WOMEN'S DAY | Covid-19 survivor Faith Tshwane: When virus hit SA I was not afraid, I was ready to serve

09 August 2021 - 08:53
By shonisani tshikalange AND Shonisani Tshikalange
Faith Tshwane says after 30 years in health care she still enjoys the rush of working in casualty.
Image: Supplied Faith Tshwane says after 30 years in health care she still enjoys the rush of working in casualty.

Having worked in the healthcare profession for more than 30 years, Faith Tshwane relishes the opportunity to help people — even in a pandemic.

The 58-year-old from Orlando East, Soweto, says when Covid-19 infections first hit SA, she was ready to serve.

“I was prepared. I didn’t have fear of this Covid-19. People were so scared; with me it was like Covid-19 is just like any other sickness,” she said.

Her experience in the field helped too.

“You feel satisfied that you were able to assist the person,” she said.

“With nursing, you really have to like it, you have to have the passion for it. I love casualty, I love this rush thing, I don’t want to do one thing every day.”

Tshwane, who works at the Hillbrow community health centre and is now also on the Covid-19 committee that was formed during the pandemic, said: “I was the first nurse who started swapping patients [to treat those with the virus] when doctors didn’t want to do that.

“People were very scared and I understand where they were coming from. With the demonstrations that we got, when they showed us how to do the swapping, people felt that it was just a demonstration and it was not training. But I said the demonstration is part of training — that is when I started to do the swapping.”

She was diligent about observing Covid-19 hygiene protocols: “I used to take off my clothes at my doorstep and my son would bring me a gown to wear and I would wash even my keys.”

Though she subsequently contracted Covid-19 herself, not during the patient swaps, she sees it as having had a positive impact: “I was the first one to have Covid-19 in my family and I made everyone feel that you can overcome Covid-19.”

Tshwane passionately provides vaccine education to the eligible people standing in the queue at the Hillbrow vaccination centre in Johannesburg's inner city.

“I have seen in my family whereby it took two people and we buried them on the same day. Two weeks back I was burying my uncle and aunt — my uncle died on July 11 and the wife died on the 12th because of this Covid-19. I insisted that they must come and vaccinate but they did not listen.

“The very same Thursday when we were burying them, coming back I also heard that my friend working in another health facility also died of Covid-19.”

Vaccine hesitancy is easing, though. “Working at the vaccination site, I can see that the very ones who did not want to come are coming to vaccinate and I am glad,” she said.

“It’s busy these days, so we are vaccinating close to 500 people [a day]. When we started it was 190 to 200, and after the president said we must do the 35-49 age group, that’s when the numbers went up.”

Her secondment to the vaccination site gave her professional satisfaction in a way she hadn't anticipated.

“I enjoy giving health education,” she said. “When people ask questions, you find that you excel and it comes from nowhere. I never thought I would be able to speak to a large crowd, giving them health education and in almost all the languages — when I am doing that I also surprise myself!”

Tshwane's retirement is pending, and she's ready to hand over the mantle to younger nurses.

“There are young children I must give space to, so that they can work.”