The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world, and South Africa continues to be severely affected. South Africa has over 22 000 confirmed cases with over 420 deaths. Essential workers around the country are being applauded for the incredible work that they are still doing in making sure that those affected are being well taken care of.

Being a health worker comes with accepting the danger you are putting your life in. No one understands this more than Nobubele Nkompela, a nurse who was recently diagnosed with the virus. This is her story and experience with dealing with COVID-19.

Nobubele is a 65-year-old born in Kensington, but raised in Gugulethu since she was five years old.

“I was raised in a very religious family, we attended church daily. We were a poor but very close and loving family.”

Education was very important to her parents even though they were not educated which is what pushed her to finish her education. Both Nobubele’s parents were entrepreneurs. Her father used to make toilet seats with cement and her mother used to make pillows and pillowcases.

Nobubele chose nursing because her parents did not have the finances to pay for her education at university.

“When I did nursing, one did not pay tuition fees and you got paid a minimum salary while you were training. I trained in Durban as a general nurse and midwife then did community health studies at Cape Technikon.”

She worked in Gugulethu Child Health Clinic for 14 years and then left to work at the University of Cape Town (UCT) research department, researching a gel for the prevention of HIV.

“When the research closed, I worked for CPOA at an old age home in Hardeveld, this is where I found my passion working with the elderly. I can make their last day on earth comfortable and easy making sure that they are happy.”

Nobubele was diagnosed with COVID-19 but unlike most she was not in a panic when she got the news.

“It was a relief because I had felt unwell for a couple of days. I had no energy and I had a tight chest, but they caught the virus early enough that I did not end up in ICU.”

The previous week her colleague who she drove with to work every day was admitted to ICU.

“The person I drive to work with had flu symptoms and was admitted to hospital with pneumonia, I think that is where I got it or maybe he got it from me. Where we got it is still a mystery.”

Protecting her family from catching the virus from her was of the utmost importance.

“My children stood away from me. My two-year-old just came as far as my bedroom door, which was a blessing as I did not have to feel guilty about giving it to them. Everywhere I walked or touched was sanitised.”

Nobubele was in hospital for nine days, she then went into isolation at home for 14 days until the Department of Health ended her isolation.

“Before I was diagnosed, I was already using all the advice that is out there like drinking lemon, ginger and garlic water while staying indoors. I think that helped in my recovery.”

She also talks about the misconceptions that people have about the virus.

“People think they can only get it from people who have been diagnosed forgetting that undiagnosed people who are not showing any symptoms are also a threat.”

Nobubele feels like people are not educated enough about the virus, especially in the township.

“I do not think there is enough education out there. Its all on TV, I have not seen any pamphlets that are in Xhosa, no billboards or posters to keep people concentrated.”

She says people should follow all the precautions that were provided by the Department of Health.

“People should wash hands frequently, wear masks if not then a bandana as a mask. People should also try to stay away from other people especially in your home.”

Should a person feel or suspect that they are experiencing some symptoms, Nobubele says people should not just go to the clinic.

“The rules say they cannot just go to the clinic; they have to phone the national COVID-19 hotline for directions. I went to a private doctor who referred me to a hospital.”

We are going through an uncertain time where doing the things you normally do are not allowed because they may not only put your life at risk but other people’s lives as well. Before deciding to break the lockdown rules, think about people like Nobubele who are putting their lives at risk to save other people’s lives.

In times like these, Nobubele is reminding us that sometimes your dreams may lead to uncertain paths that you are not ready for, but her ability to face these challenges head on without fear or doubt is a testament to her strength and determination. We applaud and salute her for her contribution in fighting COVID-19.

If you enjoyed this article read about a baker with humble beginnings here.


Tell us: What did you think about Nobubele’s journey?