Zolile Zamisa e1594554576760 300x226As student representative bodies from some universities and their constituents’ defiant voices call for the return to campus, University leaders across the country shudder at the grim prospects drawn by recent Covid-19 statistics for South Africa.

A nation divided, as minds of national leaders, university heads and parents teeter between the academic future of an unfazed youth and its own mortality, this despite national statistics showing that a significant percentage of infections occurring among youth.
And just as student debates border on conspiracy theory, a sobering post by a former WSU student leader surfaces on Facebook, quickly putting the bravado of youth into perspective.

On Wednesday 10 June, Zolile Zamisa admits himself into hospital.

There’s a sudden heaviness of the chest as one reads the chilling ordeal that led to him gasping for his life through an oxygen mask. A wake up call to the fact that It could be any of us; any day now.

For Zolile it all started like the common flu.

“I started feeling very cold to the point of shivering. I thought it was a normal cold and used Med-lemon and Aspirin to fight it for three days and it seemed to have vanished. After treating the cold, I realised I was losing energy and this was accompanied by a severe headache, something uncommon to me because I hardly get sick,” said Zolile.

In the days to follow, Zolile’s condition had seemed to improve with the use of recommended home remedies. They seemed to help at first, only to find his health on a slippery slope into a critical state.

“I treated myself with the popular garlic, ginger, lemon, cinnamon, turmeric & cayenne pepper mixture through the days. I had been having the mixture and multivitamins since the lockdown began. And I must say, it helped a lot in treating cold and flu symptoms, hence they easily vanished and all that time giving the impression I was treating a normal cold and flu,” he added.

As Murphy’s Law would have it, a couple of days later, Zolile started having breathing difficulties accompanied by low energy levels that led to his visit to the doctor.

“Since my testing attempts were not successful during the day, I decided to admit myself into a hospital that same day. That’s what saved my life. I was immediately put on a mechanical ventilation to help me breathe. I was also given antibiotics through a drip. However, it wasn’t until the second day at the hospital that I was attended to by a doctor.  Hospitals are full and there’s a shortage of healthcare staff,” he added.

Zolile’s triggering narration of his own battle against the fatal virus puts to bed the debate of youth’s leveraged immunity against Covid-19. Suddenly the probability of one student life lost, is one too many.

The daily infection statistics, once a distant reality, are slowly fading into faces of friends and loved ones.

South Africa has 264,184 confirmed cases of covid-19, the 10th highest number of infections globally.

And if one takes into account the current statistics standing at a conservative 13,000 infections a day and with only 12,842 beds prepared for the surge to come at the predicted August peak: You quickly realise that the Poorest province in the country, the Eastern Cape, does not stand a chance.

This is the grave reality of the pandemic with which we are at war.

Zolile has since fully recovered and living a normal life.

“It was not easy especially the first 7 days when I had developed many symptoms. I don’t wish for anyone to go through the horrific experience of not being able to breathe on their own. I’m still traumatised by the experience. Watching people with underlying factors fight the virus was extremely sad. Sick people being turned back home because the hospital is full was a serious calamity. If one could set their foot in a covid-19 ward, you’ll definitely take covid more serious and protect yourself,” he said.

Now add to that thousands of university students flooding an allegedly unprepared and bankrupt Eastern Cape Province health system. I say stay home.