January 20, 2022

The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

Journalist who caught coronavirus twice ‘thought it was the end’

7 min read
, Journalist who caught coronavirus twice ‘thought it was the end’, The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH
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, Journalist who caught coronavirus twice ‘thought it was the end’, The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

, Journalist who caught coronavirus twice ‘thought it was the end’, The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

A chronic asthma patient who was told that by catching Covid-19 there was a high probability his symptoms would be severe has told how he feared for his life after catching the virus twice.

For months, Maynard Manyowa remained indoors, and tried his best not to get infected.

Nonetheless, the YorkshireLive journalist has suffered intermittent and severe health problems in the past – and so despite preparing for the worst, he remained confident of pulling through.

“I didn’t know I would be driven to within an inch of my life, and a place where nothing was in my hands anymore,” said Maynard.

“On December 18 2020, after nearly two years in the UK as an international student, I flew back home, to Zimbabwe. I was excited to see my family, my children and more importantly my mother and best friend, who I had not seen in three years.

“While alone in England I battled severe depression, characterised by several nights of pain and tears. My illness was debilitating that at several stages my university and I had seriously discussed either getting constant professional help or me pulling out of the course altogether.”

His mother Judith, sister Maxine, and wife Boipelo all shared shifts, dealing with hours of him crying.

Maynard tested negative for Covid-19 at Heathrow Airport, before boarding an Emirates flight to Dubai and later connecting to Lusaka, Zambia and then Harare, Zimbabwe.

“I landed to pomp and fanfare and my brother Spencer Madziya, a regional promoter, threw a bash for me. It felt great, being able to touch and see family members for the first time,” he continued.

“But things started to change quickly. The morning of December 23 I woke up with a sore throat. I took a ginger, lemon and honey concoction thinking it was just a bug, likely from long flights. On December 24, I developed a slight temperature.

“On Christmas Day I drove 400 kilometres to my home province to be with my mother. By the time I arrived in Zvishavane, a semi-rural town in Midlands, I was certain my asthma had flared up. A local pharmacist gave me a Ventolin inhaler to contain the asthma and some over-the-counter medicine.”

By Boxing Day, however, Maynard had become seriously unwell with a 41 degree fever, a cough, and severe sweats. Judith took him to a local hospital – his birthplace some 30 years previously.

Covid-19 was still relatively new in Zimbabwe at the time and infections were low, with most hospitals not knowing what to do with suspected cases.

“Before they could even treat me, and I was in bad shape, they demanded I be tested. That test came back negative,” added Maynard.

“But because I had arrived from England just a week before, the hospital refused to admit me. The best they could do was give me IV fluids and pain medication.

“The next day, everything had gotten worse. My mother took me to another hospital, one owned by Gregory Mataka, a gynaecologist who had been the receiving gynae the day I was born, and a personal family friend to my mother for over 40 years.

“Dr Mataka shut down one wing of his hospital and admitted me. My oxygen levels were so low that he was worried I would die. The ward I was admitted in was hooked into a makeshift intensive care unit.”

Thankfully Maynard began to make immediate signs of recovery, and after testing negative again on December 30, Dr Mataka reluctantly allowed him to be discharged so he could celebrate New Year’s Day with family.

On New Year’s Eve, however, Judith and his first wife Mutsa found him collapsed outside his old bedroom door, barely breathing. By this time Judith had also fallen ill, but with the help of his cousins Maynard was bundled into the car and driven to hospital once more by wife Boipelo.

“On the way I had regained a bit of myself,” recalled Maynard.

“I could barely move or talk, but I was aware of my surroundings and in charge of my thoughts.

“I wondered, if people who go to the hospital know that it’s their last trip. I imagined every single friend and foe who had died in 2020 and wondered if they knew, as they left the house, that they would never return.

“I thought a lot about my wife Boipelo, and her two small boys, and the difficulties I had placed her in. I wondered how she would cope without me, without immediate and direct support of close family members. I worried how she would survive knowing I died in her absence.”

, Journalist who caught coronavirus twice ‘thought it was the end’, The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH
Doctors and nurses in Malawi treated Maynard warmly and Prophet Shepherd Bushiri went out of his way to make sure he had the best healthcare available
(Image: YorkshireLive)

At hospital Maynard was placed straight on oxygen once more, and Dr Mataka left his own celebrations to tend to him personally.

“The next few days were horrible,” said Maynard.

“As a journalist, words come easy to me. I am born to write and born to use language to describe anything. But I am unable, to this day, to describe the amount of pain I was in.

“I don’t think I could ever describe it either. The desperation, of not being able to breathe, of suffocating, cannot be described by words. You feel utterly helpless and realise then, just how small and out of control you really are.

“I was ill to the point where I could not breathe on my own, and I relied on medicine and healthcare to survive. I could not eat, I could not bathe, and I needed help to use the toilet. I was utterly helpless.”

Things were looking so bleak that on January 1, 2021, the doctor advised Judith to ask Boipelo, who was in South Africa, to fly urgently to Zimbabwe to be by his side.

According to Judith the doctor said he had tried everything, but Maynard continued to deteriorate, and at the time he felt his chances of survival were below 50 per cent if there were no signs of improvement. It reached the point where loved ones felt the need to come and say their goodbyes.

“The next days were spent in unimaginable pain,” said Maynard.

“And even though I got better by the day, it would take me several more weeks to be able to walk across a room without running out of breath.

“Incredibly, I continued testing negative until the time I was discharged, and it was only after my wife Boipelo, who had flown to Zimbabwe wanted to return to be with the kids in South Africa that we realised it could have been Covid-19. She tested positive. And one by one everyone who had cared for me tested positive.

“PCR tests were impossible to get in rural Zimbabwe at the time. But an old sample of mine was sent to a laboratory in Bulawayo, and they confirmed at the time of sampling, I had been positive for Covid-19.

“Nobody else in my entire family had nothing more than mild symptoms. That was some silver lining.”

By May 2021 the journalist had finally recovered enough to travel, and so he went to see his “spiritual father”, Prophet Shepherd Bushiri, in Malawi.

Whilst there he struggled to breathe and was hospitalised again in severe respiratory distress. This time, however, he tested positive for Covid-19 instantly.

“I have had flu in my life. I have had severe asthma. Covid-19 is not just a flu,” he explained.

“My symptoms in Malawi, which happened after I had recovered from infection in less than six months before, were milder, but still worse than the worst asthma attack I have ever suffered from.

“On June 28 this year, I received my first coronavirus vaccine. At a clinic in Area 25, Lilongwe, Malawi, I received a single dose of AstraZeneca’s jab. Besides a brief gag during the night and a painful arm, I had no other side effects.

“Upon my return to the UK in August, I was told that the NHS does not recognise vaccines administered abroad, and encouraged to get a Pfizer vaccine. Despite being a second dose, it would be treated as a first dose.

“I was not bothered by this, as I had intended to ask my GP to mix vaccines anyway, so as to give my body a better chance. I have since received two doses of Pfizer here in England, effectively meaning I have had three doses.”

After testing positive for Covid-19 again, Maynard revealed the worst symptom he had was an irritated throat, which he treated with a numbing throat spray.

After learning of his latest infection, his editors suggested he took time off work, but Maynard thankfully felt his latest bout was so mild that he protested and argued that the boredom of lying in bed all day would be worse than being ill.

“I have no doubt that vaccines work,” he explained.

“I was re-infected by Covid-19 months after recovering from it and when I should have had some immunity. My symptoms when I was re-infected were still terrible.

“I have since had three doses and then caught coronavirus again. I did not have any severe symptoms. I do know from experience, that Covid-19 is not just a flu, and anyone telling you otherwise is being disingenuous.

“Nothing has ever driven me as close to death as Covid did.

“Looking back, I have nothing but gratitude for the people that saved my life, especially Dr Greg Mataka, Prophet Shepherd Bushiri, and my family members.

“It is exactly a year ago since they took me in. Looking back, I really was at death’s doorstep.”

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