When Tygerberg Hospital registered nurse Thokozani Makaula, 38, developed flu-like symptoms three weeks ago her family didn’t read too much into it.

“We thought that it’s just flu that we all get around this time of the year. We were kind of relaxed about it as she had just tested negative for Covid-19 two weeks earlier after she came into contact with colleagues that had the virus,” said her sister, Nolindo Makaula

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Even after she was turned away by a private doctor who wouldn’t treat her, the single mother of three still went home to rest with her three children, aged between three and 18.

Makaula admits that the penny dropped that her sister might have Covid-19 after she developed shortness of breath at home and had to be rushed to hospital by ambulance.

“The day (May 20) she was admitted was the last time we saw her. It’s weird that she is the one who passed on due to Covid-19 when she was the one who always educated and warned us about the virus.”

She described her sister, who was diabetic, as the “strongest one in the family”.

“She is the one who always gave us hope. Even when she was in the hospital she always assured us that she was going to be OK and couldn’t wait to go home and be with her children.

“I feel bad enough that we couldn’t be there for her … she died all alone despite helping others heal through her work as a nurse. I don’t know how to tell her youngest child, who is only three, that ‘your mother is no more’. It hurts so much.”

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