Ouma Nomalungelo Mildred Peter, 81,believes it was her daily prayer, immune-boosting concoction and motivational messages that helped her recover from Covid-19.
Known as the unseen enemy that often sent bodies of the elderly and those with underlying sickness to mortuaries, Covid-19 met its match when it entered Peter’s body a few days before her birthday on June 25. Suffering from hypertension and high cholesterol made the odds against her higher.
Peter's story of recovery remains rare in a country like South Africa where more than 3 600 people have died and over 225 000 infections have been recorded since March. Of the 225 000 infections, just more than 106 000 people have recovered.
Peter, who lives in Langa, said she was lucky to be one of those who have recovered after testing positive two days after her birthday.
The pensioner stayed with her sister’s daughter who contracted the virus from the school where she worked.
“She was tested positive but I didn’t think I was going to get it. I was helping her. I forgot that I’m also chronic and I did not take my pills. I started feeling nauseous, my stomach was running, I couldn't taste anything and I was sweating,” Peter told The Star on Thursday.
The retired factory worker got tested on her birthday. She said that even though she was staying with someone who was positive, she was still shocked. “When it’s your birthday, you expect it to be a nice day but I had fears about having Covid-19 because of my age.”
The church leader was subsequently taken to an isolation centre where she stayed in a room with six other female patients. Peter said she bonded with her roommates and exchanged contact details after they left.
“Most of my friends brought me vitamin C, D and zinc but I would also mix cayenne pepper and water to drink for my sore throat. I also mixed garlic, ginger and lemon and I took care of myself with that concoction,” she said.
Peter said she was strict with sanitising and keeping clean at the centre and made sure she remained warm. Her grandson Athi-Anele Pongolo bought her paraffin for a heater.
Pongolo, 24, said that the family was very concerned about Peter because they kept seeing in the news that elderly people were most at risk.
“She’s my granny and she’s old. She’s like a social worker in our community, especially at church, so everybody was worried because we were not ready to lose our granny,” he said.
Peter’s advice for others who contract the virus was that they should keep their belief in God and their faith alive.
“You must believe that God will always be with you and push. P for pray, U for until, S for something and H for happens. You should pray until something happens so I had those words with me every time I prayed,” she said.
She added that even when a patient recovers, they should remain vigilant. “You must look after yourself because you cannot afford to be reckless,” she said.
Peter said when she woke up the next day, she prayed and drank her medication. The pensioner was thankful for her family, friends and church community because for her 14-day stay at the isolation centre, someone would call her every day to pray for her.
She implored people to stop stigmatising coronavirus patients. “People must stop stigmatising patients because nobody knows until you’re tested that you have Covid-19,” she said.