Bouquets of flowers lift spirits of nurses working on Covid-19 front line

21 July 2020 - 16:00
By Kgaugelo Masweneng
Ubuntu Beds and Together We Bloom surprised health-care workers at Charlotte Maxeke hospital with bouquets of flowers spelling out the word
Image: Sunday Times/Thapelo Morebudi Ubuntu Beds and Together We Bloom surprised health-care workers at Charlotte Maxeke hospital with bouquets of flowers spelling out the word "heroes".

Health-care workers at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg were honoured on Tuesday for their bravery and service during the coronavirus pandemic in Gauteng.

They emerged from the hospital to be greeted by 250 potted bouquets of Cyclamen flowers - spelling out the word "heroes". 

Staff working on the front line against the virus said they appreciated the gesture from two NPOs, Ubuntu Beds and Together We Bloom.

Dealing with the impact of the pandemic has not been rosy for many of them, who are isolated from their families while treating patients and keeping the hospital functioning.

“I am alone, but not lonely.” This was the mantra repeated by midwife Phili Twala to keep herself sane - but she said they eventually rang hollow.

“This whole thing makes you feel alone. There’s no family time. The influx of people coming in is too much. We have no time to rest,” she said. 

“I deal with three things: Covid-19, a mother and the baby. That’s how careful I need to be. I had a breakdown recently. I don’t live with my family because I can’t risk their lives. You console yourself until the words start to mean nothing.”

Since the virus hit, hundreds of health-care workers have been infected, with nurses accounting for many of the cases. A lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), over-exposure due to shortage of staff and long commutes in public transport are all risk factors.

Twala is grateful that awareness of Covid-19 has improved. “I just want to say that if you’re going to wear your mask and not cover your nose, rather not do it,” she added. 

Many staff say the battle against the pandemic has been a lonely one. The flowers lifted their spirits.
Image: Sunday Times/Thapelo Morebudi Many staff say the battle against the pandemic has been a lonely one. The flowers lifted their spirits.

Lydia Motshwane, also a midwife, said there had been a shift in response by the public.

“At first, it was just a flu to society. Now it has become a big part of our lives and people are complying. The stats being released daily helps because everyone gets the message. The research being done has helped show how serious this disease is,” she said.

“My responsibility is to ensure I teach people the importance of compliance. 

“We feel special about the flowers but we know we are recognised and loved by the country,” she added.

'We are the last defence'

Charlotte Maxeke CEO Gladys Bogoshi said the pandemic has put strain on the logistics and running of the hospital.

“The fear is there within our staff. They are frustrated because they fear they could take the disease home. Your family is your comfort, but this time you can’t even lean on them. If someone has been exposed, you find that the whole team is also infected. But the work must continue because we have patients whose lives depend on us,” she said.

“When you come, you’re not guaranteed that you will stay in your ward, because if the pressure is in casualty or ICU, you may be asked to go there. This day means a lot, the gesture goes a long way because at least someone cares.

“The front line now is the community because that’s where the most infections take place. We are the last defence if all fails.”

Kim Whitaker, the founder of Ubuntu Beds, said the initiative was inspired by their friends in Lebanon, Baytna Baytak.

“We chose Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital as a space for the installation to show our appreciation for health-care heroes. They are one of the largest Covid-19 hospitals in Gauteng, and we have already accommodated many health-care workers from this hospital. We thought it a fitting space to celebrate our heroes.”

Stefan Zeelie of Together We Bloom said: “When a nation comes together, its people get the opportunity to bloom from a small seed into the beauty we see in everyone.”