Home News WATCH: City father tells of Covid-19 heartbreak

WATCH: City father tells of Covid-19 heartbreak

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A Homestead man has been left devastated after he lost two family members, including his daughter, to Covid-19.

Rodger Williams lost his daughter Candice-Lee to Covid-19. Video supplied

A HOMESTEAD man has been left devastated after he lost two family members, including his daughter, to Covid-19.

Rodger Williams said yesterday that, within a matter of days, his life changed forever and nothing will be the same after Covid-19. 

Williams lost his 29-year-old daughter and his mother-in-law to the coronavirus, while both his wife and her sister are currently in self-isolation after they tested positive for the virus.

He and his wife, Esmerelda (Emma), bid farewell to their daughter, Candice-Lee, on Tuesday last week when the 29-year-old died in the Gariep Hospital in Kimberley.

“Candice had a cough due to the change of weather. We were not too concerned about the cough as she usually developed flu symptoms in winter. On Monday morning, July 6 she could not breathe and we called an ambulance and she was taken to hospital. They tested her for Covid-19 when she was admitted,” said Williams.

Rodger Williams with his daughter’s ashes. Picture: Soraya Crowie

He said that his wife was allowed to stay with Candice, who had Down syndrome, but had to wear a mask at all times.

“Candice’s test results came back on Thursday, July 9 and they told us that she had tested positive for Covid-19. My wife and I immediately went to test ourselves that same day. On Saturday, July 12 my wife and I received our test results back. My wife tested positive while I tested negative,” said Williams.

He said that when they received their daughter’s results, he and his wife had decided to go into self-quarantine.

Williams added that prior to finding out that his daughter had contracted the coronavirus, his mother-in-law, Esme Fredericks, and his sister-in-law had tested positive for Covid-19.

“My sister-in-law is a health worker and tested positive for Covid-19. My mother-in-law lives with my sister-in-law and we heard that she had also tested positive for Covid-19. 

“We are not sure where or how our daughter contracted the virus as we were very cautious about her movements. Having raised a child with special needs, one has to take all the necessary precautions and arrangements before you can step out of the door with them. Even when we went on holiday, we always had to ensure that the places we visited were suitable for her.”

Williams said that his daughter and his mother-in-law were hospitalised in the same ward.

“Candice and my mother-in-law were lying next to each in the high-care ward. They could however not see each other. We also told the hospital staff not to tell my mother-in-law that Candice was there, as we were concerned about her health. My mother-in-law had an underlying heart condition and diabetes and we did not want her to have a setback. My mother-in-law was later taken to another ward and one of the staff members told us that there was a time when Candice called for her brother and her granny heard. Her granny was apparently telling them that she could hear her grandchild’s voice but they managed to convince her that it was not Candice … when in reality it was.”

Williams said his daughter died on July 14.

“On Tuesday, my wife and I received a call that Candice had passed away. We were shocked as we had heard that she was getting better. One of the sisters told us that she was also not expecting her to pass away as Candice was sitting up in the bed … and the next moment she died.”

Esme Fredericks

He described the process that followed afterwards as “cold”.

“The last time I saw my daughter alive was when she was loaded into the ambulance. We had planned to cremate her and the undertakers called me saying there was an opening date for the cremation. The undertakers explained that the health officials did not want bodies to ‘pile up’ as the virus does not die inside fridges. I rushed to the undertakers on the same day. It was only myself and the priest during the send-off. On Thursday, July 16, we had a ‘drive-in’ memorial for Candice,” sighed Williams.

He added that his son was not part of the memorial service.

“I told my son to rather not come to Kimberley. He lives in Bloemfontein with his wife and children. I did not want to expose the children and my son and his wife to the virus. My son was not able to give his sister a proper send-off or see his mother. After this virus has passed, we will have a proper memorial service for Candice – for all her relatives and friends.”

Williams went on to say that the memorial service was not the only “heartbreaking” thing they had to live through on the day.

“As we were busy with the memorial service, we received a call that my wife’s mother had also passed away.”

Williams added that the family had been “embraced with love and support” following Candice’s death.

Only Rodger and the priest attended his daughter’s memorial. Video: Supplied

“The people who knew Candice, and many other community members, sent flowers and cards. We received many calls and messages from people sending their condolences. Candice was truly loved by many.”

He said that the entire ordeal still seemed “unreal”, especially as his wife is still in isolation.

“The reality of what has happened has not hit me yet. I am now taking care of my wife and supporting her. My wife is staying in our main bedroom, which has an en-suite bathroom. We also make use of disposable eating utensils. We both wear our masks inside the house and I sleep in another room. Every time I take something to my wife, I make sure I sanitise it.”

Williams urged people not to think that the virus is “too far for them to contract”.

“This virus is invisible and anyone is susceptible to it. Nobody is immune to this virus. People must ensure that they adhere to all regulations, like wearing masks and sanitising as well as washing their hands. This virus is cruel and can turn your life upside down.”

He said that he missed his daughter “terribly”.

“The reality that she is gone forever has not yet sunk in as I am busy taking care of my wife. I think once my wife is out of isolation and we get to focus on ‘us’, then we will really feel the void she has left.

“Special-needs children take up a lot of one’s time. Candice always loved listening to the radio. She also insisted on sitting on the left passenger side of the car. It is these small things that we will miss about her.”

He advised family members who have a relative who has tested positive for Covid-19 to support them.

“One receives no counselling when you hear that you have tested positive. There are also no health care workers that come and check on your health condition. It is a huge shock when one tests positive and many people are fearful. We understand that the health workers are also susceptible to the virus and might be afraid to come into the home of someone who had tested positive. However, the mental state of a patient is just as important as their physical state. We are fortunate to be staying in a house where my wife can have access to a room of her own equipped with a bathroom. There are so many other people who are sharing a one-room house with others who cannot self-isolate when they test positive. Those people need support all the time.”

Williams said that he has since disinfected his home and put up a sign at the gate informing people that there was someone inside the house who had tested positive for Covid-19.