The new year was not even two days old when 412 more medical personnel succumbed to the novel Covid-19 virus.
Theresa Coetzee, a home-base nurse at Centurion Hospice, was heart-broken as a few of her friends were among those who died. They became statistics, numbers that sprouted forth from President Cyril Ramaposa’s mouth. To Theresa, they were names. She worked with some of those nurses during her 22 years at Unitas Hospital, just a stone’s throw away from Centurion Hospice.
Theresa was on the frontline when the pandemic first hit South Africa – she put her own life at stake to look after patients who contracted the virus. “I was never afraid of Covid-19. When I entered the nursing profession, I knew that there were certain risks involved. But I pledged to care for and look after patients,” she said. “However, I did not leave the team at Unitas because of the gruelling hours, shortage of staff or pandemic fears.”
She joined Centurion Hospice in September last year because I wanted to work with the terminally ill and with elderly patients.”
Theresa believed that if hospitals (whether it is state or private) provide their staff with proper protective gear, the death rate would be lower. “I take strict precautions to protect myself and my patients from the virus. Before I enter the home of one of my patients, I put on a surgical mask and at least two pairs of gloves. Then a disposable gown,” she added.
Working as a palliative nurse, she said, has its cons, but it is much more rewarding than working as a general nurse. “My mother and father both died of cancer, and I was the one who looked after and cared for them until the day they died. That eventually led me to palliative care.”
Since starting at Centurion Hospice, Theresa has sat next to the death beds of many people. “I can sense death, and it is a privilege to help people prepare for the unknown.”