Candice Van Niekerk, a 40-year-old mother from Cape Town, had the harrowing experience of having her five-month-old baby receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. The mother is going through an event unique to the pandemic, and one few other parents with babies have had to deal with.

“I have really argued with myself about whether to post this or not, but a nurse whose been looking after Ben this week said something in the middle of last night, that made my mind up…she said ‘tell everyone you know, be careful, and then, when you leave here, go home and stay there,” she said in a Facebook post warning other parents that the virus is real and it affects children too.

Candice warned other parents on her social media post about her baby’s battle with COVID-19.

“Over the Christmas, holidays we were in Durban and we all came down with runny noses that we put down to the change in climate and aircon,” the business unit director said. “Towards the end of our holiday, one of our family members who we’d been in close contact with tested positive for COVID-19.”

The Van Niekerk family, who recently relocated from Cape Town to Johannesburg, returned to the city of gold on January 1. Upon their return, Candice and her husband decided to err on the side of caution and test for the virus, as both of them felt under the weather.

“We didn’t test the children as we understood them to be at very low risk of getting seriously ill and also because they would be isolating with us regardless,” she said.

On January 4, the pair got their test results back. Candice’s husband tested positive, while her test was negative. But trouble was brewing with her five-month-old son Ben, and they didn’t even know.

“I woke at 2am on the morning of January 5, and  and couldn’t hear Ben breathing in his cot next to me, I got up to check on him and he was lying there, with his eyes open, limp and boiling to the touch. We threw him in a lukewarm bath and dosed him with Calpol and when his temp had dropped to 39.5°C we rushed him to the Emergency Room,” she said. “There, his temp gradually came down and we were discharged at around 6am and told to treat him with Calpol and Prospan.”

The mother knew in her heart something was amiss when Ben’s fever returned after he was discharged.

“We were able to break them with lukewarm baths till about midday. At that point the bath stopped working and Ben was battling to breathe,” Candice said. “I had been in contact with my paediatrician in the morning to get a referral to someone in Johannesburg and had made the earliest appointment I could get for 2.30pm. It became clear that we weren’t going to make that and we rushed him through to her rooms at 1pm.”

Here, he was immediately admitted to the paediatric COVID-19 ward.

“We were there for a week – the most frightening week for any parents. Luckily, Ben responded well to treatment and while he’s not entirely out of the woods yet. We do believe he’s over the worst of it,” Candice said. “This was by far the most terrifying experience we’ve had as parents. Had we been less naive about the risks to our kids, we would have made different choices. My advice to other parents is not to assume that their kids are safe from this – they’re not.

“The best you can do is keep your kids home and be as cautious with them as you can if you have to leave home to work etc. I think we all have a responsibility to look after each other and protect our children from this virus.”

Picture: Candice Van Niekerk/Facebook

Article written by

Lucinda Dordley

Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She is a proud intersectional feminist, and is passionate about actively creating a world which is free of discrimination and inequality.