Family, colleagues pay tribute to first W Cape healthcare worker to succumb to COVID-19

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Today marks the first anniversary of the death of the first Western Cape healthcare worker to succumb to COVID-19, Sister Petronella Benjamin.

Benjamin had been a nurse for 40 years at the time of her passing.

Family and colleagues commemorated her death.

“Well, this is actually my mom’s uniform. It’s an honour for me to wear this every day. All my mom’s nursing clothes I kept. It’s like a connection. I feel connected to her,” said her daughter, Nurse Alicia Maart.

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Her granddaughter, Marcia Classen, says behind each statistic is a story of sacrifice, grief, and hopefully healing.

“We made ourselves some T-shirts with a pamphlet photo on and we are making masks, also. And we are planning on coming here on the 29th [of April], just to be, you know, to come grieve all together. So yeah, that is what we are planning on doing for the 29th, because it will be a year,” explains Classen.

The video below, Sister Benjamin remembered as first health care worker to die of COVID-19:

Benjamin passed away a few weeks before her retirement.  She had been booked off ill with bronchitis. Her family tried to persuade her to stay home until her retirement would officially begin at the end of April, but she insisted on returning to her job at the Department of Health’s Family Planning Centre in the Cape Town CBD.

Maart explains: “All the years that she’s been working for [the] department, my mom was never somebody that would just go off work or go to a GP [general practitioner]. She was very dedicated towards her job. And she went back to work. She was put off sick, yet she went back to work for a week. And the following week, she started showing symptoms.”

To date, 124 healthcare workers in the province have paid the ultimate price for their courage on the COVID-19 frontline.

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