A KZN GP shares his Covid-19 recovery story

Posted on 5 August 2020

A KZN GP shares his thoughts on the virus, and his recovery journey

Dr V Vallabhjee is a GP in private practice in the Shakaskraal area of KwaZulu-Natal, and has been working in the community for 8 years. His practice sees general conditions such as flu, asthma, pneumonia and HIV. What Dr Vallabhjee did not expect to find was that he himself would become a patient during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Initially during the first days of lockdown, Dr Vallabhjee explains that he did not think the virus was as contagious as we have now found it to be, his practice was quiet. However, when level 3 opened up society a little more he was infected by Covid-19. “My perspective has completely changed since I personally became infected with the coronavirus,” he says.

“I started experiencing mild symptoms that at first included a dry cough and muscular body pains, and initially no fever, sore throat or headache. I began experiencing a fever, which turned into night sweats and subsequently rigors within 2 days. Antipyretic medication worked for a short while but I was feeling miserable. The cough was still dry but shortness of breath set in and this became rapidly worse; a few short steps and I was completely out of breath – this is when I decided to go to Mediclinic Victoria to have a chest x-ray done,” Dr Vallabhjee outlines the progress of his infection.

The x-ray indicated pneumonia, and he was hospitalised in ICU for five days. Oral swabs taken confirmed his positive status. “Because I am a healthcare worker, I was treated for a community acquired pneumonia as well with second line IV antibiotics. Because SARS Covid disease is associated with blood clot formation in multiple organ systems, I was treated prophylactically with a blood thinner. I was also on immune boosters and nasal oxygen and antipyretics IV,” he continues.

Dr Vallabhjee expresses his appreciation to the doctors and nursing staff working within the hospitals, fighting alongside the patients for their recovery, “I really have a deep respect for the doctors and nursing staff at the Mediclinic. They were so compassionate and understanding during my 9 day stay. Covid usually has this ominous stigma attached to it but their care was unprejudiced and professional. I am grateful and very appreciative.”

His recovery was slow but steady following his discharge, “I was very weak having lost about 3kgs in the process. My appetite had decreased but my breathing was improving on a daily basis. The cough and rigors were gone. I quarantined at home post discharge and was getting progressively better as the days went by.”

His advice to those recovering from Covid-19 infection is to not rush into doing any strenuous activity, especially after recovering from Covid-pneumonia. “Gain strength first. Eat balanced meals and take immune boosters such as quercetin, vitamin C, vitamin D3, zinc. Practice breathing exercises like breath stacking (helps with diminished lung capacity) and breathing in the prone position (helps to recruit the alveoli air sacs for more lung oxygenation). This will surely help on the road to recovery,” he advises.

Dr Vallabhjee expresses his thoughts regarding Covid-19, “I am now deeply concerned about the Covid-19 virus as it was the first time I was hospitalised for a respiratory illness and I was taken aback by the sudden rapid onset of this disease. We as healthcare workers need to protect ourselves with the full PPE kits when at work. There is currently no confirmed evidence that we have immunity to this disease after initial infection, which is concerning when I consider my initial infection. I just hope that we get a vaccine as soon as possible so that the world as we knew it can return to normal.”

Dr Vallabjhee also expresses his concern regarding the community. He feels that the community needs to prioritise their health by observing social distancing (including no handshakes or hugs when greeting), not having any social gatherings and ensuring that they wear a multi-layered mask. He emphasises the importance of hand sanitation for at least 20 seconds after touching any surface and try to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth areas. “While recovery is always possible – prevention is still the ultimate goal.”

So what is the solution to ensure continuity of care during the peak of the pandemic in KwaZulu-Natal? “Many doctors are now doing telephone consultations or video calling patients which is appropriate for our current situation since we are now in the peak of this disease.”



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