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KZN education spokesperson shares what kept him going during 23-day hospital Covid-19 battle

11 August 2020 - 13:15 By Nivashni Nair
Muzi Mahlambi spent 23 days in hospital.
Muzi Mahlambi spent 23 days in hospital.
Image: supplied

KwaZulu-Natal education department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi spent 23 days in hospital where he witnessed six patients die, learnt to adjust to the “new normal” and fought Covid-19.

He was supported by what he refers to as an “amazing” team of doctors and nurses.

“In the 18 days that I was in ICU six people died. It was so traumatic because you know when doctors and nurses rally around one bed and run around with a lot of machines that there is serious trouble. The next thing the curtains are drawn. The team wearing white comes with a white mobile coffin, they quickly close your curtains not to see but most of the time they were late to do so.

“The next thing a new patient comes and occupies that bed. The small terrified person in you wants to tell him or her to say people died in that bed and you are quickly reminded that you also know no history about yours,” he said.

Mahlambi was admitted to hospital on July 17.

Muzi Mahlambi was on oxygen for 18 of his 23 days in hospital.
Muzi Mahlambi was on oxygen for 18 of his 23 days in hospital.
Image: supplied

“In my 51 years of existence it was for the first time I went to hospital, let alone be admitted. I had flu symptoms that I tried to self-medicate. Four days later it became worse and  I went to the doctor where I got an injection and antibiotics. Four days later the chest pain and cough became unbearable. On July 17, my wife decided to take me to the hospital. I got admitted straight to ICU and that became my home for 18 days. I was put on oxygen for all these days,” he said.

While in hospital, Covid-19 positive was added to Mahlambi's name.

“Once in hospital and you are Covid-19 positive, your name changes. You become a code or a case. In your presence you are referred [to] as positive case and that is drummed throughout, especially when they change shifts. They would say this is Mr Mahlambi Covid-19 positive and these are his medications. I had to hear it at least 40 times a day because there are two shifts a day, morning and evening.”

His lungs were severely affected.

“This led to a painful chest and severe cough. Everyone in the ICU was coughing in different tunes but the sound of the coughing was a norm. It was painful, such that when it was not you coughing, you would not only hear the sound of another person coughing but you would feel his or her pain as if it's you coughing.”

Mahlambi was “wrapped” in plastic when he was transferred from the ICU to the high-care unit.

“One day I borrowed a pen from a nurse. When I had finished using it I wanted to take it back to her but she said wait let me put on the gloves. After putting on the gloves she took it and sanitised it and put it on the table, not in the drawer where she had taken it. I think she threw it away. It was worse when I had to be moved from ICU to high-care ward. My bed had to be wrapped in a big plastic with me inside. Covid-19, you really have brought a new normal.” 

Prayers kept Mahlambi going.

“Whenever I posted something on Facebook regarding my condition, I would get minimum of 700 comments per post and each and every comment would touch on God. The prayers kept me going.”

Mahlambi was discharged on Sunday.