Covid in UAE: Frontline hero recovers after 180 days of battling virus

VPS rewarded the fighting spirit of their staff with financial aid, a job for his wife, a promise to fund his kid's education and a flat


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Thu 27 Jan 2022, 2:22 PM

Last updated: Thu 27 Jan 2022, 10:52 PM

There were scenes of triumph, relief and vindication at Abu Dhabi's Burjeel Hospital as a Covid-19 infected frontliner was discharged on Thursday after battling for more than 180 days for his life.

Arunkumar M Nair, an operation theatre technician with VPS healthcare, endured damaged lungs, a cardiac arrest, failure to breathe on his own and in a semi-conscious state for six months after turning Covid-19 positive in July. Nair, a 38-year-old health worker from the Indian state of Kerala, faced death from close quarters in a flatline situation until a doctor found a pulse to revive his life.

VPS has rewarded the fighting spirit of their frontline staff with Dh250,000 financial aid, a job for his wife, a promise to fund his kid's education and a one-bedroom flat in Abu Dhabi.

It has been a roller-coaster ride for Nair and his family as he spent some 118 days on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment.

Jenny George, Nair's wife, recalled one of the harrowing experiences when she received a call from the hospital informing that her husband was sinking.

"The nurse told me that Arun had suffered a cardiac arrest during a bronchoscopy procedure, and the medical team is trying their best to resuscitate him. She asked me to come quickly. I ran there with my two-year-old baby in hand and saw Arun fighting for life. On the monitor, I saw a straight line and was numb. I cannot remember now whether I was crying or not. But then suddenly, Dr Tarig found a pulse of life, and he got him back. Dr Tarig is God for us.

"If it had been any other doctor, I do not think Arun would be alive today. We will always be indebted to him and will remember him and the entire medical team and the hospital management in our prayers for their sincere efforts in saving Arun's life," Jenny said.

In the half-year-long battle against Covid-19 and the critical complications induced by it, Arun breathed and sustained his life with the support of an artificial lung (ECMO machine).

During the period, he endured multiple complexities, including a cardiac arrest. He also underwent several procedures, such as tracheostomy and bronchoscopy.

'I barely escaped from the jaws of death'

VPS held an emotional ceremony at the hospital's auditorium where the medical team came wearing a face mask that had Nair's face imprinted on it.

Nair turned emotional while talking about his gritty journey from gasping for breath at a quarantine facility in mid-July and swiftly moved to a government hospital and from there to Burjeel Hospital.

"I barely escaped from the jaws of death. I thank God for blessing me with a new life. I am grateful for all the support received from my friends, family, colleagues, especially Dr Tarig and his team.

"It's is because of such constant efforts that I got a second chance in life," said Nair, who was part of the Covid-19 task force at LLH Hospital in Abu Dhabi.

Since July 31, Nair was on ECMO support as he could not breathe naturally, and he did come out of it after 118 days. Only after his condition worsened Nair informed his family back in Kerala.

"Initially, we thought he was part of the Covid-19 taskforce and hence unable to call. By when the hospital informed us about his condition, we were shocked," said Jenny, who is also a healthcare worker.

In August, Nair was supposed to travel to Kerala for a housewarming event, but the family soon realised it wasn't meant to be.

"The news came as a huge blow for Arun's parents and me. He had not even seen the baby for over a year then. He last came when the baby was only three months old," said Jenny.

Soon, VPS brought Jenny and baby Arjun to Abu Dhabi.

"When I first saw him in the ICU bed with tubes all over his body, I could not believe my eyes. For the first time, I felt like he would not make it. But doctors and his friends supported me and gave me confidence," she added.


'He is a remarkable fighter'

Dr Tarig Ali Mohamed Elhassan, department head of cardiac surgery at Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi, said, "He is a great fighter. I have never seen one like him in my career. His lungs had failed. It was beyond repair. He was breathing only with the support of an ECMO machine. And this continued for about 118 days.

"In a normal case, the recovery would have been impossible. This is why his recovery is a miracle. He even endured a cardiac arrest while his body was weak."

Nair is recovering well and will need to continue regular physiotherapy and rehab to possibly return to work in a month's time.

"Arun is an integral member of our family, and we are committed to ensuring his well-being. We will continue to support him and his family in the future and will extend all help to secure him the best treatment in the coming days," said VPS Healthcare chairman and managing director Dr Shamsheer Vayalil.

There was further surprise for Nair as Malayalam superhero film 'Minnal Murali' star Tovino Thomas joined the event live and wished him the best.

"I am overwhelmed to learn about his inspiring fight. I am and can only be a superhero in reel. But the real superheroes are millions of frontline warriors like Arun fighting the pandemic from the front. Big salutes to you all," Thomas said.

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