Chronic fatigue syndrome, long Covid highlighted in Khayelitsha

Long Covid ambassador Mlindeni Gabela and keynote speaker Dr Uvistra Naidoo. l SUPPLIED

Long Covid ambassador Mlindeni Gabela and keynote speaker Dr Uvistra Naidoo. l SUPPLIED

Published May 18, 2023


Cape Town - A recent event aimed at creating awareness of a lesser known condition called Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), which could be affecting more people than we know, was organised in Khayelitsha at the weekend.

“The Blue Sunday Tea Party”, organised and sponsored by the ME/ CFS Foundation of SA, was held at the Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha on Sunday.

The annual global event aims to create awareness and raise funds for ME/CFS and Long Covid patients.

The foundation’s Mlindeni Gabela, from Khayelitsha, contracted Covid-19 in April 2020 and has never fully recovered. He experiences shortness of breath, heart palpitations, fatigue and brain fog.

“The doctor diagnosed me with Long Covid. She booked me in at Groote Schuur Long Covid Clinic. They did tests and all tests came back negative. The doctor dismissed me and sent me to a psychiatrist,” Gabela said.

“I got a professor who diagnosed me with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) last year. There is no treatment or cure. Living with energy limited illness is hard, because people are not familiar and my wish is to teach and share what I went through in terms of work and insurance. You suffer too much when you have invisible illnesses.”

Gabela wore a gown throughout the programme, demonstrating how a lot of ME/CFS/Long Covid patients struggle to even get out of bed and leave their homes. Gabela was classified by the pain management unit of the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital as having moderate to severe ME.

He is mostly housebound when his symptoms are well controlled but bed-bound during a flare-up.

Activists at the foundation said the worst part of ME/CFS/Long Covid was post-exertion malaise.

The keynote address was delivered by clinical specialist paediatrician and founder of the Long Covid Centre, Dr Uvistra Naidoo. Dr Naidoo contracted severe Covid-19 in July 2020 and again in January 2021 and struggles with Long Covid and chronic lung disease.

The programme also included the screening of “Unrest”, which depicts the health journey of ME/CFS patients globally.