Amid the chaos surrounding the spread of COVID-19, it’s important to take stock of the people and things that carry us through this difficult time. In this more personal blog post, the Allergy Clinic’s Dr Marinda McDonald shares some of her learnings and experiences over the last couple of weeks.

While I’m not in the front-line treating patients with COVID-19, the rise of this pandemic has led to one of the most challenging times in my career. I still am treating existing and new patients at The Allergy Clinic. Their needs vary. Some of them are visibly scared and are seeking reassurance. Some of them are ill and require continuous treatment. And then there are my patients with compromised immune systems, requiring drastic measures to ensure they stay healthy during this time.

Information is everything

Every morning after reading more news about the spread of COVID-19, I institute more and more stringent measures to protect my staff and patients. There’s a lot of scientific information to work through, and if I don’t, it can cost my patients and me dearly.

I often find that applying the latest learnings and guidelines within the context of The Allergy Clinic can be challenging. That said, everyone involved enthusiastically embraces and executes everything that needs to be done, no matter how extreme some of these measures might be.

Gain perspective by remembering the HIV/Aids epidemic

Facing the threat of COVID-19 brings back memories of the time when I was an intern at the age of 23 working in the height of South Africa’s HIV/Aids epidemic.

Thanks to the then-department of health’s controversial HIV/Aids policy, we didn’t have any antiretrovirals at our disposal, and our patients were dying in droves. I had to sign so many death certificates that I lost count. The dying were put in the back rows of the wards, and all we could do was to try and keep them alive with fluids and essential medicine like antifungals and antibiotics. Eventually, death would come to these patients. The faces of these patients will always haunt me.

With the rise of COVID-19, my fear of ending up in a similar situation is the worst nightmare of all. We’re all responsible for doing everything in our power to prevent history from repeating itself. I would also like to give credit to all healthcare professionals who are working around the clock to treat patients and to try and contain the spread of the virus.

Anything’s possible when a kick-ass team has your back

At The Allergy Clinic, we have always had an ethos that patients come first and that we all try out and help out where we can. We continue to do so throughout the fear and uncertainty everyone is experiencing at the moment. I am especially grateful for my super dynamic team, who is my rock during this challenging time.

Everyone had to step up and make things happen.

My receptionist and right hand became an infection control specialist. My bookkeeper and practice manager became a detective in finding stock, despite all frustrations medical professionals are experiencing at the moment.

And then there is my practice cleaner, who is like a (sibling) sister to me because we grew up together. These days, she’s adding to her burden of work, doing most of the backbreaking work to keep our space safe and virus-free, and tonight we will be sewing masks together.

This is an opportunity to rediscover the joy of spending time with family

The lockdown has also been good for my family. I’ve had the privilege of spending (and enjoying!) more time with my children due to fewer hours in my practice. It made me realize that my life’s work is centred around serving them. I want to thank my two wonderful boys, who are my reason for living, for their patience with their mom. I have a new perspective on priorities, on what is really important in life.

I would like to salute all parents, and all children and all families that consist in many different forms. May the heartache, stress and sorrow of these days be supported by your family and anybody who is your heart space.

We will prevail in these erratic times.


Marinda McDonald

Dr Marinda McDonald has offered specialised treatments for allergies for most of her professional career. Read more about her on the home page of this website (allergydoc.co.za).