First COVID-19 patient in Gauteng recounts her experience

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The SABC has tracked down the first patient to be admitted for the coronavirus in Gauteng, as well as the doctor who first treated her, as March 5 marks one year since the first coronavirus case was recorded in South Africa.

Glynne Mitchell from Gauteng became the first COVID-19 patient to be treated for the virus. She was admitted to the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg. She recalls how terrified she was when she tested positive for the coronavirus.

The first case of COVID-19 in South African was detected in KwaZulu-Natal. A 38-year-old man who had travelled to Italy on holiday with a group of 10 people tested positive for the virus. Since then over 1.5 million South Africans have contracted the virus and there have been more than 50 000 COVID 19-related deaths.

Mitchell says, “I was admitted to the hospital and Dr Zamparini was the doctor that attended to me. And he made the best choices for me in the condition that I was in. And I’m very grateful. He was putting it at ease and making sure that I was in the best place and I was at a better hospital.”

Dr Jarrod Zamparini is the doctor who attended to Mitchell. Zamparini had been watching cricket on the day when his assistance was needed. Before he knew it, the specialist physician was thrust into the frontline of fighting a pandemic that’s gripped the world.

He says it’s not been an easy ride… over 1 000 healthcare workers at the hospital have been infected and 11 have died.

“We were learning on the floor like the rest of the world. So it was a question of do we have enough PPEs, medicine and beds. And through good management, we have really done well. We have upscaled from one bed to 17 COVID wards. And it’s also our Junior staff, interns who were really truly on the frontline. So it’s been one hell of a ride,” says Zamparini.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize speaks to Morning Live about the past year and COVID-19: 

Mitchell says she didn’t have symptoms associated with the virus so she didn’t know that she had been infected. However, she says that from the moment she tested positive, she was comforted by healthcare workers. Mitchell says the hospital staff took good care of her until she was well enough to leave.

She says that she was delighted, a few days ago, when she witnessed Dr Zamparini and other healthcare workers at the hospital get their jabs.

“I’m so glad that he got vaccinated. It gives hope to all our front care workers. And I’m so glad that I got to be part of it,” says Dr Zamparini.

Dr Zamparini says that the pandemic has pushed them to their limits. He says healthcare workers have to constantly navigate risks to themselves and taking care of the patients who need their help

“It was a huge task and I’m from the internal medicine and we manage patients in a hospital but it was everyone’s task from the emergency department from the time when patients come in with symptoms ranging from a bit of a sniffle all the way to needing incubation and ICU,” says Dr Zamparini.

South Africa has recorded over 1.4 million recoveries and has so far administered over 83 000 vaccines to frontline workers.

Reflecting on SA’s first COVID-19 case – A year on: Prof. Mosa Moshabela