But while the coronavirus has left her frail and weak, she is already starting to get back on her feet, walking around her unit at a Sea Point retirement village two days after being discharged from the Mediclinic Cape Town.
Her son, Lionel, told News24 his mother is still a bit confused but on the mend and comfortable back in her own home, lamenting that she is determined to return to her regular walks when she knows she shouldn’t be.
And he knows Bertha is almost her old self again, because “on a cold day like this, she wants to know if I am still wearing a vest and a jersey – and I am almost 80-years-old”.
Lionel’s wife, Milly, told news24 her mother-in-law had been ailing for a week before she called her to say she was feeling poorly.
After a visit from her doctor, Bertha was transported to hospital by ambulance on 15 July.
She was diagnosed with double pneumonia. She was confirmed to have contracted Covid-19 and was put on nasal oxygen.
“We were sitting on tenterhooks – we didn’t think we would make it through the weekend. But she did,” Milly said.
She told News24 being in isolation was frightening for Bertha, who is “very sociable”.
But hospital staff made sure she didn’t feel completely alone – they kept her in touch with her twin sons, Lionel in Cape Town and Brian on the Isle of Wight in the UK, by scheduling a Zoom session so she could see them from her hospital bed.
Two weeks after being admitted, a beaming Bertha was wheeled out of the hospital with no sign of respiratory distress.
Lionel heaped praise on the hospital staff, specifically “the amazing” pulmonologist Dr Neville Govender who kept the family informed of Bertha’s condition when they were unable to see her.
She is currently recovering at home, where, aside from having her meals prepared for her, she continues to take care of herself.
Lionel said his mother, who was born in Thaba Nchu but lived in Zimbabwe for many years before returning to Cape Town, had been saddened to hear that her oldest friend had died of cancer during her hospitalisation.
“She accepted it calmly. She has outlived all her friends,” he said.
The family didn’t know how Bertha had contracted the virus, but are elated that she survived.
“And she is still stubborn as hell. She still wants to walk when she shouldn’t be, or do things that she knows she shouldn’t be doing. It annoys me, but what can I say?” Lionel said with a laugh.
Her feisty mother-in-law was fiercely independent and used to doing everything for herself, Milly said.
“Oh, she loves walking, even if she now has to do it with a walker. She had been saddened when they closed the park [in accordance with lockdown regulations] but will be happy to see that it’s been reopened.”
A keen bridge player and bowler, the lockdown has left her with no one to play with.
But this is a small price to pay for Bertha, who is expected to live to see her twins turn 80 on 22 August. Their celebrations will take place via Zoom, Lionel said.
After her exit from the hospital where Bertha waved at the applauding hospital staff “like the queen”, the centenarian has been getting plenty of bed rest as she builds up her strength to return to the Sea Point promenade, where she is a well-known fixture.