The personal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is being felt by more people than ever. The Western Cape currently has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country and a high rate of recovery. Many are now sharing their virus survival stories.

Aneesha Davids started feeling a scratch in her throat on Sunday, May 24, the evening of Eid, and her symptoms only became more blatant from there on out. This is her account.

May 26, 2020
The week went on, and that scratch never went away. It was cold, it was the week that winter decided to make its debut. She began developing symptoms without realising it.

“Working from home was a little tougher, and even with a heater, I needed a blacket, two pairs of socks and two layers of clothing to keep me warm and stop the body shivers. And still I didn’t see it as another symptom. I took it, its cold and this is what winter feels like outside a cozy work building with central heating,” she says.

May 27, 2020
Aneesha had a terrible headache on this day, and her husband began displaying symptoms.

“This evening, Redah [her husband] starts complaining about feeling cold and curled tightly under the blankets, he tells me he has no energy, and feeling really cold. About an hour later he kicks the blankets off, and says his getting hot. I feel his forehead and at the touch, my skin burns. I grab the thermometer to check his temp, 38,8°C. I gave him some Advil to ease the pain and break the temperature. To discover, this was not a good move because Brufen is not good when you have the virus.”

May 28, 2020

The next morning, Redah’s temperature is still high and he is soaking wet with sweat and has a temperature of 39,2°C.

“I start panicking and telling him we need to get tested. My headache and scratchy throat is still there but a far distance. My main concern was getting Redah’s high temperature treated. Called my guardian angel (my mom) and through her contacts, within an hour we both have medical letters to get treated at an emergency unit at Christiaan Barnard. Who would have thought that when you are ill, you can’t just go to an emergency unit, they will actually send you away to be tested at a testing station. The only reason why they agreed to test us was because Redah had a high heart rate and temperature. A sense of relief overcomes me knowing we will be seen to,” Aneesha said.

“The staff are caring but you can sense their fear, and rightfully so, they put their lives at risk every single day. They come to do the swob, there’s no words to describe this sensation other than someone taking a thin like stick and trying to get to your brain via your nose, it is over in 10 seconds, longest 10 seconds of my life. We told to get dressed, advised to take panado and results will be sent to us the following day.”

They are advised to take Panado for pain relief if positive, as it is the only medication that has been cleared for home consumption.

“The next couple of hours felt like forever. Its 7.25pm and Redah’s phone rings. He speaks in a tone that I know its not family or a friend. His face drops, and I know…. he looks at me and says ‘I’m positive’. All I want to do is hug him and say its okay. But because I don’t know whether I’m infected, I can’t take that risk.”

Fifteen minutes later, Aneesha gets her call.

“I’m negative, alhamdulillah. We set him up in the main bedroom and myself and the kids will be in the rest of the house. Its going to be tough, but we will get through this.”

May 29, 2020

As time progresses, Aneesha experiences more and more symptoms.
“Its tough, trying to be there for the kids, seeing to Redah’s needs and getting order in the house. I still have this headache that just seems to be getting worse, and my throat actually feels raw. Everything is just taking forever, took me four hours to clean the kitchen and bathroom. I have to stop every now and then just to catch my breath and focus because everything around me is spinning,” Aneesha said.

“Eventually the household chores are done and lay done with Haadie for his afternoon nap. As I pick him up, there is a stabbing pain on my chest and with every move, it just get worse. Eventually slow breathing eases it a bit. As I put my head on a cushion, I feel this crushing pain over my chest, like its being completely compressed and something heavy is on top of me and breathing is heavy, the only way it’s relieved is if I sit up. I keep telling myself ‘I’m negative, I don’t have the virus. Its just my immune system that’s low.”

Later the afternoon, Aneesha’s body is in so much pain that she cannot walk; everything seems disjointed to her and she becomes noise sensitive. She goes back to the hospital, and gets another test. She is positive for COVID-19.

After Aneesha returns home, she discovers that her son Haadie is running a fever, and is very restless.

May 30, 2020

Her test has come back positive, and she immediately asks about her son. The doctor advises he most likely has the virus and they must just treat the symptoms with Calpol and stay indoors.

“She also warns, it will seem like you getting better, but it will get worse and build your immune to prepare your body to fight this. We on multivitamins, eating oranges to boost the vitamin C and taking blackseed oil with honey,” she says.

May 31, 2020

Aneesha’s son seems to be recovering, bringing a small amount of joy. However, it is not long-lasting.
“My heart is happy, not for long though. I find Haneem (her daughter) on the coach glued to the TV – not surprising – but her cheeks are rosy red. She looks at me with weak eyes and says ‘Mama, my back and eyes are sore’. My heart sinks.”

Aneesha’s mom calls, and she forwards a voice note from a good family friend that just came out of this with her family. “Her words capture me: ‘Its going to feel like you can’t anymore, but don’t give up, you and your family will pull through’.”

June 1, 2020 – 12 June 2020
“When people speak about the virus, you will hear about fever, headaches, body aches, body chills, nausea, lost of taste and appetite and shortness of breath. Each person has a different experience to the virus and there is no carbon copy. What we hear is that if you are healthy, you will survive. What we don’t hear is sometimes, the experience can be a walk in the park, and other times, it can be so bad, you doubt your ability to pull through,” Aneesha says.

“My experience, each time I think about it, I thank the almighty for giving me the strength to get through. The headaches, it was the worst I had ever experienced, so bad that every movement around me, every sound made, every light that shined, felt like a pounding hammer against my head, and the paracetamol didn’t help. The body pains were excruciating, every small movement I made, it felt like my body was being pulled apart in different directions and aching all over. I had chest pains and shortness of breath, and this caused many sleepless nights, me sitting up and being scared of falling asleep, what if I can’t breath when I’m sleeping and I can’t feel?”

“When my appetite went away, it felt like everything just got worse. My immune system was so low because I wasn’t eating. A buttered slice of toast is all I could stomach, and this was my meal of the day for about five days. The second week hit and I developed a fever of anything from 38°C to 39.5°C. The only relief from the fever and pains was MedLemon, but after two hours, it hit me like a ton of bricks.”

When Aneesha finally had enough strength to make breakfast for her little ones, she was overjoyed.

“As the days passed, I could do a little more. Who would have thought, that I’d be greatful to make a meal again, to wash the dishes again, to sweep and mop without feeling like your entire body wants to collapse,” she says. “I am eternally thankful for our family and friends, the messages and phone calls that reminded us of our creator and his infinite mercy and healing hand, the delivery of meals, medication and vitamins coming from as far as Durban, and the reminder that we are loved and that this too shall pass.”

“This experience has taught me so much and has reminded me that it can happen to anyone, it has no predefined preferences and it affects everyone differently, all you have to do is listen to your body, slow down and allow it to heal.”

Picture: Aneesha Davids/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.