Anischa Morris was looking forward to welcoming her second child – but when she fell ill with Covid, doctors had no choice but to perform an emergency Caesarean. More than anything, the Cape Town mom wanted to hold her daughter but it wasn’t to be: while the baby thrived, Anischa was kept in isolation and just got sicker and sicker.
“If I don’t make it out of here, Mommy, just remember that I love you all.”
These were her heartbreaking words to her mother, Deidre, just before she went into ICU and was forever robbed of the opportunity to meet her newborn, Azariah.
The 24-year-old was 34 weeks pregnant and expecting her second child with partner Ashley Robyn (25), when she tested positive for Covid after developing flu symptoms in early December.
“We took her to hospital and she was given flu medication and had a Covid-19 test and was sent back home,” Deidre from Ocean View, Cape Town, explains.
“The next day she called me to tell me that she tested positive for coronavirus and that she and Ashley would be in isolation together.”
But Anishca’s condition worsened and on 12 December she was admitted to hospital where oxygen was administered to help her with her breathing.
“As we were rushing her to the hospital, I had to distract her to keep her awake so that she didn’t black out,” Deirdre recalls.
Later that evening she was transferred to Groote Schuur Hospital to undergo an emergency C-section because the baby wasn’t getting enough oxygen.
“She called me and said she’d welcomed a healthy baby and we were so happy,” Deirdre recalls.
But Anishca was bitterly disappointed that she couldn’t see her newborn because she had Covid.
Deidre describes Anishca – or Nishca as she was known to her family – as always a very positive, fun-loving, people person but says being kept apart from her infant really took its toll.
“While she was in the hospital she was so miserable, she would call me in tears and sometimes short of breath. All she wanted was to see her daughter and as her mother, I felt so hopeless because there was nothing I could do,” the grandmother-of-two adds.
“In the days that followed, Nishca would call me hysterical, crying, screaming and saying that she just wanted to see her baby even if it was a picture,” she says.
It wasn’t until 23 December that the hospital finally discharged baby Azariah, sadly without her mother.
“I sent her so many videos and pictures of the baby and she’d always say, ‘Thank you, Mommy, for all that you are doing for me’, and I’d tell her, ‘You’re my child, you don’t have to thank me’.”
In a lengthy post on her Facebook page on Christmas Eve, Anishca updated friends on her condition.
She shared the birth of her daughter, her struggles with breathing but remained hopeful that she would return home to her family and children.
“This is something nobody should play with,” she cautioned. “You don't know where you'll get it from. Guys stay safe out there. Do what you have to do to avoid contracting the virus.”
“I called her on Christmas and said that we weren’t doing anything special, I hadn’t even cooked – it was like any other normal day,” Deidre says. “I said I’d prepare a big lunch for her to make up for Christmas when she gets discharged and make her gammon.”
But it wasn’t to be.
Deidre says her daughter’s health deteriorated at an alarming rate – so much so that after spending a week in the Covid-19 maternity ward, she was moved to the Covid-19 ward and a week later, transferred to ICU after contracting Covid-19 pneumonia.
This is where the virus affects both lungs which leads to an infection that results in inflammation in the lung air sacs.
The last time Deidre spoke to her daughter was on 4 January. A week later she was finally able to visit her but by this point Anishca was on a ventilator.
“That wasn’t my daughter lying there that I saw that day,” she says. “Her eyes were taped shut, she had pipes coming into her nose and mouth, she was swollen and looked so cold.”
Deidre was devastated.
“I cried so much, I just kept on thinking that the only contact we had was through the phone, she never got to hold her daughter and see her,” she says tearfully.
A few days later a doctor phoned and warned her that she should brace herself for the worst because Anishca might not make it through the night.
And in the early hours of the morning she got the news she’d been dreading.
“I still remember that day clearly – it was 2.08 am on 14 January when I got a call from the hospital. I was still awake because I struggled to put a restless Azariah down – the doctor said that they did everything they could but Anishca had died 20 minutes ago.”
Deidre is still struggling to come to terms with the loss.
“It feels like she’s still in hospital, like she’ll be coming home soon,” she says. “Knowing we will never see her warm smile and green eyes again is just so painful.”
She says her daughter’s partner is “destroyed” and their four-year-old son, Aziah, often cries in his sleep for his mom.
But she adds that they are taking comfort from the huge amount of support they’ve received from members of their community.
More than anything, she would like to spare others the heartbreak of losing loved ones to Covid – and that’s why she’s speaking up.
“This is not just about Nishca,” Deidre says. “It’s also to create awareness about the reality of this virus. It’s not a joke and, sadly, its severity is only realised when it hits closer to home.”