Great grandmother makes miracle recovery

  • AsthmaticWoman
“There were days when the doctors didn’t think she would make it. They would come in some mornings and ask if my mother was still alive. They told me this after she recovered. It’s a miracle.”
by TALI FEINBERG | May 14, 2020

So says Capetonian Daylene Segall, whose mother Millicent (Milly) Bodill contracted COVID-19 at the age of 78. The great grandmother had put herself into lockdown in her home a week before the national lockdown commenced and had left home only once to collect her pension. Her family suspects that this is when she got the virus.

“It’s a miracle because she is asthmatic and elderly. In addition, she had been in hospital for a different reason three weeks before she got the virus, and during that hospital stay, her heart stopped twice. So she was already weak before she caught the virus,” says Segall.

Her mother’s diagnosis came as a complete shock, and soon afterwards, Segall began to write daily updates on Facebook. “I wanted people to realise that this virus is serious, and it can happen to anyone,” she says.

In her first update on 11 April, she said, “If you think COVID-19 can’t hit your family, you’re wrong! Even if you go out only once, this could be your story.”

She described her mother’s symptoms. “She started with a headache, then experienced extreme waves of nausea, and lack of hunger. Next, her fever spiked, and she was put on oxygen and a drip. Then, in spite of not having much fluid intake, she needed to pass water excessively. These have all subsided. The new symptom is that everything tastes bitter – her taste buds have been affected – and she is extremely tired.”

Every day was different. On some days, her mother’s oxygen was low, and her symptoms of nausea, taste change, and tiredness persisted. Segall struggled to communicate with her mother, who had only an old cell phone to make calls, and couldn’t understand why her daughter didn’t visit her.

On 19 April, her mother developed a secondary infection, and was put on antibiotics. She continued to be stable, but on 21 April, Segall reported, “I spoke to my mom this morning, and she sounded all sleepy. I could hardly understand a word she said. I phoned back at about 09:30, and she sounded even worse than earlier. She wasn’t able to talk to me at all, but complained of a severe headache.

“Her doctor said her breathing wasn’t good, and they had done more blood gas tests. The bottom line is she has gone back four or more steps, even though it is ‘day 12’ since she has been diagnosed, and probably day 17 or 18 since being infected.

“The doctor said each person is different, and they are all still learning about this terrible virus. He spoke of a ventilator and my heart just sank. He said he hoped she wouldn’t need it, and asked how I felt about it. How do you answer that question? I told my mom everyone was praying for her recovery, and all the while the tears were rolling down my face.”

The next day, 22 April, Segall wrote, “It really is a roller coaster ride,” as her mother made a dramatic improvement. Yet on 23 April, she again began to decline, possibly needing a blood transfusion. The next day, her mother was unsettled and emotional, but stable.

She continued to improve, but on 27 April, she needed oxygen. Her breathing was laboured as her one lung had been damaged by the virus. Finally, on 30 April, in a miraculous turn of events, she was allowed to go home.

“It was incredibly emotional. I didn’t know if I would ever see her again,” says Segall, her voice betraying emotion. In a video that has since gone viral, staff clap as her mother is wheeled into an ambulance that transported her home. She was tested again for COVID-19, and the results came back negative. She is isolating at home with a carer, and remains weak, but is gaining strength every day.

Bodill was treated at Mediclinic Milnerton Hospital. Speaking to Mediclinic South Africa magazine, Bodill said, “I’m a survivor. I’m a miracle. I was truly at death’s door because I was so sick, but my doctor said to me, ‘Fight with me, and I will see you through’, and he did. The nurses also fought so hard, the whole staff waged war for me. Everyone is working hard for the patients here, and I want the world to know.

“I want uncle Cyril [President Ramaphosa] to know that it’s the doctors and nurses on the ground that are the true heroes. I want him to acknowledge these special people at every hospital, how they are saving lives like mine. I also want people to know that you can survive. I was very ill, but the staff fought. They spent hours helping me. And I have come out on the other side.”

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