PE swine flu patient coming home

Young father discharged from Joburg hospital after six weeks in ICUs

Lungs that work, some lekker braaivleis and his family. These are the three things Port Elizabeth dad Jacques Verster missed the most when swine flu put him in intensive care for six weeks.

The Port Elizabeth father, who had been critically ill with the virus, was discharged from Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg on Friday and will be coming home on Monday.

“I am not doing too badly,” IT specialist Verster, who turned 32 while in hospital, said.

He lost 28kg in muscle while in hospital.

“I have been gaining strength and can walk a bit more easily now,” he said.

Verster will not be returning to work just yet as he must still work on regaining muscle.

“Last week, I had a lung function test and my lung capacity was 35%. Today [yesterday] it was at 54%. The doctor is very happy.”

Though he still coughs a little, Verster is delighted to finally be out of hospital.

“I am happy to say I am coming home on Monday,” he said.

“The doctor said I would do better at the coast because of the air pressure, and the air is also cleaner.”

Verster spent a month and a half in the intensive care units at the Netcare Greenacres and Netcare Milpark hospitals.

Since he was discharged on Friday his family have treated him to a braai and a potjie. “It was lekker,” he laughed. Verster said he had been sedated for most of the time and so could not remember much of his ordeal.

“I remember going into a ward at Greenacres Hospital and later being taken into the ICU.

“The next thing I knew I woke up in Johannesburg,” he said.

“I will definitely take the flu more seriously in future.

“It is quite scary that this is an airborne virus anyone can get.”

Verster first fell ill in mid-August but did not take antibiotics. He soon felt better and went back to work.

A few days later he became so ill he had to be admitted to hospital and he was later moved to the ICU at Netcare Greenacres Hospital. To give his lungs a chance to rest and recover, doctors wanted to put him on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation – or ECMO – a technique that uses a machine to take over the work of the lungs by placing oxygen in the blood.

As this machine was only available at Milpark Hospital, a team flew to Port Elizabeth to stabilise him and then flew back to Gauteng with him.

Blood tests there confirmed that he had the H1N1-virus.

Verster said he had been touched by all the prayers for him and messages of support while he was in hospital.

He said he had been delighted when his children could finally visit him in hospital last week.

When he fell ill his baby daughter was just a month old.

His wife, Kirsten, 35, said she was delighted and grateful they could finally come home, and the family could be together again.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, five people have been diagnosed with swine flu this year.