Lerato Jones’ Personal COVID-19 Experience

By Lerato Jones

On the 30th of July I tested positive for Covid-19.

Symptomatically I had; difficulty in breathing, headaches, sore throat as well as loss of taste and smell but over and above these symptoms, I remember experiencing such a great sense of guilt. I asked myself, with all the preparations that had taken place, all the standard work revised, check in meetings attended, Townhalls,

  • Where could I have possibly gone wrong?
  • How can I keep my team safe if I couldn’t keep myself safe?
  • Is this a reflection of my leadership?

Those were some of the questions that kept creeping up. It didn’t matter how hard I tried to distract myself, it was as if though I was battling to keep up with my raising thoughts…

I remember forwarding my test results to Karien, whose leadership style has always been a great inspiration throughout my professional journey. She responded with a voice note saying “Hi Lerato, right…….now that WE have tested +

  • WE are NOT going to worry.
  • WE are going to trust that the rest of the management team in Vereeniging have everything under control.
  • WE are going to take this one day at a time.
  • WE are going to get through this TOGETHER

It was in that moment that I found great comfort and detached from my feelings of hopelessness and despair.

In hindsight, Karien was merely reminding me of that which I have always known but yet struggled to comprehend at that point in time.

She reminded me that within the Nurture Management system there is no YOU or I but that we function as a collective.

She reminded me of the importance of separating the person from the process in order for true learning to take place, something that I have always strived to do for my team but struggled to do for myself when I needed to the most.

I spent 14 days in isolation. Used a separate bathroom from the rest of my family. At first it was difficult, I suppose I was extremely worried about potentially making them sick as well. Although all my food was prepared for me, we had a routine to control time spent in the kitchen, our dishes were washed and packed separately. It was insane…. all of a sudden home felt like mini prison for a short while.

Despite the lack of social contact, my family and I would call each other from our different bedrooms. It was extremely strange, but we knew and understood that everyone had a part to play in keeping all of us safe. We all took vitamin C, D and Zinc on a daily basis. In addition to this, we substituted coffee with Ginger tea and warm lemon water. I think that was probably the hardest thing for me.

On a daily basis I would receive messages of support and reassurance from head office, friends and colleges from work. Words cannot begin to express how grateful I was. As soon as I felt strong enough, George, IT and all the awesome people at head office set me up with a system that enabled me to work from home. That was probably the best part about being in isolation…… knowing that I could still contribute something to the team all the way from home.

Kerry was just phenomenal. She probably called me almost every day. We would laugh, share jokes and problem solve on a daily basis. She gave me my normal work experience all in phone call and that was just incredible.

On my first day back at work I had anxieties about how everyone would treat me. I wondered if they would be comfortable even just being in the same room with me. I had so many thoughts and ideas on what we could do differently….but was I going to be able see any of that through…? I certainly wasn’t sure.

In summary my first day back at work felt like I was never in isolation. I was received with so much love and excitement. In Vereeniging we have always struggled and overcome as a team and this experience was certainly no different.

The team implemented a daily Covid-19 huddle, a space within which we adapt and adjust as collective on a daily basis. In addition to this, we implemented the following changes.

Inspired by the vision: Treat ourselves as if though we are all Covid +

  • We began treating our physical Rehab unit like a completely separate Hospital from our Wellness Unit. Two separate entrances, no rotation or interaction between staff members unless it is telephonic.
  • Manual clock inputs.
  • Strict supervision on the handling and distribution of stock. Especially surgical masks.
  • We prepared a separate space for our positive staff members who couldn’t isolate properly at home.
  • We authorised and enabled our staff members the opportunity of placing their medication orders through clicks, with the arrangement of making the deduction from their salary at the end of the month.
  • We made medication deliveries for all those affected and in isolation.
  • We offered staff debriefing as well as one on one sessions in order to cater for the psychological need.
  • We continue to treat our Rehab/ Covid-19 positive patients holistically, with a broader understanding of their psychological needs.

WE make these changes on a daily basis.
WE learn and adapt as we move along.

Nurture family, with this experience, I wish to remind you that the Nurture way, has and will continue to be our pillar of strength during these challenging times

Let us continue to show ourselves, one another and more importantly, our patients and their families compassion.

Let us learn, grow and overcome as a collective.