Vaccination South Africa: Kevin Tabilo's Perspective

Guest post by Kevin Tabilo.

As part of the Covid-awareness information discussion, we’ve asked for your thoughts and real life stories of what you’ve experienced with covid in your life or in the industry, and why the vaccine is so important to you in your life.

Kevin Tabilo needs no introduction. He has been one of the strongest, most respected voices for the South African hair and beauty industry during the dark months of 2020 and hard Covid Lockdown, and beyond. He shares his thoughts and deep feelings of his journey.

My Story with RONA - Kevin Tabilo

First of all, I would like to specifically state that I am writing this story as Kevin Tabilo, the human being, not Kevin Tabilo, the National Sales Manager for Kao Salon Division and my thoughts and views do not reflect the views of my company in any way, shape or form. I am also pro-choice when it comes to the vaccine and being vaccinated. I am just giving you all my story with Rona and how the virus has affected my life and why I have chosen to be vaccinated. I want to give you all an honest and heartfelt opinion of my experience with the virus and what I have seen others experience around me.

So when the pandemic hit us in 2020 and we went into a lockdown, we were trying to curb something that we knew very little about. I believed like all of us did that this thing wasn’t as bad as everyone made it out to be and that this little “flu” would be something that would pass us by and we would continue to live our lives as if nothing happened. I was one of those people and I remember being so frustrated being stuck in my apartment which I had just moved into and even more frustrated that I couldn’t see my son because at the time, there wasn’t a plan from the government for co-parents and how we could move around to go from one house to another.

My other biggest fear was that my son is neutropenic with an immunodeficiency disorder… in plain English this means that he has an abnormally low level of white blood cells (neutrophils) which means he has an increased vulnerability to infection. To give you all an idea, his neutrophil count was measured at a level of 15, where most kids would have anything greater than 1500. So as he’s gotten older, he gets less sick but his early years were spent in hospitals with terrible chest infections and then as he got older, the chest infections got less hectic but for most of his life, my son spent a lot of his time sick and he just accepted that as his “normal”.

As you can imagine, this broke my heart and it broke his Mom’s heart, going back to the doctor time and time again, alternating antibiotics and never getting an answer. After countless doctors, we found an immunologist that put him on a monthly dose of Berigloban which has definitely made his life better and he hasn’t gotten as sick as often and that could’ve possibly saved his life and I’ll explain why, later in this story.

So after getting in to some decent shape through home workouts, learning how to bake banana bread, making home-made pizza from scratch and probably the most important skill I learnt during the lockdown… video editing, we slowly started re-entering the world. My video editing practice came in the form of airing my frustrations of our industry being closed and those random rants landed up causing a movement. A movement called #untieourhands where we started a digital protest around letting salons open up and finally the relief of the government letting salons trade again.

Then not too long after that, as we started to go back to the office and some semblance of normality and being in the best shape I had been in a long time, thinking I was healthy and untouchable, the unthinkable happened and Rona came knocking on my door (literally as the video suggests). It was different to anything else I had experienced, in fact the day after I started feeling the symptoms, I knew I had it, there’s just something so different about this virus and its unpredictability. Then came the fear and the distress and seeing that SMS come through on my phone brought me to tears. Tears for not knowing how bad it would be, tears for knowing I am a father with responsibilities and tears for not being more cautious around people that I had interacted with.

The first few days were ok, I had bad fever and body aches but it was manageable and I thought, “ok, this is not the worst thing in the world and then came day 8. That was the day I remember I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest, I was battling to breathe and my shortness of breath sent me into a flat panic. I had moments where I thought, this was it, this is the end and I was alone, by myself in an apartment and that nobody would find me for days.

It was the scariest couple of days of my life and honestly the only thing that kept me sane was that I had social media to tell my story and allow others to get in touch and give me their experience with the dreaded Rona. Me being open about it and giving people the opportunity to feel safe to talk to me about it, made me feel better and gave me a sense of purpose because at the time most people didn’t want to let others know that they had it.

I remember how scared my Dad was when he would drop off food outside my place and how all I wanted was a hug and someone to tell me it would be ok.

It was lonely, heartbreaking and so scary… to the point where I would even have the route planned out… from my place to the closest hospital. The thing with COVID-19 is how up and down it would be, one day you would wake up ok and the next day you couldn’t even get your head off the pillow. The worst part of it, and the part that not enough people talk about, is the long-term effects of the Rona and how badly it affects your body and mind long term.

Brain fog, fatigue, memory loss, shortness of breath, stomach issues - and those are just some of the long-term symptoms I’ve had from Covid has meant that I have taken this virus very seriously. I have seen the virus take many people I know, people in the industry, friends of loved ones and just too many cases for me to sit and try and remember one by one.

Worst part about all of this is that I got it for the second time, not even a year later, I got the new strain, Delta, and once again I felt that sinking feeling when getting the SMS confirming my worst fears. This time I wasn’t as scared, I had fought it off once and survived so now it wasn’t death making me scared, it was seeing my partner get it and seeing her suffer because of the effects. It was feeling those symptoms again and this time luckily I didn’t lose my sense of smell and taste but I was back at being man down again. Albeit this time, I was fighting it off a lot better.

After I got it for the second time, the first thing I did was plan to wait the 40 odd days before going to get the jab and that’s exactly what I did. My son got it, contracted it from their domestic worker and both his Mom and him were sick. My worst fear had come true and luckily my son was fine, the Berigloban injections had helped and he was ok, hardly felt any of the symptoms. Seeing his Mom have terrible symptoms and then hearing the passing away of their beloved Gogo, broke my heart and here is a little boy, who at 6 years old, has much more experience at dealing with death then I did at his age.

I am glad I went for the first jab. I felt a bit of a headache for a few days after I got it but then I was fine, I had a bit of fatigue and body ache so I lay low for a few days until I felt better.

By the time you read this, I will be going for my second jab. Not just for me but to try and minimize the risk for the ones around me, for the people I love and want to try and protect. Oh, and I would also like to travel at some point again and for that I need to be vaccinated so it’s a win-win.

Rona, I am done with you. It’s over, we tried this twice and it just didn’t work out the way it should’ve. I wish I could say I will miss you but that would be a lie. I know I can get it again but having it twice and building up a natural immunity to the virus, plus getting vaccinated, I am just trying to minimize my chances of getting it again or even worse giving it to others and the people I love.

This is my story and thanks again to Hairnews for giving me the opportunity to tell it.

Please be safe out there and make good choices.


Kevin Tabilo

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