Dear Physio ( part two )

Dear Physio,

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I know how guests are pulled through COVID because of you. I see it. I know that we now ask our new post-COVID guests who their physios are almost before we ask about next of kin. We see your miracles. Thank you.

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During this third wave, our post-Covid patients have all touched me personally. Maybe it is because they are all quite traumatised and scared, so by default, one has to get involved emotionally with them all. When my dad got COVID and battled with his recovery I thought I would be prepared. Not so.

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Pa is 84 and although not strong and burly, he has never really been ill. COVID changed that. We made the decision not to have him hospitalised. We felt that having him separated from his loved ones would cause more damage to him than the virus . My sister and I bundled him up and wheeled him out of the home he shares with my mom (married for 58 years!) and took him to the Recovery Lodge. He was just a bag of bones fighting horrible coughing fits and battling to breathe.

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My first call was to my friend Amie who has a team of marvellous physios. I “ordered” the physio as though I was ordering a pizza, specifying what I want. I said, please send an Afrikaans male physio who is an expert in COVID. I am sure she rolled her eyes at me and wanted to say “we are in a pandemic sweetie, you will be lucky if you get to see anyone.” Luckily, she has much more decorum than that and said: “I’ll send you the best fit.”

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And she was right. She sent us an angel. I knew Riona from a few other cases she worked on, but mainly orthopaedics. I had total faith in her, but was worried about how this English-speaking woman dressed in a hazmat suit would manage with my deaf, exhausted and very Afrikaans father! They clicked immediately. My father somehow knew that this gentle beautiful young woman was there to save him. And she did. She came twice a day. She worked him, hammered his back, made him blow bubbles and suck on his spirometer. She adjusted his oxygen and monitored him with military precision. Some days were easier than others. One very difficult week when he lost hope and asked to die, the family was discussing whether we should stop treatment and let him go, and she showed up, not for him, but for me, with a big bunch of flowers. She knew, it was not just Pa suffering. On some days she would come and he would be too sore, too tired and not able to do a thing. She would then just sit on his bed, hold his hand and chat to “Oupa”. She had a million things to do, loads of patients to get through, but yet she would sit with him, just because she knew that that was what he needed.

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After many weeks, we finally started weening him off oxygen and Riona gave us a schedule of daily exercises and declared him healthy. On her very next off day she showed up, in her casual clothes, just to say hi and brought them malva pudding and custard for a proper visit.

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Tears are running down my cheeks as I am typing this. She saved my dad’s life and as if that was not a big enough gift, he gained a daughter. Nothing I write can ever express our gratitude.

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