GARDEN ROUTE DISTRICT NEWS - Though the incidence of Covid-19 in the Garden Route is increasing fast, most of us have not yet experienced it ourselves and it is easy to be fearful. However, we would do well to stay calm, while keeping the prescribed safety guidelines.
The experience of Dr Anthony Petrie (63), who works at George Hospital, may help us manoeuvre these trying times.
“The majority of the population of South Africa could contract the virus, so it is then a question not of ‘if’ but ‘when’,” he says. “The majority will also only have mild to moderate symptoms and not require medical help. But for those who do need medical help, it is essential that hospitals continue to have the resources they need. This is the imperative rationale in slowing the spread as much as possible. So, if you care for a single person other than yourself, employ these tools religiously to give them the best chance of living through this pandemic,” he urges.
“It’s here, it’s not going to disappear and the tools of hand hygiene, sanitising, social distancing, and wearing masks are clearly the best we have in slowing the speed of the spread of this pandemic,” says Petrie.
When Petrie received his positive result, he could not believe it. It was only when he received an e-mail confirming his diagnosis, that he accepted that he had Covid-19. “Disbelief was quickly followed by a sense of fatalism – I’d just have to wait and see what happened,” he says. Like many other patients, he only experienced mild flu-like symptoms, sinusitis and sneezing when diagnosed with COVID-19.
Petrie, a smoker, is also seen as high risk because of his age. Following his diagnosis, he self-isolated for 14 days. He says he is privileged to live on a smallholding in Hoekwil, George, with enough space to isolate from his wife. His biggest challenge was arranging separate kitchen times to prepare their meals separately. He says that his wife was a pillar of strength during this period.
Despite his fear and the uncertainty, Petrie explains that remote contact with his family and friends carried him through his isolation. “My extended family here, in Cape Town, and around the world, telephoned and e-mailed with kind wishes and support. My colleagues and the management of George Hospital were very forthcoming in supportive messages,’ he said.
Being a doctor in the mental health ward at George Hospital, he knew that the mental part of his journey was just as important as the physical. “Initially, every day I would wake with unease wondering if this would be the day things deteriorated, but I found myself thinking of what my parents might have said in times of trouble. My mother would have said ‘Count your blessings’. My father would have said ‘Fix what you can and do the best you can’. So that’s what I tried to do. I was able to take my dogs on a strenuous walk on my property every morning without coming into contact with anyone else. This helped to reassure me that my exercise tolerance was not changing. I continued as far as possible to work from home through webinars and teleconferencing. I also read a lot,” says Dr Petrie of his time in isolation.
Petrie says he is very thankful that he got through it. Although something small like a microscopic virus has changed the world as we know it in a short time, one has to focus on the joys of daily existence and be grateful for the things one used to take for granted.
He thanks all dedicated health staff who are serving the province. “Our security personnel, clerks, cleaners, kitchen staff, porters, maintenance teams, management, doctors, and especially our nurses. All of these staff members literally put their well-being on the line every day, selflessly. Thank you for what you do for the residents of the Western Cape.”
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