Hope in April, Series
March 1, 9:02am, my phone beeps. There is a message,
“Hello Mama, I have chickenpox”,
My first born child, Wawo, is at boarding school in South Africa. I live with my husband and our two youngest children, in Gaborone, Botswana. Most of my prayers for my him are about his safety and that he will choose his friends wisely. I pray he will be diligent in his schoolwork – and that he will be kind to others.
His birthday was in two days, 3rd March.
I was leaving for Kasane in the 11am flight.
I called and found he was already staying at the school Sanatorium, isolated from the boarding house. His only contact was the school nurse and a visiting doctor, otherwise communication was through the window. He sounded drowsy when we talked on the phone, but said he was fine.
It is difficult to measure the extent of the problem when you only depend on the son, who naturally asks for very little.
On most days, that week, when I called, he sounded tired or like he had just woken up – but I’ll barrage him with a chain of questions;
“Have you just woken up?”
Are you sleepy/tired?”
“Ok, you can go back to bed, I’ll call later”
“Are you in pain or you itchy?”
Communications with the Sanatorium nurse was a worthy comfort,
“His temperature is normal now and his blisters are starting to crust, which means that he will soon be healed and out of the san. I managed to get Mr Jones to get school work for him from all the teachers and today he sat and caught up most of his school work.“
March 5: South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirms the first positive case of COVID-19.
March 6: Wawo is discharged from the Sanatorium.
” Wawo was discharged from the San today. I have never seen him smile so much. All his friends came to take him back to boarding. I am going to miss having him in the San. He is a very well-mannered child and it was a pleasure taking care of him.“
March 6 @ 9:22am A beep on my phone, a message comes through,
“Mama, do you know there is Corona Virus in South Africa?”
March 15: South Africa’s president orders schools to close on March 17. At least 61 people had already tested positive for the virus, with fears of possible increase.
March 18: I fetch Wawo from the airport. He goes into isolation. The clothes he was wearing are immediately washed. Mum takes son through a drill;
- We will deliver food to your room
- You’ll put your laundry basket by the door, we will pick it from there
- You should go out in the sun at 10 am each day
- You’ll have warm water throughout the day
- You’ll take Vitamin C tablets daily (each family member had their own sealed and labelled packet of Vitamin C tablets)
- You’ll wake up same time as at school – and do your school work, as assigned
- And so forth and so on
March 23: President Masisi orders closure of schools. Thus my youngest children were joining their isolated big older brother at home. What if they violate isolation rules? I could not could not concentrate, at work.
March 25: I left the office, for a seven day work break, to return on April 5.
April 1: Wawo joins the rest of the family. It is the first time he is in the main house since he arrived. He is visibly happy.
I had told Wawo he’ll be isolated, when he was still at school in South Africa. It broke my heart, his siblings were not amused either. We miss him so much during school term,
“It is ok mama. I am used to it now after being quarantined for a week”
He lived in a self-contained cottage. He fixed his breakfast. We saw him daily – and had some meals with him, outside in the open garden, keeping a safe distance. His utensils did not mix with ours. Whatever utensils we brought him food in, he cleaned and kept in the cottage. Every three days or so, I sterilised them in soapy boiling water, mixed with bleach or vinegar.
We missed him.
He often came out to play his favourite sport, basketball.
My youngest son would ask, “mama, may I please play with Wawo?”
I know how much he missed him – and how difficult it was for him to not access the big brother.
Managing children when one of them is in isolation wears you out. I was worried about a lot of things. It was a struggle to function at work. He received school work daily, through email and I had to act the teacher.
What if they break the isolation rules? What if they don’t Wawo some lunch? On and on, I worried my body to fatigue.
2 April: midnight, Botswana goes into the state of emergency. It will last 28 days.
Botswana has 6 confirmed Covid 19 cases. South Africa has over a 1000 cases.