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Thursday, 28 May 2020

Living with the fear of bringing Covid-19 home

ON THE FRONTLINE: EMS students are among the healthcare heroes of the current pandemic. ON THE FRONTLINE: EMS students are among the healthcare heroes of the current pandemic.

As the global community continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, our health workers have emerged as the heroes of this crisis. Among them are many of our very own CPUT students who are working selflessly to help others. Some are risking their own lives at the frontlines.

Students from the Department of Emergency Medical Sciences have heeded the call for help by health authorities by manning ambulances and the recently erected temporary hospitals. Others have volunteered to assist in various non-clinical roles such as manning the telephones in the call-centre.

This week we are telling their stories in their own words. Today, we tell the story of a Fourth-Year Bachelor of Emergency Medical Care student:

"As a healthcare worker, full-time student, husband and father, it has been and still is a stressful time during this pandemic. What was previously normal, is no longer normal. It is an unknown time that all of us as a country, province, communities and families have entered into. Because of the uncertainty, fear and change in our daily activities, these times are even more unbearable.

As a full-time student, my normal routine before the pandemic was that my daily activities would start by waking up at 5 am and then travelling to Bellville to attend class from 9 am until 4 pm. I would then arrive at home every day at around 6 pm and start preparing to perform my religious duties until 9 pm. Now all creches, schools and universities are closed. I now have to report as a full-time healthcare worker, and this means dealing with the pandemic itself.

The pandemic alone is not as stressful as the baggage it brings with it. These are more stressful times than ever before because what was seen as normal is no longer, like waking up at 4 am instead of 5 am and a day that started at 9 am until 4 pm is now from 7 am until 7 pm. Whereas I normally arrived at home at 6 pm, I now arrive at 8:30 pm and this only occurs on a day where I don’t receive a late call.

When arriving at home during “normal times”, I would first greet my family and sit down and tell them how my day was and spend some time with my child. Now I will go straight to shower before I even say hello to my family. It is so difficult to explain to a one-year-and-11-month-old baby that whatever was normal before is no longer normal. Like going to the park, taking her to ride on her tricycle or just going for ice cream is no longer normal.  

Then there is the fact that I feel that there is no guarantee that I won’t get the virus.  The worst thing that can happen is getting the virus and coming home not knowing that I have contracted the virus although I have tried to be safe on duty and off duty. The fact that I am dealing with these cases will make me believe that I have brought the virus home.

This idea alone is eating me up inside because there is an innocent family at home waiting for a father and husband to come home. And, with the seasons changing, any cough will make you think of the virus. These things psychologically drain you as a person.

When working with patients that are confirmed positive, you as a practitioner can feel, at times, that whatever you are doing is not right. When contacting the patient, where you used to perform assessments, now suddenly you have to have minimal contact with patients that are confirmed or under investigation. This is totally opposite to what was taught over the years, where we are clinically driven. Where there is even an instance where a patient will be screened as a possible case, we must leave the scene to fetch an ambulance that is designated for possible and confirmed cases. Normally this would constitute patient abandonment. At times you as a practitioner feel inhumane, because of policies and protocols that need to be followed.

Although service delivery is very important, working and studying full-time is affecting me as a student, husband, and father due to outcomes that I don’t meet or while I do meet these outcomes, it is not up to an acceptable standard. This is mainly due to limited time that is available and trying to play it safe in the sense of not allowing this whole situation to lead to burnout, which is likely to occur.

*Name has been withheld to protect identity.
Written by Ilse Fredericks


Provides coverage for the Health and Wellness Sciences and Informatics and Design Faculties.