Church cluster

Cases of Covid-19 have been linked to pastors at the Berwick Church of Christ. 208040_02. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Brendan Rees

A Berwick pastor is currently in hospital fighting the coronavirus following a trip to South Africa in March – which also led to the death of a family member who contracted the virus.

Pastor Michael Rojales was in a coma for two weeks upon his return to Australia after travelling to Cape Town for a study tour with four other pastors from the Berwick Church of Christ, according to a source from the church.

“His kidney basically closed down and at one stage he only had two per cent,” the source said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“(He’s) still in corona wards – he hasn’t been let out to go to rehab yet.”

The source also revealed Pastor Michael’s mother-in-law died after contracting Covid-19 while his mother was also infected but had since recovered after being admitted to hospital.

“The funeral was happening while he was still in a coma so I believe, which is pretty tough, and he’s got an 18-year-old-daughter,” the source said.

The wife of Pastor Mat Daniels, who was “least affected” by Covid-19, also contracted the virus.

Asked whether other members of the church had contracted Covid-19, the source said: “Not that I’m aware of.”

Of the five pastors who travelled to Cape Town, four are back working at the church – two of whom were infected with the virus, the source said.

It comes as Pastor Braam Botha spoke of his “desperate physical state” after being diagnosed with Covid-19 following the trip to Cape Town with the group of pastors.

Speaking in a video streamed to the Berwick Church of Christ Facebook page, Pastor Braam revealed Pastor Michael “was doing it tough” on their return flight home.

He explained their flight times had changed but nonetheless all five were flown back to Australia’s before the borders were closed.

Information about the virus at this stage, he said, had been “still a bit sleepy” following their trip from 8-19 March.

“At that stage we could really see Michael was doing it tough and we are still trusting in god for Michael’s miracle,” Pastor Braam said, adding “thank god he has been healing up and it’s going better with him”.

“Then I had some symptoms that wasn’t the typical symptoms,” Pastor Braam said.

“I had the headaches which was quite severe. I could feel that something in my chest wasn’t right, but there was no cough, there was no phlegm produced, it was just the headaches and the fever that was intense.

“I suspect on our way back on the second leg of the flight we were exposed to the coronavirus in the airplane.

“A few days after coming back we started to present some symptoms that was relating to the coronavirus.”

Upon returning to Australia, Pastor Braam said he had three visits to hospital but due to his lack of symptoms at the time, medical staff suspected his condition was “something else”

On his third trip to hospital, he said staff took some x-rays and diagnosed him with “a typical pneumonia with 50 per cent of my one lung left functioning normally and 25 per cent of the other lung.”

“A few days later I was still doing it tough and I was so distressed because I sensed something in my body was not doing well,” he said in the streamed video.

“I was lying in bed at one stage and the pain was so intense and I could feel my back to get oxygen to my organs was intensifying.

“At a stage I suddenly felt some of the organs in my body starting to slow down, that’s the most awkward experience.

“A fear got hold of me,” he said, adding at one point he turned to his wife and said: “It’s as if death is knocking on my door.”

Pastor Braam said he went back to hospital but “they referred me to another hospital”.

“My fever just kept on rising and rising and at one stage I had a fever of 41.8 which is way too high.” (A normal body temperature is around 37 degrees).

Pastor Braam was bathed in ice in an attempt to cool his body as he recalled “battling for my life.”

Fortunately, Pastor Braam has recovered, saying “thank god for the amazing treatment I got.”

The Department of Health and Human Services was contacted regarding Covid-19 cases linked to the Berwick Church of Christ, however, a spokesperson said: “DHHS does not identify individual cases or their close contacts.”

“The department is responding to cases as they are notified and the public can be confident that all close contacts are responded to accordingly as required to protect public health,” the spokesperson said.

“As part of our contract tracing, any public exposure sites are contacted and provided with advice about the transmission risks and any cleaning that may be required.”

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