A Johannesburg man who has been battling the coronavirus for more than a year has called on all to get vaccinated.
“If the story of my ordeal with Covid-19 can convince at least one person to get vaccinated, it might just save a life,” said Mbusi Ndlovu, who has been locked in a life-or-death battle with the coronavirus.
He said the severity with which he had been affected by Covid-19 made no sense at all.
Aged 29 years, he went to gym, had no pre-existing conditions or lung problems – he didn’t even smoke. Yet, this time last year, he landed in hospital and now, a year later, he is still battling the virus.
Ndlovu said having spent months in a hospital bed and learning to walk again, he could not understand how people could refuse to get vaccinated.
“Vaccination should be our priority. It gives us the opportunity to fight this virus. Covid-19 is real – I know exactly how bad it is,” he said.
Dr Paul Williams, Netcare Milpark Hospital-based critical care specialist and pulmonologist whose team was responsible for Ndlovu’s care, said the young accountant was extremely ill.
“He had Covid-19 as bad as we’ve seen in anyone who survived. We thought he may have to be considered for a lung transplant.
“He still had to be on a ventilator for about three weeks after having three months of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation treatment.”
But according to him, Mbusi has made a remarkable recovery. He credits Ndlovu’s positive outlook on life in general, “which made it much easier to look after him”.
Williams said they suspected that Mbusi had the Delta variant of the virus, which could explain the severity of his illness.
According to Ndlovu, his ordeal with Covid-19 had become the worst experience of his life.
A year ago, he went to his doctor with flu-like symptoms, who diagnosed him immediately as having Covid-19, which was confirmed by a test.
A few days later, it became difficult to breathe, and he was admitted to the ICU at the Netcare Milpark Hospital.
Large tubes attached to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine were inserted through the large vessels in his neck.
The machine is a state-of-the-art process that artificially performs the functions of the lungs.
“The biggest issue was that this virus had started to damage my lungs to the extent where they were not functioning and responding. This entire time the medical team was buying some time for my lungs to recover so that they could function again.
“While the machine was buying my lungs some recovery time, my liver started to become a problem. They had to bring on board a liver specialist. With multiple key organs failing at the same time, you can just imagine how slim the chances of survival were. I was in ICU, heavily sedated from December 2020 until I regained consciousness in March.”
By then, his lungs were significantly damaged and had to be monitored carefully. Ndlovu then went on a ventilator in the beginning of March, which is when he woke up, intubated in an ICU isolation ward.
“I remember one of the physiotherapists came to see me. She told me I was going to recover. I couldn’t answer her because I had a tube in my throat and couldn’t speak at all.”
Ndlovu said he became incredibly frustrated because he thought he wouldn’t be able to ever walk again, as he could not move a leg.
He said his biggest victory was when he could lift his right arm again.
Eventually, he managed to stand and later started walking again. His rehabilitation was a slow process with occupational therapy, speech therapy and physiotherapy.
He also remembers getting daily injections to prevent blood clots. Ndlovu believes that the team who had treated him saved his life.
He was eventually discharged in April, but he still had to go to rehabilitation to work on his severely diminished lung capacity.
“It’s been quite a journey. I’m much better now.
“I have made significant progress, but I still have to see an occupational therapist every two weeks. But the greatest blessing is that I’m alive. I’ve lost so much weight and muscle. It was unbelievable to find myself in that state.”
Ndlovu said the point of sharing this story is to try and convince people to get vaccinated and protect themselves against this coronavirus.
When he became ill, the vaccines were not available yet, but as soon as his age group qualified, he got vaccinated.
Ndlovu said he hoped that his story would save someone’s life – especially those who think twice about being vaccinated.