‘You are not just another statistic’: Nurse succumbs to Covid-19

18 June 2020 - 08:18 By Zamandulo Malonde
Friends and colleagues of Livingstone Hospital nursing sister Merle Jacobs, who died after contracting Covid-19, have told of their love for her.
Friends and colleagues of Livingstone Hospital nursing sister Merle Jacobs, who died after contracting Covid-19, have told of their love for her.

Her bubbly, fun-loving  personality brightened up the ward and she always made herself available to people who needed her help.

This is how friends and colleagues of Merle Jacobs, 42, a much-loved nurse at Port Elizabeth's Livingstone Hospital who died late last month after contracting Covid-19, remembered her this week.

In a moving tribute to Jacobs posted on Facebook, Livingstone doctor Adam Woodford wrote: “It happened so quickly. I had so much I wanted to thank you for, and I couldn’t give it to you in person once you were in ICU.

“I had hoped and prayed you were going to make it. I promise you, you are not just another statistic.”

Jacobs, the diabetic mother of a four-year-old boy, worked in the hospital’s medical ward.

She tested positive for Covid-19 on May 23 and died in Greenacres Hospital’s ICU unit on May 31, reports HeraldLIVE.

Her colleague and close friend Renee Africander said this week that she and Jacobs started working together in 2013 and had become best friends.

She described Jacobs as a bubbly and energetic colleague who always strove to ensure her patients were comfortable.

“She was always doing something for someone, she even organised to have flowers in the ward, saying she’s trying to make it a more welcoming space for patients and their families,” Africander said.

“It didn’t matter how bad a mood you were in, she would crack a joke and laugh at it herself and you had no choice but to laugh at her too.”

Africander said she, Jacobs and two other Livingstone colleagues had formed a strong friendship and had socialised outside work.

Before she took ill, Jacobs had suggested that the four of them go on a girls’ getaway once it was safe to travel.

“When she was sick, I told her husband to remind her that we still have plans to go and relax after this whole thing.

“I didn’t know she would be gone by now because she was fine and we were laughing not so long ago,” Africander said.

Jacobs’s grieving husband, Lionel, said their son, Haydon, understood that his mother was never coming back.

“For his age, he has taken it quite well. He says he knows that mom is now an angel and tells me not to be sad.

“He also says he doesn’t want to go to a hospital because mommy didn’t come back from there,” said Lionel, who celebrated his birthday on Tuesday without his wife for the first time in 14 years.

“I miss her smile and laughter,”  he said, adding that Merle had been his high school sweetheart.

“We talked about — and made — so many plans together and now that she’s not here, I don’t know how to make sense of it all.”

Lionel said Merle had been asked to self-isolate at home late in May after nine patients in her ward tested positive for the coronavirus.

She started displaying flu symptoms and, when she began suffering shortness of breath, was admitted to hospital on May 23. Her test results came back positive the same day.

“My wife was very passionate about her job and, even though she knew it was risky, she often said that someone had to do the job,” Lionel said.

“She loved and cared for her patients so much that even at home she would be on the phone with colleagues who were on duty after her shift, reminding them of things to give to the patients.

“Recently I was contacted by someone on Facebook saying they were grateful for the way my wife had cared for their grandparent at the hospital,”  he said.

Woodford, who worked with Jacobs from time to time since 2018, said the hospital had lost one of its best professional nurses.

“Sister Jacobs was always available to help with things she didn’t even have to do as a nurse.

“I remember there was a patient who had been with us for some time and had so many drips that he started running out of veins, so it became very difficult to target a vein.

“When I was doing my rounds, I arrived to Sister Jacobs busy putting on the drip, whereas other people would have waited for the doctor to do it, and I promised to get her a chocolate for doing a good job but I never did,” Woodford said.

Jacobs was buried on June 3.