Namibia: It's Not Just the Flu, Woman Says After Battle With Covid-19

Lydia Hewicke (53) says it was her faith in God that pulled her through a 10-week battle with the feared novel coronavirus.

Hewicke was released from hospital two weeks ago after spending three weeks in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Windhoek Mediclinic, and five more weeks in a 'normal' ward.

Speaking to The Namibian at her home last week, Hewicke said in July this year she felt weak, had chest pains and a fever.

She was admitted to hospital, got tested for the virus, and her results came back positive on 28 July.

She had no idea how she got the virus.

Her oxygen level was at 80, which is way below the normal 90.

Hewicke, a Grade 3 teacher at Moses Garoëb Primary School, knew her family needed to be tested.

"I knew they would all be sick. I also knew it did not start with me, because I didn't infect anyone. Even my pupils were all fine," she said.

Her husband, sister's daughter and nanny tested positive, but her grandchild and daughter, who stay in an outside room, tested negative.

Hewicke and her husband were both admitted to the Mediclinic, while the other two were sent to an isolation facility.

Hewicke ended up in the ICU from 31 July to 24 August.

"I was struggling to breathe and I was on machines which were helping me. The moment they removed the machine so I could eat, or drink medicine, it was not easy. They needed to hurry when taking them off, because my oxygen would drop," she said.

During the first week the hospital's nurses would feed her, and in the second week she could feed herself, but a nurse would monitor her oxygen levels.

"If it dropped really low I had to stop eating immediately," she said. As if this wasn't enough, Hewicke's appendix ruptured while in ICU and her stomach had to be drained.

On 24 August she left the ICU and was transferred to the Covid-19 isolation unit for observation. Here she stayed for a little over a month before being moved to a normal ward.

Hewicke said her body was very weak and she needed a physiotherapist to help her walk.

FIRST VISIT

She received her first hospital visit on 26 September from her sister's daughter.

Her family could not visit for the entire two months, even after she tested negative on 24 August, as doctors did not want to risk her getting sick again.

Hewicke said she would listen to voice notes sent by friends and family to feel more connected to the outside world.

"I used to cry because I missed my family, but the Holy Spirit visited me, saying crying would hurt me since my heart would weaken," she said.

When her niece visited, she did not cry, but was very excited, she said.

"I didn't want her to leave; she is generally a person of love. She clipped my toe nails since I could not reach them and we just talked," she said.

Hewicke was finally discharged on 6 October, which is also her daughter's birthday.

"God gave me a double blessing: the blessing to be discharged and that on my daughter's birthday. I could not give her anything other than my presence," she said.

Dr Stefan Smuts, chief clinical officer of Mediclinic Southern Africa, last week said communication and contact with family members are restricted in clinics' isolation wards.

"To overcome this, interaction via telephone is encouraged to maintain the family connections. We are delighted that Mrs Hewicke was safely discharged last week, and wish her well as she continues her journey to full health," he said.

Dr Ismael Katjitae, who treated Hewicke, said he had to rely on his own medical knowledge as Remdesevir at the time was not available in the country.

Remdesivir is an antiviral drug used in patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms. The drug has been shown to possibly shorten the recovery period from Covid-19 and lower the death rate.

Katjitae said when he first met Hewicke, she was a bit short of breath but could still function. She did not have any comorbidities and did not need a ventilator, but used a breathing mask or high-flow nasal cannula.

"She is a very strong woman. She was adamant she would get out alive . . . and she had the trust in us," he said.

Katjitae said Hewicke was pleasant to deal with and was constantly encouraged by the nurses and physiotherapists.

"Her individual commitment, belief and character pulled her through," he said.

NOT JUST THE FLU

Hewicke warned Namibians not to think Covid-19 is 'just the flu'.

"What kind of flu kills so many people? Covid should not be taken as a joke," she said.

She urged the public to adhere to health regulations.

Hewicke thanked Katjitae, and the nurses and staff at the clinic for taking care of her.

"The nurses were so supportive, caring and loving. Even with the protective clothes, they never feared when they were handling me and they worked so hard," she said.

She said she can already feel an improvement in her health since leaving the clinic.

"I can go five to six hours without requiring oxygen from a machine. I walk a bit in our yard in the mornings and afternoons to exercise my legs. I also have a device that regulates the oxygen level in my body," she said.

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