‘It's terrible to be out of breath’: Tygerberg nurse recalls COVID patient agony

Forty-nine-year-old Sister Cheryl Buys has spent the past 30 years nursing patients at the medical facility and now heads a ward dedicated to patients infected by the coronavirus.

Sister Cheryl Buys. Picture: Supplied

CAPE TOWN - A Tygerberg Hospital Nurse has described the harrowing ordeal some severely ill COVID-19 patients experience.

Forty-nine-year-old Sister Cheryl Buys has spent the past 30 years nursing patients at the medical facility and now heads a ward dedicated to patients infected by the coronavirus.

Imagine being severely ill with COVID-19 and not being able to see your family or friends?

This, Buys explained, was the fate of many patients, some in severe respiratory distress, whom she and other medical staff had to care for.

“If you can’t breathe, patients scream, they cry. It’s terrible to see that and they cry for their families and we cannot let the families come in. There’s a no-visitors policy, so it is terrible to be out of breath.”

Tygerberg Hospital initially was the main medical facility for COVID-19 patients in the Western Cape.

Sister Buys said from the very beginning, they had to quickly adapt to this new, unknown and deadly virus.

“Emotions were running very, very high. We were scared, we didn’t know what to expect. Our infection prevention and control team, they gave us training every day. We had to deal with PPE, we had to know how to don and doff, how to put it on and take it off.”

However, with support from colleagues and their families at home, staff still show up every day to provide the best possible care to patients.

“Thank you to the nurses for all their hard work and a thank you and appreciation. Just that little appreciation, it goes a long way really. We must really be there for one another.”

Sister Buys says other staff members, including porters, administrative personnel and general workers too, help create an environment that lessens the emotional impact on health workers.

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