‘They Lived For Each Other'

Drum English|9 July 2020

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‘They Lived For Each Other'
This Cape Town teen’s parents died from Covid-19 on the same day. Now she’s alone and battling the virus too
Colin Hendricks

Her biggest fear when the pandemic arrived in South Africa and started its insidious creep across the country was that one of her parents would get it.

She worried especially about her dad, a driver for Alexandra Hospital, a specialist mental healthcare facility in Cape Town.

As an essential worker in one of the industries most vulnerable to Covid-19, he knew he was at risk but he was hypervigilant about hygiene, Amy Volkwijn (19) says.

He kept his mask on at all times, he washed his clothes as soon as he got home and he sanitised his hands religiously.

Still, she fretted constantly that he’d get sick – although never for a second did she think he’d actually die from the virus.

“I thought if he got it, we’d get through it as a family and triumph through faith and prayer,” Amy says.

Barry Volkwijn (48) did get sick. He did die. And so too did her mom, Heidi (43), who passed away on the same day as her dad.

Now Amy, an only child, is all alone, isolating after testing Covid-19 positive too, and mourning the two people she loved most in the world.

Behind Amy on the video-call screen is a table full of flowers sent by loved ones, friends and colleagues shattered by the double blow. Her only comfort, she says, is that her parents are together – united in death as they were in life.

Yet it’s still almost impossible to comprehend that they’re both gone.

“I still can’t believe it,” Amy says. “I’m still crying. Why my mom and dad? Why both of them? Why on the same day?”

Heidi, who was the manager of the League of Friends of the Blind’s division for youth and young adults, had also been worried about contracting the coronavirus.

“She was blind and worked with the blind. Her work was heavily focused on personal contact,” Amy explains.

Heidi had been working from home for the past two months, but she hadn’t needed to go out into the world to get sick – the disease found its way into the family home in Retreat, Cape Town.

And Amy’s biggest fears were realised.

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9 July 2020