Covid like ‘hell on earth’

Leonard Maschilla

Leonard Maschilla knew he was in for a tough battle when X-rays showed his lungs appeared as that of someone with TB, while he was hospitalised due to Covid-19.

After more than a month of recovering, Leonard has re-joined the Western Cape Government health team in Drakenstein, now spurred on more than ever to support his patients.

“This really is my second chance,” says Leonard, a HIV/Aids, sexually transmitted infections and TB (HAST) services coordinator with whom the local residents have become acquainted over the past 20 years.

He says having had Covid-19 was a life-changing event from which he emerged with a new approach to life and work.

“You have a different sensitivity. Having had the experience of suffocating and the shortness of breath… It gives me a different perspective,” says Leonard.

He was part of the team which went into Drakenstein communities to screen more than 95 000 people for Covid-19.

As soon as he had Covid-19 symptoms, he was tested and isolated himself from others. The positive test results were no surprise as he very quickly experienced severe flu-like symptoms.

“It was like hell on earth.” He was hospitalised within three days when his face, hands and feet started to turn blue and he struggled to breathe.

“You thought Covid-19 was something far away in China, but it quickly became very personal,” says Leonard.

Hooked up to different machines in the intensive care unit at hospital, he was aware of how patients around him passed away. He thought that he would die alone, as regulations prohibited visitation.

While in hospital, this father of three missed out on special moments like his child’s second birthday, but he realises through it all he drew closer to God.

Today he can say that that things which would have upset or frustrated him before this experience, now no longer have that effect on him.

During his recovery he often reflected on the importance of taking care of oneself, especially if you are a healthcare worker who usually cares for people around you.

He is making changes to be more active and to change his eating habits. “It is easy to forget about yourself, but you have to care for yourself. I am still on the path of recovery. In all this I lost 25kg. I am doing better every day,” says Leonard.

Western Cape Government Health recognises Leonard Maschilla as a rural hero in the Cape Winelands for his service during the pandemic and returning with newfound empathy for his patients, especially those with chronic conditions like TB and HIV/Aids.

He urges patients to use their medication so that they can remain strong and less vulnerable against illnesses like Covid-19.

He is thankful for the special welcome he got on his first day back at work, but underlines his gratitude for their support with an urgent call on everyone to keep doing what you can to stay safe from Covid-19.

“The measures like washing your hands frequently, keeping 1.5m from others and staying home when you are sick, are still very important. Do not neglect these,” says Leonard.