Covid-19: Expat survivors in UAE recount their journey
'I feel blessed to be in a place that values human life'
While some people say hardships and challenges make them bitter, people who survived Covid-19 say the suffering has only made them better human beings. Most of the Covid-19 news seems to focus only on the negative effect, illness and death toll, but survivors in the UAE highlight some important life lessons the disease made them realise as they recount their recovery journey.
'It made me a better person'
A strange feeling took over Hilda on March 24 when she suddenly started feeling restless, couldn't sleep at night, experiencing body pain, dizziness and slight diarrohea. Three days later, as her symptoms worsened and she lost her appetite, her husband rushed her to Prime Hospital in an ambulance where she tested positive for covid-19.
Recounting her Covid-19 battle, the 49-year-old Filipino expat, who was admitted at the hospital for 10 days, said it was her faith and positivity that helped her overcome the deadly virus.
"It is a mystery how I contracted the virus as I did not have a travel history and have no idea if or how I may have interacted with a covid-19 positive case. I know my immunity level was very low, which is why this fight against the virus was hard but I am glad I made it. While the doctors of Prime Hospital took utmost care, gave me amazing support and encouragement, I reciprocated by saying 'I have faith and I will fight back in order to survive', and I eventually did," Hilda said.
She added: "The Covid-19 fight was not only physical but also mental and emotional as I had to be away from my loved ones and stay in complete isolation. But as they say, 'what doesn't kill us makes us stronger', this disease has changed my attitude towards life. I have emerged stronger and a better person. Now I value time, family and this renewed faith in God who helped me out of this. Above all, I have learnt to be happy and contented with whatever God has given me."
Although Hilda tested negative thrice and was asked to go home, she is now home quarantined for 14 days. "I am in my room at home with separate bathroom and in complete isolation for the next 14 days. I have my separate utensils and I am complying with the directives given by the hospital. I am maintaining social distancing with my family by just remaining confined to my room."
Talking about how Covid-19 has changed her outlook on life, Hilda said: "Previously, I wasn't grateful for things as I would feel I am not getting my due in terms work or other things. But Covid-19 battle has changed me. I have come to appreciate even small things such as the free air that I am able to breathe because I remember how I struggled to breathe when I was in the hospital without oxygen support. I have started praying not only for myself but also for others because I have realised how tough the situation can get if it worsens."
A doctor becomes patient in his very hospital
Fighting on the Covid-19 battle on the frontlines, when Dr Prabaharan, 43, a doctor who worked in the ICU and operation theatre at Prime Hospital, tested positive for Covid-19, he knew he had to remain calm and adhere to the Dubai Health Authority guidelines. This was the first time Prabaharan was admitted in the hospital where he treated others.
"I was completely asymptomatic and was on my regular duty when all staff was required to undertake Covid-19 test since we are exposed to such patients regularly. I did get worried when I was told I tested positive even though I had no symptoms but I was glad that I had sent my family back to India a month back on vacation. I realised it was time I practised what I preach - not to panic, stay calm and follow directions of your doctor. I knew I was in the low-risk category as I didn't have any chronic illness and was also not that old. I stayed at the hospital just for six days where I was given doses of anti-virals and antibitocs and tested negative on the fourth, fifth and sixth days. I was then sent home to rest and now I am quarantined in my house for the next 14 days. The level of respect I have for my fellow healthcare workers and all at Prime Hospital has doubled as they gave me the best possible care required as I played patient in my very hospital."
'Even the air I breathe is a blessing'
It was an emotional recovery journey for 44-year-old PM (name withheld on request), who contacted the disease along with her husband, AM. A very private person who doesn't go out much, PM could not think in her wildest dream that she would fall prey to the deadly virus. Working mother of a 19-year-old, she said it all started with an itchy throat that later worsened and caused immense weakness in her body.
"It was something different, a discomfort I had never experienced. It wasn't so bad but it did not let me feel comfortable in my skin. I had constant fever and no antibiotics or nebulisation seemed to help. After about five days when nothing helped, I was admitted to Medeor Hospital, Dubai, as my energy levels had plummeted. I could barely stand and the fever wouldn't go down. This is when they admitted me and did a Covid-19 test and much to my disbelief, the result came positive."
Her husband also tested positive and was admitted to the same hospital in another room. Breaking down while narrating her story, PM said: "More than the physical toll, the disease was a painful and emotional test as it was the first time in many years I was torn away from my husband and son. My son studies in the UK and he flew in a day after we were admitted to the hospital. My husband had no symptoms at all. I couldn't see him for many days and felt helpless when he visited the hospital and said 'Hi' to me from a distance."
While she was in the hospital for three weeks, her husband was admitted for eight days as he had no symptoms and recovered quickly.
"Doctors were very encouraging as they told me how I was progressing well and kept bucking me up to be strong. But what Covid-19 has made me realise is the value of relationships. I saw my husband after 20 days. When we were in the same hospital, we communicated through phone.
"Also, the immense support my friends have shown me makes me want to cry and thank them. I value my friends so much now as they took care of my son by sending him all three meals when we were away. I thank God for everything he has given me. Even this fresh air we get to breathe is a blessing. Another thing I want to say about the UAE is that apart from the excellent medical facilities that I was given at the hospital, all the health authority officials here have been very compassionate and have checked on me every now and then. They made me feel at home always. I feel blessed to be in a place that values human life."
Heart patient thanks ?Dubai authorities
A heart patient in Dubai, who recovered from Covid-19, said timely medical care and top-class treatment helped him beat the virus.
Pakistani expat Teer Peerbux, 43, survives on defibrillator, a life-saving heart device to treat Ventricular Tachycardia - a condition that leads to irregular and fast heartrate.
"When I tested positive, my biggest worry was that my heart condition will make me vulnerable to Covid-related medical complications. My heart rate used to be above 250. I underwent the surgery in 2016 and got the defibrillator installed," Peerbux, who works for a private company, told Khaleej Times.
Peerbux hails from Balochistan and has been living in Dubai for the last 25 years. He tested positive on March 31. "It all started with a headache. One of my colleagues with whom I was sharing the computer tested positive. Within a few days, I had a nasty headache and that got me scared." Peerbux said he called the Dubai Health Authority's helpline and sought help, saying he is a heart patient.
"Their response was quick. They directed me to go to a hospital and I was really impressed by the way they handled my case," said Peerbux, married and with seven children. The eldest is 18 years old and youngest, four months. The Pakistani supervisor said doctors checked his heartbeat, took his ECG and admitted him. "I spent nearly nine days in a hotel that was transformed into a hospital. "I have no words to thank the Dubai authorities and all the doctors and nurses who took such good care of me. They went all out to make sure that I have a speedy recovery," said Peerbux, who got discharged on Thursday after his tests came negative.
"I think what saved me is my self-initiative to seek medical help without delay and the top-class medical treatment I got from Dubai authorities.
Peerbux said he is in a government-run quarantine facility in Dubai. "I will have to stay in quarantine for another 14 days and I am happy to do so. I want all residents to understand that the government is doing their best to fight this killer virus. But we have to help them help us by obeying rules and staying at home."
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