Woodstock resident Imraan Abed felt a sense of relief when he brought his mother, Rokia Effendi home at the end of April from the United Kingdom(UK) after a six-month struggle.
Mr Abed, 40, needed to medically repatriate his mother, 74, after his stepfather, Achmat Tariq Mountifield, 73, died last October due to septicemia which is a serious blood infection.
His stepfather was married to his mother for 31 years, though they have been living alone in Reading, England, for the past 20 years.
For the past five years his stepfather was his mother’s caregiver, as she suffered a stroke five years ago, which paralysed the left side of her body. Ms Effendi also experienced difficulties with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for the past 10 years.
Mr Abed, who was in Johannesburg at the time, needed to fly over to the UK to take care of his mother and also tried to bring her back to South Africa. “I applied for an emergency visa, and had to go for a coronavirus (Covid-19) test and arrived in the UK on Tuesday November 4,” he said.
Mr Abed also had to break the sad news to his mother on Wednesday November 5 that his stepfather passed away, due to his mother not being able to travel to the hospital.
Mr Abed had to make the necessary plans to repatriate his mother home, but when he arrived in the UK the country went into a heavy Covid-19 lockdown due to the rise in second wave infections.
“During that time no air travel was permitted out of the country,” he said.
Then in December, the UK allowed flights to come in from certain countries and his sister, Rehana Effendi, 48, from Ottery came to assist Mr Abed in taking care of their mother. Things went from bad to worse in the UK though when a Covid-19 variant was identified and his sister got stuck in the country as well.
“I was my mum’s carer; we also received visits by caregivers who would help on a daily basis,” he said.
Mr Abed had to take care of his mother’s affairs with the banks and because he was not accustomed to their rules, he got assistance from his stepfather’s cousin, Dr Barbara Brockway. “We managed to get all my mother’s affairs sorted by the end of December, then the goal was to try to get her home,” he says.
Dr Brockway, from Fairford, England, said her family was shocked to find out that her cousin, Mr Mountifield, has passed away and did not know how ill Ms Effendi was. “If Imraan did not get to the UK at the time that he did to take care of his mother, she would have been sent to the state nursing home where she would not have been able to see any visitors,” she said.
Mr Abed still had to work on medically repatriating his mother and was connected to a medical firm that does that kind of work. “The firm helps repatriate clients that are medically compromised. Due to my mum’s health, she would not have been able to travel alone with me,” he said.
His sister left in February, while he was alerted by the firm in April he could travel with his mother. His sister and Dr Brockway assisted in the costs in getting his mother home.
Dr Brockway said it was a pleasure that she could help get Ms Effendi home. “Everyone needs emotional support and what Imraan did for his mother was heroic, he never gave up,”she said.
His mother was given an ambulance ride to the airport and two medical escorts accompanied Mr Abed and his mother on the 12-hour flight from London to Cape Town. Arrangements were made beforehand with a South African medical services company that they would have an ambulance meet them at Cape Town International Airport when they arrived home.
Mr Abed said it was a emotional experience trying to get his mother home. “Emotionally I felt isolated and I was thrown into a position of being a carer, which I knew nothing about,” he said.
After going through that experience Mr Abed said he felt a sense of victory when the ambulance pulled up at his home in Woodstock. “It was tenacity and teamwork; this would have not been possible without the help of my sisters and Dr Brockway,”he said.
His sisters, Ms Effendi and Ilknur Abed, 52, were preparing Mr Abed’s house in Woodstock so that his mother would be ready to move in.
The family could also enjoy the recent Eid celebrations together in Woodstock.
Mr Abed said they have a full-time caregiver, Charity Chidziwa, for his mother and had equipped her room with a hospital bed, concentrated oxygen, which she requires for 16 hours per day and a rotunda device to transfer his mother from bed to wheelchair.
Ms Effendi, who was last in the country in 2015, said she is blessed to be home. “I enjoy seeing family and friends who come to visit me,” she said.
She said when she heard the sound of taxis and the taxi guard screaming, “Wynberg, Wynberg, Claremont, Cape Town,” she knew she was back in Cape Town again.