29 November 2023

An Al Qalam correspondent describes his family’s acute anxiety of a loved one whose life hangs by a thread as he battles a Covid infection.

My eldest brother is hooked to a whirring ventilator machine and his life hangs somewhere between the realms of this world and heaven’s door. At least, that’s how it seems.

Despite taking extreme precautions, the Covid-19 enemy hit its target, and Bhai, as we nine siblings endearingly call him, was simply unable to defend himself against this brutal, invisible foe. What puzzles us is that during the months of the lockdown, he was diligently confined to his home on the estate in Buccleauh, leaving the gates only to go to the supermarket, the chemist or visit his doctor, and oh, to visit the farm where Qurbani was being done. That’s it.

With him now hooked to a ventilator at Sunninghill Hospital, the doctor treating him has been warmly reassuring. “His prognosis looks very good, he will make it, Inshallah,” he says with a crack of a smile.

For my large family that has been on tenterhooks for the past week since Bhai was admitted to hospital, those 10 words appeared to be the most beautiful sentence we’ve ever heard.

Bhai was always the joyful elder brother that everyone looked up to and loved – from the toddler that would spring into his arms with joyous smile to anyone in whose company he was in. So when a test showed he had Covid, he bravely walked to his waiting ambulance on his own steam, and waved at us. That was the last we saw of him. It was at that moment that laughter died in our homes. Even the blush of the spring rose blossoms in our gardens does nothing to lift our spirits.

A WhatsApp family group shares the latest news of his health, although obtaining detailed information from the ICU is at a premium, more so that all visitors to the designated Covid ward is totally barred to visitors. That is painful. So we hang onto every word of hope. Each one of us are busy in earnest duas, zikr and khattamul Qur’an, hoping against hope that Allah Ta’ala spares his life – that he doesn’t become another statistic to add to the extremely high number of Muslims who have perished in this scourge.

Dr Zameer Brey, a health systems analyst with Muslim Stats SA recently raised the alarm of the disproportionately high number of Covid deaths in the community. By August 2, it recorded 610 deaths across the country but as I write this, the numbers have since risen. Perhaps, it was our cultural and social norms, he said, where we continue with five times salah with jama’ah without distancing, community functions, socializing over meals etc.

Lockdown 2

When Lockdown 2 happened last week, many families packed their picnic baskets – threw caution to the wind – and headed to their favourite parks and dam sites while others made a beeline for their timeshare apartments in warmer Durban. The other day, I spotted a group of older men at Durban’s Wilson’s Wharf heading for a deep sea fishing trip – and not a single person had a mask on. Packed like sardines on the charter boat, little better than a Jo’burg taxi, the men were excited to land the big un’, little realizing the danger they were putting themselves in.

For most people, the lockdown fatigue was understandably too much to bear. The opportunity to get out in the open is hard to pass up. But therein is the danger. With more interaction and socializing, experts warn that we could possibly see a rise in Covid infections and many more deaths. So far, the total official number of Covid cases in SA is almost 600 000 and 12 423 deaths and rising.

Just before leaving for the hospital, Bhai’s words still ring in my head: “This Covid thing is no joke. Don’t make the mistake of unnecessarily leaving your home, believe me!”

In the meantime, the grim reality and uncertainties has seriously impacted our family lives. We eat, but we do not. We sleep, but we do not. What is most distressing for my family is the inability to visit Bhai at his bedside in the traditional sense, to offer comfort and for him to hear our individual duas, to clasp his hand in reassurance and let him know that all will be well. What hurts more is that we are unable to visit him, nor can see him – even fleetingly – through a glass wall. We wake long before Fajr to beg Allah for Bhai’s recovery and all those affected. And when dawn breaks, we call each other on the phone to talk, to reminisce and take succor in each others’ words like the warmth of the morning sun.

Yesterday, my nephew, a medical specialist arranged with Bhai’s doctor to visit him for just 30 minutes. Bhai is responding well to the ventilator, and the slight infection he picked up in hospital has come down with strong antibiotics, Alhumdulilah.

My nephew, a Hafez-ul-Quran, made a dua at his bedside and murmured soothing words of encouragement, hoping that his beloved Mamajee could hear him, despite being under induced sleep.

He also briefly put on a CD of Yaseen, hoping Bhai could hear and be soothed by it. Before he left the ward, a kind ward sister offered to play the “prayer” next to his bed as often as she could. My family has been heartened and taken comfort by this gesture.

With Allah’s will, when Bhai returns home, I’d like to take a stroll with him through his expansive rose garden. I’d read him my thoughts reflected in this Al Qalam article. He might chuckle and say: “Jannah is waiting for me…but I don’t think it’s today bro….”

I might stroke the leaves of the colourful plants along the path and perhaps say: ‘These flowers look beautiful, Bhai, don’t they?

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