Thursday, August 24, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Indigenous Health Worker Conquers COVID

Scared for her life and feeling isolated away from her ‘mob’, Bowen local Charmaine Pangi spent eight days in the COVID ward of Mackay Base Hospital where she was often struggling to breathe and suffering immense kidney pains.

The Indigenous Health Care Worker, who looks after Bowen and Collinsville residents, was diagnosed with COVID on Friday 21st January.

On the days prior, she had been feeling hot but strangely her temperature had remained normal, then on day three she got a tickle in the back of her throat.

She went to the hospital the next day because she was finding it hard to breathe and received some medicine which eased her symptoms considerably.

That afternoon, however, they came back ten-fold, and she was admitted to hospital. By the following afternoon she was transported to Mackay Base Hospital for specialist monitoring.

“Trying to get air . . . it was scary – even now I struggle sometimes,” she said.

Alone in her room at the hospital, Ms Pangi began creating some short videos to document her journey and show others what it was like to endure COVID.

“I thought I have to do something, I don’t care how it looks, I just need to tell people wear that mask properly. Don’t wear it under your nose – cover your mouth and nose,” she said.

“I always say with my job I practice what I preach. COVID is a big thing and so many people in rural areas are blasé about it. If I can show what it’s actually like and what it does to you, people might realise how sick it makes you.

“I would have been gone if I wasn’t vaccinated.”

While she was in hospital, Councillor Mike Brunker reached out to Ms Pangi and asked if he could share her story with Bowen residents.

“Our community here is tight – if anything happens to any of our people we all rally around together and support each other,” she said.

Buoyed by the support of others, Ms Pangi pushed through and managed to return home after eight days.

An immunosuppressed patient, she had been the recipient of a kidney transplant in 2001 and is due to receive another transplant later this year.

These health issues meant that, despite being vaccinated, she was highly susceptible to COVID and she is now likely to suffer ongoing side-effects.

Attempting to go back to work last week, Ms Pangi realised how fatigued she was and said she was grateful to be part of such a supportive team.

“My work mates are just great,” she said.

Indigenous Health Care Worker Charmain Pangi

Ms Pangi videoed her ordeal to help warn others

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