four months he spent in hospital are a blur.

Every day was the same. He’s in hospital, fighting for his life, and I need to steer the ship over here.

With his daughter Hannah, who is studying to become a lawyer. (PHOTO: Supplied)

We took it one day and one step at a time.

In March, after 122 days in ICU, Winston was finally released from hospital. When he came home, Hannah and I were so excited.

He spent the first two weeks in bed but thereafter was determined to regain his strength. He’d set weekly goals, like walking a little further every day, and would record every achievement to send to family and friends.

One of the last things he achieved was to walk without a frame. We really thought he was moving forward.

In April we celebrated his 54th birthday, my birthday, as well as Hannah’s 21st. On Hannah’s birthday we enjoyed a family breakfast together. It was incredibly special for Winston to experience that.

But it wasn’t long before he started complaining of pain in his back and chest. The chest pain worried me because I thought it might be a problem with his lungs as he was still on oxygen.

Then he got a rash on his back which quickly became hard and painful. I Googled different types of rashes and saw one that resembled his. It said it was shingles, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

The family got to celebrate one last birthday with Winston this year before he died. (PHOTO: Supplied)

We immediately went to the doctor and Winston was put on antiviral medication.

After being in hospital for so long, Winston had a newfound love for sitting in the sun. One Friday afternoon, after enjoying the warm sunshine, I had to beg him to come inside the house and eat his soup. That night we went to bed early because I could see he was battling with his breathing.

When we woke up the next morning he wasn’t responsive. It was as if he were in a daze. I took him back to the hospital and he was immediately put on a ventilator in the casualty department. But he needed to be in ICU for specialist care while on the vent and there was no bed for him.

He died soon afterwards.

It was difficult for me to accept but the world had changed so much for him and was filled with pain and suffering.

In my heart I know he’s in a better place, but my head can’t accept it.

It’s going to take time.”

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