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All around the world, healthcare workers are saving lives as we battle the coronavirus pandemic. They aren’t immune to the virus, however.

The Western Cape Government is celebrating “Coronavirus Heroes” around the province, highlighting their dedication to their work, and their recoveries from the virus. This week, Belinda Richards, a staff nurse in the Emergency Centre at Hermanus Hospital has been identified as a Coronavirus Hero.

According to WC Premier, Alan Winde, “The Coronavirus Hero campaign seeks to highlight healthcare workers and support staff’s achievements, abilities, personal qualities, or victories during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Read more recovery stories HERE

 Nurse Belinda Richards is a role model and Covid-19 survivor

“When I tested positive for Covid-19, I started thinking about where I could have contracted the virus. It could have been at the shop or when I accompanied a patient to the Covid-19 ward. I could have contracted the virus anywhere,” says Richards.

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Richards is a staff nurse in the emergency centre at Hermanus Hospital. She tested positive for Covid-19 on 2 July 2020 after experiencing common flu symptoms. At first she thought she was only coming down with a flu as she experienced a sore throat and runny nose, which is common during the cold and flu season.

However, when her fever started spiking, she lost her sense of taste and smell, and she had difficulty breathing, she realised she should be tested for Covid-19. She was then tested at Hermanus Hospital.

She tested positive for Covid-19 on 2 July 2020 after experiencing common flu symptoms.

“Challenging” home isolation with twins & parents-in-law

As Belinda decided to isolate at home, they had to make a few changes to create a separate space for her to isolate safely. She has 12-year-old twin boys and shares a house with her family. Her parents-in-law stay in a granny flat on the same property.

“My husband experienced similar symptoms but was not tested for Covid-19 due to the changed testing criteria at the private pathologists,” explains Belinda. Her parents in-law-met the testing criteria and then tested negative. With their children showing no symptoms, they decided it would be best for their children to stay in the granny flat with their grandparents so that Belinda and her husband could isolate themselves.

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Isolating was more challenging than Belinda expected it to be

“I thought it would be easy to isolate as I am an introvert, but I experienced cabin fever and started to feel a little depressed. Mentally, Covid-19 can be challenging. I saw and spoke to my family through the window. My sons are not the “touchy-feely” type so it was not that difficult for them,” recalls Belinda.

She adds that she was not used to being dependant on her family and it was difficult to be dependent on them for assistance with grocery shopping and cooking. “My mother brought me some groceries and left it at the gate and my mother-in-law cooked for us and left it outside the front door.”

As she is used to being busy and getting things done in the Emergency Centre, Belinda found it difficult to rest and wanted to catch up on housework as she felt she was not seriously ill. However, each time she started to work, she felt short of breath and needed to rest. This then gave her an opportunity to catch up on all the TV programmes she has missed out on. About a week after she tested positive, she gradually started to feel better, but her sense of taste only returned three weeks later.

Although her husband was not tested for Covid-19, she could see her husband was ill and says both she and her husband had a grey colour to their skin.

She and her husband had a grey colour to their skin.

Family & faith

Nurse Roberts mentioned their children were their main motivation to get healthy. “My family, support from work and my growing faith got me through this.”

Her colleagues at the hospital supported her and monitored her recovery with messages and phone calls even after she had recovered and returned to work. She expected that her colleagues would be scared of her when she returned to work but they welcomed her back without hesitation. “I’m really happy to be back at the hospital where I feel I can make a contribution in fighting the pandemic and supporting my colleagues,” says Belinda.

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“Belinda is an excellent and dedicated nurse. She is a hard worker who does not hesitate to get things done. She is always willing to help out and take on extra tasks. Belinda puts her patients first. Her positive attitude, skills, and diligence inspire and motivate her colleagues in the EC. She is a great asset to Hermanus Hospital,” says Sr E Stephansen, the Operational Manager: Trauma & Theatre at Hermanus Hospital.

True to her positive attitude, Belinda encourages those in quarantine and isolation that things will get better and that you need to persevere. “Time passes quicker than you think. Stay strong, you can do it. We are all fighting this virus together.”