When the pandemic first broke, I was a trauma nurse at the Aliwal North District Hospital in the Eastern Cape. The Eastern Cape is one of the provinces hardest hit by the pandemic. As of the 11th of June 2021, we have had almost 200 000 positive COVID-19 cases and the second highest death toll in the country.
I am grateful that although I work at a district hospital, we have had sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) which helped us get through the pandemic safely, especially when we were waiting for the vaccine to become available.
Over the past months, it has become obvious to me how indiscriminate the virus is. It is brutal and when someone is very sick, there is very little any of us can do, except to be kind and try to ease their pain and fear as much as we can.
We saw a lot of fear in patients, and at the beginning we were also very afraid because we did not know much about the virus. I had no other option but to learn more about it and empower myself.
I am grateful for the quiet times we had when there were restrictions on the sale of alcohol. While it was a measure intended to alleviate some of the pressure on trauma units, it was very helpful, offering an opportunity to use some of the time to learn more about the virus, its effects and how we could provide better care to our patients.
It was through my desire to learn more that I started to read about how vaccines could help. I learnt that COVID-19 vaccines could protect people from developing serious illness, while preventing hospitalisation and death.
Furthermore, countries that had started vaccinating their citizens were seeing the benefits –infections were decreasing, hospitals were not overwhelmed, doctors and nurses were not suffering from exhaustion or the risk of being infected themselves, economies were reopening and employment numbers were going up.
I therefore decided to do everything I could to prepare myself to be part of the nurses who were qualified to administer vaccines once they became available in South Africa. I enrolled for a course offered by the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University and upon completion, received a certificate which would allow me to vaccinate people. During my studies, I also had the opportunity to be part of the team responsible for preparing the vaccination site in our district and we soon started vaccinating people. On the 14th of May 2021, I was vaccinated as part of the Sisonke study and experienced no side effects.
I had worked on the frontline of the pandemic and came face to face with it every day, seeing people – afraid of how the virus would affect them and having to comfort patients as they were dying. Being able to vaccinate people allows me to protect citizens and I am privileged to be part of this initiative.
I have seen, firsthand, how the pandemic has devastated families. If there is an opportunity to protect yourself and your loved ones against the virus, I would like to encourage you to do so. Please help register people that are aged 60 years and above in your family and community on the electronic vaccine database system, and when it opens up to your age group, register yourself too.
By getting vaccinated, you will save lives and help South Africa reach herd immunity.
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