Remembering those lost to coronavirus

Maliek Fagodien

A Constantia woman has created an interactive website to memorialise South Africans who have lost their lives to Covid-19.

Lydia Zingoni says the website, rainbownationremembers.com, is a way for families and friends to remember their loved ones.

“As a nation, we need to remember them,” she says.

Ms Zingoni is the founder and director of SA Teen Entrepreneur, a non-profit organisation encouraging young people to embrace entrepreneurship.

Maliek Fagodien, who lost his father, Abdol Baakie Fagodien, to Covid-19, on Wednesday May 6, will be one of the first to contribute to the site.

Mr Fagodien, of Mitchell’s Plain, got a call from his father at 4am on Tuesday April 26, who told him he was finding it hard to breathe.

Mr Fagodien rushed his father from his home in Surrey Estate to the Gatesville Medical Centre.

“I wasn’t allowed to go in with him, they just took his medical aid details,” Mr Fagodien recalled. “A porter came and took him with a wheelchair. I didn’t know that would be the last time I saw my father’s face.”

Blood tests revealed his father was diabetic, had a kidney infection and was positive for Covid-19.

A doctor told Mr Fagodien to expect the worst.

“My dad was 70, he had high blood, cholesterol and heart problems. He also had a pacemaker that made him very vulnerable.

“The scary part is that we don’t know who he got this virus from and how.”

Mr Fagodien said it had been heartbreaking not being able to be by his ill father’s bedside or hold his hand in hospital.

“My dad hadn’t been in hospital before except for three years ago when they put in the pacemaker. He would call me every morning and tell me that he didn’t want to be there.”

His father died shortly after he was put on a ventilator, and Covid-19 intruded even at the funeral – plastic was wrapped around the traditional Muslim burial shroud to protect the mourners from infection.

“He went straight from the hospital to the burial in Grassy Park. We weren’t able to see his face. The funeral really didn’t comfort us enough. He was also a person who liked to read the Qur’an a lot, and we really wanted to do that for him by his bedside when he was in hospital.”

Mr Fagodien is consulting with his family to think of the right words to put on his father’s memorial on the Rainbow Nation Remembers website. He said he wanted something that would also spread awareness about Covid-19.

“We don’t want what happened to our family to happen to anyone else.”

Ms Zingoni said the website was inspired by the Rainbow Remembers site in the UK.

“I come from an information background so curatorship comes naturally to me,” she said.

The site, she said, would have a team of five behind it, doing background checks so that no non-Covid-19 or fake deaths were posted.

“We are expecting that people will act in their good nature, but we also have a duty to do our due diligence. We won’t be publishing immediately, we want to check and be sure first.”

Ms Zingoni said many families who had lost relatives to Covid-19 felt isolated and she hoped the website would help them find comfort from others in the same position.

“We haven’t seen a lot of people who have died from the virus being named in the newspapers. People need to realise that we are grieving the lives of real people here. That’s why we need to put a face to it.”