Lessons in lockdown: Hope, family & surviving COVID-19

Lessons in lockdown: Hope, family & surviving COVID-19

Date: February 18, 2021
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By Kubi Rama,

Johannesburg, 18 February: I am writing this piece as part of the GL series “lessons learnt during lockdown.” The deadline is past. I struggled to write this piece. My 12-year old son, Keshav, and I tested positive for COVID-19 on the 7 January 2021.

My momentary response was blind panic. I know the science says that children are not as badly affected as adults. In that instant the science did not matter. My child had tested positive for a potentially fatal virus. My own diagnosis did not quite register.

Before the fear could overwhelm me I kicked into planning and organising mode. COVID reality set in. As Colleen (Lowe Morna) says the devil is in the detail. Keshav used barrier tape to divide our house! We could not touch any light switches or door handles. No entry into the kitchen or any other non-designated areas.

Dependence was a new feeling. We had to ask for everything we needed. A real challenge for me not so much for Keshav. The order of the day became temperature checks, measuring oxygen levels and managing tiredness.

After the initial flurry of activity, the mind began reeling again. The dominant feeling was fear. Fear for my child. Fear that my daughter, husband and family especially my 79-year old mum will be infected as well. And then perhaps the most difficult of all, facing my own mortality. There was so much left for me to do and experience.

My nephew and his wife were expecting our family’s first great grandchild in mid-January. The first in the next generation of my family. More fear that I would not meet our baby girl and that if the worst happened her birth would be marred.

I have never been more conscious of breathing as a source of life. Sleep was elusive as I constantly checked my oxygen levels. One part of me was so grateful that my symptoms were mild the other so fearful that could change in heartbeat.

As a good activist I came up with a strategy. In this time of COVID I would try to be as normal as possible. Everyday became a goal, counting down to day ten when I could come out of isolation. I continued working as best as I could. It helped me to focus on other things. The fear can be so all-consuming.

Two of us contracted COVID in a family of four who spent the all their time together in days leading up to our diagnosis. Keshav’s symptoms were more severe than mine. COVID-19 is unpredictable. But then so is life. This too came into sharp focus.

During this time Gender Links announced my appointment as Executive Director. I received so much love and affirmation from my GL family, friends and other family. This was a reminder of how life despite all its challenges has to go on.

I gave myself a woman-to-woman talk and started thinking about all the wonderful parts of my life.

I was so excited about the impending birth of our girl. She was our hope in these tough times. She was born on 17 January and goes by the name, Sovika Yi Kiu Rama. She is truly amazing!

Every morning I would receive a call at 6h00 (the first of many during the course of the day) from my mum to see if I was well. I would laughingly say to her, “Mummy I am supposed to be ill why are you waking me up so early?” I cannot express how much that 6am call meant. Just to add she was ready to get on plane and come to Johannesburg to look after us. Needless to say this decision was vetoed. I am so grateful for her and everything that she is.

I come from a very close family. Of course my two siblings were ever present, teasing me and laughing with and at me! As usual. Through it all I felt their fear and more importantly their unwavering love.

My brother-in-law, a neurosurgeon, would call me every day, and have long conversations. Partly a medical consultation. Later he told me he would be monitoring my breathing to ensure I was not struggling. A humble, wonderful soul who shows us how much he cares through his actions.

My nephews and nieces would send messages everyday requiring updates. I mandated Keshav with this responsibility. They received a daily update at 8h00 every morning. My niece, Jiara, based in the UK asked to video call because she just wanted to see us and be assured we were well.

My daughter, Inika, moved in with a friend at my request albeit reluctantly after testing negative. Keshav and I had to commit to multiple daily video calls. She struggled being away from us. She would pop in every day with various goods for the household.

Her constant refrain was that she just wanted to hug us. In fact, one day she covered herself with a black bin bag so she could hug us. Needless to say she was prevented from doing so.

Vernon, the husband and father, literally did everything for Keshav and I. Every meal, anything else we needed. He had an alarm set every two hours when he came to look at us to see if all was well. As my family says we had the best possible nursing care!

Some clichéd observations. Life is about who you have not what you have. The trappings do not matter. Throughout the pandemic I said to my kids if you have somewhere to live, food to eat and enough to survive on, be grateful.

I will now add you are alive and you have family.

I am not a hero because I had COVID-19 and survived. I do not need a T-shirt. My heart breaks for everyone who has lost someone to COVID-19. I know it is very difficult to hold on to hope and count our blessings.

I carry the picture of Keshav hugging Vernon on day eleven. He hugged him so hard, Vernon could barely breathe. Neither let go. Hope and family got me through. I know I will never take either for granted again. This is my greatest lesson in lockdown.

Kubi Rama is the Executive Director of Gender Links

3 thoughts on “Lessons in lockdown: Hope, family & surviving COVID-19”

MAS says:

A very moving testimony Kubi. Thank you for sharing. God bless

Logan Naidu says:

Wow, a touching real life scenario of what goes on when tested positive for covid, from an incredible and outstanding person, Kubi. Thank you.

Naledi says:

What a touching story sister but at the same time inspiring, teaching us to be positive and be there for one another at all times. This is a real lesson indeed sister Kubi. We thank God for His protection over you and your family.

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