Faith and vaccine saw her through Covid hell
● As a devout Christian, Ester le Grange used to recite the verse from Psalm 23 that says, “even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”.
That valley is exactly where the nursing manager found herself when she contracted Covid-19 after watching numerous patients succumb to the virus. Looking back in disbelief this week at the year since last Easter, when the pandemic’s first wave had barely got under way, she said her faith in God had been key to her survival.
“Going to work literally became more like walking through the valley of the shadow of death as more people died daily,” said the 61year-old, who works at Mitchells Plain Hospital in Cape Town.
Then she was diagnosed with Covid-19. “My faith in God is very strong, so most of the time I was always the stronger one who would encourage my colleagues, but when I was diagnosed with Covid-19 there was partial fear that I might die as I have comorbidities, including diabetes and hypertension, and I’m over 60.”
Now Le Grange, who had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine a few weeks ago, is optimistic. “The enthusiasm that I’ve seen towards taking the vaccine makes me hopeful for the future. The extra protection that the vaccine has, has given me confidence to face the third wave and hopefully celebrate next Easter without so many restrictions.”
Noma-Roma Somana, a nursing manager in a Covid-19 intensive care unit at Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha, said she was one of only four staff who had volunteered for duty in the hospital’s Covid-19 ward at the start of the outbreak.
“Colleagues were scared because they had seen the devastation the virus had caused in China and Italy,” she said. “The day we started, I stood in the doorway and I said, ‘Lord, this is our calling and you will be the one to protect and guide us’.”
Somana, who lost her grandmother, brother and two cousins to Covid-19, said one of the most difficult things for healthcare workers was to explain to grieving relatives the need to wrap the bodies of Covid-19 victims in plastic.
“Culturally it’s frowned upon, so people rejected it initially. People here have so much respect for the dead and still wanted to carry out family rituals which they could no longer perform. So it took a long time for families to adjust to the new normal,” she said. “Some threatened to unwrap the bodies when they got home, and some did, which encouraged the spread of the virus even more.”