This year has been a nightmare for most of us, but especially over here at The Rabbit Haus. My husband, Francois works in tourism and owns a well established tour company called Wine Flies Tours. It relies mostly (and I mean 95%) on international tourists. In season, he has 5 or more tour busses out into the winelands every day. Above this, they also do private tours, Kruger Safaris and helicopter tours. When we hit lockdown, his business closed completely. He didn’t earn an income for almost 6 months and had a whole team of staff and tour guides to try support. I do marketing and PR for mostly the hospitality industry and I also write for a few other companies – mostly content and blog posts. I lost 80% of my clients during lockdown and the clients I did have, decreased their services to a minimum. The schools closed. The kids were adapting to home schooling and everything changed in what felt like seconds.
My dad (who I am extremely close to) let me know that he was leaving the country. For good. He lived in KZN, in my same childhood home. I quickly bought flights for him to come and say goodbye to us in Cape Town. I hadn’t seen my dad in over a year and all I wanted was a last hug, dinner, cup of tea and for him to see his only grandchildren before he left South Africa. A few days before his arrival, he caught wind that the airports were going to close and they had to move their UK flights forward. Immediately. I got a frantic voice note and my dad got on a plane to the United Kingdom that same day. I didn’t get to say goodbye. Out of all the ways that Covid affected me personally, that remains the worst.
Fast forward a few months and Francois and I completely restructured our businesses. I stepped in as the Marketing Manager of Wine Flies Tours, I started teaching again and I put my writing career in children’s books on hold. We launched an extensive PR campaign for local travel and got great coverage on television, radio and online media. Francois got bored and started making biltong fun fun, which quickly turned into a little business and he is now stocked at quite a few places around Cape Town. I picked up a few new additional clients, the kids were finding their groove at school and getting ready for their final exams. We booked a holiday to Mozambique and JUST as everything seemed to be going better… We all got Covid.
Monday, 23 November
Francois’ birthday was on Monday, 23 November. He woke up saying that he felt tired and that his body was sore, but we put it off to him being very tired. It’s the end of the year, we had been on holiday in Stanford for our wedding anniversary and had many late nights and far too many drinks. I genuinely thought he just had a 2-day hangover (which you know, is a thing). We even stopped to visit his dad in the morning (a diabetic) and I had arranged a little surprise party for him: A full day in the winelands with some of his best friends. We spent that Monday with at least 20 of our friends – eating, drinking and travelling together until at least 10pm that night. We had no idea. We did take Francois’ temperature on Monday morning just to be sure, and it was completely normal. Also – the tour bus we were in was seated according to Covid regulations, eg the bus can normally take 13 passengers, but we were at capacity of 9 passengers according to Covid regulations. The bus had also been fogged, sterilized and all passengers were checked for temperatures, hands sanitized etc. This is important later.
Tuesday, 24 November
On Tuesday morning, the kids came back home from a week with their dad. Noah was at school for an exam and Ben was just hanging at home with us. Francois felt bad, but still not like – “flu bad”. He said he felt like his body was really sore and he was feeling chills like hot and cold vibes. Not like a fever. He had no cough, no sore throat. Not even a sneeze. No temperature. I on the other hand started coughing a dry cough and also started feeling the chills. The worst was definitely the lethargy. I felt like even walking to the bathroom was impossible, but I had the kids and everything else to take care of.
Wednesday, 25 November
Our nanny came into work. Ben started getting cold symptoms so I kept him home from school just in case. I still honestly thought that we were just tired and probably just had a hangover from Francois’ all-day party on Monday. We had scares before. I have gotten sick with colds this year and so has Ben. We had been for Covid tests earlier this year which were negative. Not wanting to take a chance, Francois went for a test and by now we were letting the friends from Monday’s party know that three of us were sick. I got hit with the worst case of lethargy I had ever felt and I am counting having raised 2 newborns. I got into bed that afternoon and could not move. Francois and I were just like, critically exhausted. My cough was getting a bit worse but not bad – just the odd wet cough. No other symptoms except a really sore body and absolute exhaustion. Francois and I dragged ourselves to Lancet for his test. I stocked up on all the flu meds I always use: Corenza C, Myprodol, Vitamin C and Zinc for us. For the kids, I got Corenza C paediatric syrup and Stilpane syrup. If you’re a parent, you may know that Stilpane knocks a kid out like a sleeping pill, and I knew that Ben needed to sleep to help his body heal. My son Ben is asthmatic and is on chronic medication. He has been hospitalised a handful of times, making him high risk for Covid. Things were starting to get real very quickly at this point. I pulled the kids from school and told our nanny not to come in anymore. I still didn’t think that we had it, but I was just being safe.
Thursday, 26 November
I woke up feeling like I could never get out of bed again in my life. I almost wet the bed because walking the 2 meters to our en-suite bathroom seemed impossible. Francois was literally just groaning next to me. I checked on the kids, gave them more meds and got straight back into bed. At this point, I told Francois “This isn’t flu. Something is wrong.” The only thing that really set up alarm bells was the total exhaustion and inability to move, stand or walk. Francois and I felt really, really dizzy and spaced out. I slept in for a bit and got out of bed at lunch time. I still had to look after the kids, make sure they were studying, eating and sorting out their odd squabbles. I had a few urgent work matters and had to clean the house and still walk and take care of the dogs, rabbits and our cat. We survived on take-aways and lets just say that my kids ate a LOT of cereal.
Later that afternoon, Francois got the text. He was positive. By now my denial had disappeared and I went into full-on panic mode. We had to contact everyone we saw that Monday. We saw his dad who is high risk. All our closest friends. Our nanny had been in. The kids had been at school. I felt this feeling of total guilt and almost like, grief? I had to contact the school, pull the boys out of exams. At the same time it hit me that Ben is extremely high risk. The kid has ended up in hospital with a cold before. Asthma attacks are scary. We put ourselves in total lockdown. Obviously.
Friday, 27 November
All I could think about was monitoring Ben. The doctors wouldn’t see him and I was too scared to take him for a Covid test. It was very clear that we all had it. My other son, Noah absolutely NEVER gets sick. He had a headache for like 2 hours that week and that was it. Also, note that I started dosing Noah with all the same meds as soon as Ben got sick, so I think that definitely helped. We got a peak-flow meter (From Wynberg Pharmacy) which is a device that measures your lung capacity. I was advised to get Ben to blow into the device every 2 hours to see if his numbers were decreasing. I also got his emergency asthma meds (a strong cortisone called Aspelone) to boost his lungs above and beyond his regular meds. By the time I noticed a decline, I called our doctor who referred me to a Paediatrician who admitted Ben straight to the Paediatric Ward at our nearest hospital. By now, I was slowly getting my energy back but I was probably just running on adrenaline. We had run out of food at home and Francois was still very sick. He definitely got it the worst out of all of us. I had to leave Francois and Noah at home alone and stay over with Ben in isolation at the hospital.
They tested me and Ben straight away. The test itself is really sucky. We got swabbed around our tonsils which makes you want to hurl. I would much have preferred a blood test, to be honest. It seems like a stupid thing to even mention, but a lot of people ask what the test is like.
Ben was put on a nebuliser. This was Friday. Ben’s 10th birthday was on the upcoming Sunday and it looked like he was going to spend it in hospital.
The nurses couldn’t really come into our room because they had to put on like a dozen garments to even enter our ward. This meant that most of his medication was dropped at a table outside our room, which I would administer to Ben. I had to run his nebs and turn them off. I slept on a chair next to his bed and he struggled to sleep. His lung capacity wasn’t coming back up fast enough and would just drop every 2 hours again.
Saturday 28 November
If you’ve ever been in hospital with your kid, then you know that they wake you up at 5:30am. I was feeling super sick at this point and in my rush, hadn’t packed my own meds, toothbrush or even a change of clothes for myself. Obviously Ben had everything he needed because this is just how parents operate, right? The doctor came to check on Ben and didn’t want to discharge him as she felt that we would just come back again later. Knowing that it was Ben’s birthday the following day, she let us leave on condition that we purchase our own Nebulizer for at home, which we did. We ordered some groceries online and all of us literally just slept for what felt like a hundred years.
Sunday 29 November
Ben woke up feeling so much better. I actually felt 80% fine and Francois too. We had a cute little drive-by party and all the family dropped off cakes and presents for Ben. He really got spoiled rotten and was off his nebs by Sunday evening.
The following week…
We had another week of isolation to get through and were all feeling the cabin fever really badly. Luckily, we have a house in Stanford to we packed the family in the car to go isolate there. Our Stanford house has a big, beautiful garden so at least the kids and dogs would have more space to play and be active. We left on Monday and I asked my nanny to go to the house on Wednesday / Thursday to check on the cat and bunnies. She is a single lady living with another family, so she often stays over when we travel. Our Stanford house is my sanctuary.
On Wednesday our nanny told us that she was feeling sick. On Thursday her chest was severely tight. By Thursday evening she was taken to hospital for medication and a Covid test. I felt so helpless being all the way in Stanford, so I ordered groceries online for her to be delivered to the house. She had medicine and everything else she needed. By Friday she had tested positive. This meant that she had to stay at our house and was officially in quarantine. This also meant… that we could not go home. Apparently you can get Covid twice and if we went home and lived with her, we would need to go right back into isolation.
We would have just stayed in Stanford, but I had a meeting in Cape Town on Tuesday and the boys were also seriously missing their dad who they hadn’t seen in two weeks. We ended our quarantine, drove back to Cape Town, gave the kids to Graeme and then Francois and I had to check into a hotel. We stayed on Long Street for a week before we could come home on Friday afternoon.
Only 1 of our friends also tested positive for Covid. One who was at Francois’ birthday party that first Monday. Out of the other 20+ people we were with that day, everyone else was luckily fine.
Our nanny went home yesterday and she is feeling absolutely fine now. We are all 100% recovered. We did miss our holiday to Mozambique (you need a negative Covid test to get through the border) and the boys missed their final exams, class picnics and everything else. It’s the 12th of December and I haven’t even put up the damn Christmas Tree. We’re still tired. I spent all of today in bed, watching Greys Anatomy re-runs. I still feel exhausted and like I could just fall asleep anywhere, at any time. And (because I hate myself) I got on the scale this afternoon. Three weeks of no exercise and trying to “eat for energy” has really, really taken it’s toll on my body. I must have gained about 7kg but even worse is that I just feel horrible. Tired, gross, unhealthy and dehydrated. I feel like I need to run 10km and eat 10 salads and drink 20l of water to just feel normal again and I will. As soon as I can get out of bed again.