Sandra Maritz, spokesperson for the Cape Winelands area of the Western Cape Deaprtment of Health
As frontline workers at Klapmuts Clinic, staff members realised that they will face COVID-19 together. However, two colleagues did not realise just how their lives would be intertwined because of the virus. For beating COVID-19 and their inspiring comradery they have been nominated as Western Cape Government’s Rural Heroes.
When Sister Rhulani Baloyi, also lovingly known as “Rhully” or “Sr. B”, started to get ill in June, doctors initially thought it had to do with her heart. When she was eventually tested for COVID-19 and the results were positive, her condition quickly worsened. She was briefly hospitalised in Worcester and upon discharge her colleague Dr Caroline Nilsson braved very stormy weather to bring her home. Knowing that Rhully and her 15-year-old daughter live alone, Caroline took the girl’s number for in case of an emergency. When Rhully was hospitalised just two days later, her daughter immediately called her mom’s colleague.
“Caroline is naturally a caring and loving person. She never thought twice about assuming the role of a guardian to a teen girl whose mom was at the brink of death,” says Rhully. As someone with hypertension she was at a greater risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19.
Not only did Caroline take Rhully’s daughter in, but she took her for COVID-19 testing at her own expense and kept their family in Gauteng informed. The young girl’s quarantine period ended when her test results came back negative. “She borrowed my daughter her laptop and gave her access to WiFi. She even went as far as getting her lip-gloss as my daughter had forgotten hers at home. She cared for her just like a mom.”
Dr Caroline Nilsson (left) and Sr Rhulani Baloyi.
Understanding that Rhully was in a difficult situation, Caroline says there really was no question about what had to be done. “Rhully’s daughter needed to be in quarantine until she received her test result. We had a spare room. There was only one right thing to do. The decision was made easier by Sr Baloyi being a wonderful person and an exceptionally caring and hardworking sister. This was my chance to return her kindness and giving spirit.” She enjoyed spending time with the teen and learning about her dreams for the future.
Being reunited with her daughter after eight days in hospital was joyous and emotional for Rhully. “I appreciate the gift of life. I can write a book about Dr Caroline’s kindness and what it means to me. Myself, my daughter and family will forever be grateful to her and her family. Kindness like hers can never be repaid, but paid forward.”
Caroline says health professionals must stick together in this time and support each other as many others are scared of COVID-19. Her concern had always been more for others, especially patients and staff who are older or who are in higher risk groups. She herself had also recovered from COVID-19 earlier on. One of the best ways you can support a colleague, is to simply ask how you can assist and to take it from there, says Caroline. “It could be simple things like bringing food for someone in isolation, or checking in to see that they are coping. It is a question about asking what they need.”
Rhully would like to thank her Klapmuts Clinic family and everyone else for their support along the road to recovery. She describes COVID-19 as ugly, ruthless and relentless. “COVID-19 is real. It does not distinguish between people. It goes beyond racial divides, demographics, gender differences, etc. People must always remember to wash hands, to socially distance, wear a mask, isolate if you have symptoms and those with comorbidities must be extra careful. I continue to be cautious at all times.”