Statement by Ambassador Lana Marks on COVID-19

On December 26, I started to experience fever, chills, a sore throat, and fatigue.  A family member simultaneously began to experience similar symptoms, and, though we had been vigilant about mask-wearing and social-distancing, suspecting that we had become infected with COVID-19, we immediately began to isolate at home.  Prior to this, with our residence staff on holiday, we had been by ourselves for several days.

I started to experience shortness of breath and extreme weakness, and as my symptoms worsened, upon the advice of our medical team at the U.S. Embassy, I was admitted to the hospital to seek supplemental oxygen and therapeutic treatment.  Shortly after admission on December 28, I was moved to the ICU where I remained for ten days before spending three more days in the COVID-19 unit.  Late last week, I was discharged and continue to receive care at home.  My condition is improving and the doctors are confident that I will eventually make a full recovery.  This is a tremendously serious and unpredictable illness, and it has been the most physically debilitating thing that I have ever experienced in my entire life.

I will forever be grateful for the excellent level of care that I received from the South African doctors and nurses who tended to me in the hospital.  I am just one of tens of thousands of COVID-19 patients that South Africa’s health care workers and hospitals have treated with the utmost professionalism, putting their own lives at risk in order to practice their calling.  Having seen them on the front lines of this battle for nearly a year, and now having had my own life in their hands, I will always remember their heroism and dedication and all that they sacrifice and risk as they fight this dangerous illness on behalf of their countrymen.

I share with you my story in order to further de-stigmatize discussions around COVID-19.  Only through sharing information about the virus can we understand how to prevent its spread and treat it.

My message to all of those in South Africa right now is to – please – wash your hands, maintain physical distance, wear your masks, and abide by the rules of the lockdown.  These regulations are in place to save lives and to keep hospitals available for those who truly need it.  I am fortunate to have had a bed and a medical team available for me in my time of need.  We must all do our utmost to give that same opportunity to those who need it.