My Personal COVID-19 Experience

1 April 2020

by Marisa Henderson
Clinical Executive – Mental Health

Dear Nurture people. This is an edited version of the original that we posted yesterday, 31 March 2020. We learned that the original was not clear enough and thus caused concern and frustration, rather than instilling hope and sharing learnings as we intended. We apologise for getting it wrong and hope that we will keep learning how to better share the good we learn in these hard times.

This is the 6th day of lockdown and what a couple of days this has been. We are taking all possible precautions and have put all necessary measures in place, BUT we all remain human and this “coronavirus” remains an unknown to ALL of us.

I am sharing a recent experience at one of our hospitals to highlight some important learnings. It is a difficult experience to share, but we feel it is an important story about how we can and will beat this virus together:

  • We must all consistently behave as if the virus is already with us – at home, in the community and at and around our hospitals.
  • However new and frightening the virus is, it can be contained and beaten if we remain calm, stick to the rules and follow the guidelines.
  • Even though we can contain and beat it, we must acknowledge the emotional impact that it is having on us all and be prepared to care for each other and for our emotional well-being – social distancing should not be emotional distancing.

On Friday, 27 March we were notified by our pathology laboratory that of one of the people in our care at Nurture Woodlands had tested positive for the Coronavirus.

I received the call and had to go into the hospital and start the process – BUT for a moment sat there thinking what is the RIGHT process?

We had all the guidelines and policies in place (and we followed them to the letter), but the reality and the emotions that confronted us all in that moment highlighted a completely different aspect that we have had to face up to and manage.

This was made even more confusing and difficult because we had been screening all of our patients, visitors and employees as recommended by WHO, NICD and the Department of Health since just after 5 March when the coronavirus had arrived in South Africa for the first time. We had done everything correctly and yet the person had arrived with the infection.

I had to inform the person of these results and saw all the emotions being experienced, the shock, disbelief, guilt, uncertainty and anxiety…

I had to inform all of our nursing staff and therapists, doctors and patients of the situation. What does one say in such a difficult situation, how do you explain, provide comfort and re-assurance, taking into account my own journey through this process and not displaying my current emotions?

We experienced a deeper, unseen and previously unspoken dimension to this new virus – the fear and uncertainty of coping with something that we all heard somewhere during our training, but that we have not encountered before. This is something we all need to recognise, name and confront – by talking about it, by supporting each other and then learning from each new moment.

Now we are a couple of days along, we have implemented all necessary measures to ensure the safety of our staff and patients, no new infections have been identified after all known contacts have been tested, and life continues…people process information, get tested and life goes on… The patient that has the coronavirus is feeling better and recovering, being re-tested this morning, so we are hopeful to send our first recovered patient home soon.

The one thing that I have learnt in the last couple of days is that ALL of us are more equal than we realise.

This “coronavirus” has shown us that no one is better than anyone else, no one has all the answers, and no one is guaranteed to be exempted from this. We are all in this together and we need to support each other.

What DOES make a difference is how we CHOOSE to respond to what is going on around us. CHOICE is the one thing that nobody can ever take away from us. Each and every one of us make 1000s of choices per day, both consciously and subconsciously.

As Viktor E. Frankl said “Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

During this difficult time, we are all in a position to make a difference; how we CHOOSE to respond and react to people around us, how we CHOOSE to respond to the information we receive about the virus on all the different platforms.

Will you CHOOSE to contribute to the fear and anxiety or will you CHOOSE to help spread calm and support?

Although we all have limited control at this stage being locked-up in our own homes, each one has control over the CHOICES we make and my appeal to you today is that we all use this power wisely.

One of my favourite songs is from Gym Class Heroes, The Fighter and I want to share some of the lyrics with you:


Just waking up in the morning and to be well
Quite honest with ya
I ain’t really sleep well
You ever feel like your train of thoughts been derailed?
That’s when you press on Lee Nails

Half the population’s just waitin’ to see me fail
Yeah right, you’re better off tryna freeze hell
Some of us do it for the females
And others do it for the retail

But I do it for the kids, life threw the towel in on
Every time you fall it’s only making your chin strong
And I’ll be in your corner like Mick, baby, ’til the end
Or when you hear this song from that big lady

Until the referee rings the bell
Until both your eyes start to swell
Until the crowd goes home
What we gon’ do y’all?

Give ’em hell, turn their heads
Gonna live life ’til we’re dead
Give me scars, give me pain
Then they’ll say to me, say to me, say to me
There goes a fighter, there goes a fighter
Here comes a fighter
That’s what they’ll say to me, say to me, say to me
This one’s a fighter

And if I can last thirty rounds
There’s no reason you should ever have your head down
Six foot five, two hundred and twenty pounds
Hailing from rock bottom, Loserville, nothing town

Text book version of a kid going nowhere fast
And now I’m yelling, “Kiss my ass”
It’s gonna take a couple right hooks, a few left jabs
For you to recognize you really ain’t got it bad

Everybody put yo fists up

If you fall pick yourself up off the floor (get up)
And when your bones can’t take no more (c’mon)
Just remember what you’re here for
‘Cause I know I’mma damn sure

‘Til the referee rings the bell
‘Til both your eyes start to swell
‘Til the crowd goes home
What we gon’ do kid?

We all have the opportunity to emerge from this better, more positive fighters….