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23/07/2020

When Faculty of Law Deputy Dean Dr Lynn Biggs learnt in early June that her husband, Gavin had COVID-19, she feared the worst.

She knew that as a chronic asthmatic he was at risk, as respiratory conditions are one of several comorbidities that make the coronavirus more dangerous.

And it did hit hard, pushing Gavin into hospital and close to death before he was able to recover.

Now, in late July, he is well enough to be working again and it’s time for the Biggs family to regroup and count their blessings.

“It makes you realise what is important to you: family and friends and health,” says Lynn.

“He’s still not 100%. He was very fit – he used to cycle and run every day and that counted in his favour – but he lost 7kg in the seven or eight days he was in hospital.”

Gavin fell ill on Friday, 5 June and by Monday, 8 June Lynn also started to feel flu symptoms.

“By the next Friday I was better, but he wasn’t. Instead he got progressively worse,” she says.

The family GP recommended a COVID-19 test and booked a bed at Greenacres Hospital. Due to the pandemic, however, Lynn was unable to stay with him.

“Because he did not have his test results, he spent the whole day in what they call a PUI – people under investigation – ward.

“We only got the results that evening and then they moved him as he needed oxygen, a nebuliser and drips.”

Telling the Family

An added stress was how to explain to two teenagers, Jade, 17, and Bruce, 15, that their father was desperately ill.

“I had to explain to them and, although he kept in contact, it was very scary and very daunting. I also suspected I had it, but I was not sure.”

The first night Gavin was in hospital was difficult.

“When I said goodnight to him, I didn’t know when I’d hear from him again. I was pretty anxious, so I just lay and watched his WhatsApp status.

“If he was not online, it could mean he was in ICU or that he could have died.

“As soon as he came online, I called him. He couldn’t really talk, he could only just say two words at a time.

“He’s strong, mentally and physically, but it was a hard time especially for the children. It was quite a process to manage how to respond to the fact that their dad was not well.”

Not only that, but in early June, Nelson Mandela Bay did not have many COVID-19 cases.

“People treated us differently and there were comments from other children. Even though our doctor friends said there was no need to be tested, that we only needed to self-isolate for 14 days, my children wanted to. My son said ‘I want to go back to school with negative results’.

“So, on 16 June we all went and received our results three days later. I was positive but I would not have known it if I hadn’t been tested.”

The Danger Medics Face

Towards the end of Gavin’s hospital stay, his physician was diagnosed with the virus, highlighting the dangers medics face while treating COVID-19 patients.

“The doctors and nurses on the frontline are working with a skeleton staff and conditions are very tough for them,” says Lynn.

Fortunately, Gavin pulled through. It was only when he came home that Lynn realised how close to death her husband had been.

“He hadn’t told me how bad it was, he was almost protecting me because he didn’t want me to be concerned. At that stage, the facilities were deteriorating as more and more staff went off sick or into quarantine. I feel desperate for the frontline workers.”

Supportive Friends Make a Difference

The Biggs family are grateful for the support of friends and loved ones.

“The support was unbelievable. Friends dropped off food and it also had an amazing effect of getting people to sit up and pay attention. Gavin has had people contacting him and asking for advice!

“After all, if someone like Gavin who is strong and fit could be hit so hard, then what about people with comorbidities?”

The Biggs’ friends jokingly ask if it is safe to visit the “COVID-19 house”, and Lynn says it may be safer there than anywhere, as it  has been sanitised “from head to toe”.

Groceries are wiped down, as are cellphones, wallets and credit cards, while clothes are washed at a high temperature.

Mask Up and Sanitise

“We are very aware and ensure that we follow strict protocols like wearing a mask, sanitising and social distancing,” says Lynn.

“Some people are very afraid, but they must not be too concerned if they have a positive test result, especially if they don’t have any comorbidities.

“I’d like people to know that I had it, now it’s gone, and I’m over it.”

Not only that, but “be kind to people: you don’t really know what they are going through”.

Watch Lynn's story on YouTube

 

Contact information
Dr Lynn Biggs
Deputy Dean
Tel: 27 41 504 4242
lynn.biggs@mandela.ac.za