Dr S. Sainalabdeen: The doctor keeping faith alive
As Covid-19 poses a serious challenge to healthcare and economic systems the world over, a Dubai-based Indian doctor has a simple piece of advice for all - "Do not panic." Dr Saheer Sainalabdeen, specialist pulmonologist and respiratory medicine at Medeor Hospital in Dubai, has been treating infected patients in the UAE since March 1. When Khaleej Times' multimedia journalist Juidin Bernarrd and I met the doctor a month ago, we expected to see an exhausted medical professional. Instead, we found ourselves interacting with a calm and reassuring figure, who maintains that people should not be spending their time at home worrying about state of affairs.
Having been on the frontline since March 1, he had been putting in 14-15-hour shifts at work. When we met him, we didn't shake hands, and sat at the opposite end of a long table. What does being on the frontline mean for his family? "I haven't interacted with or held my two children at all since I started treating patients. I can say that for all the medical professionals in our team. Our interactions with our families have drastically reduced," he told us, while insisting that social distancing must be practised outside as well as inside our homes.
A month since our first interaction, the number of cases in the UAE have increased. "Thanks to intensive testing, I expect the numbers to go up over the next couple of weeks. It is natural," he says. His advice, however, remains the same: stressing over the virus will not help. "When you stress and panic, your blood pressure, insulin, and general immunity lowers, making it tougher to fight the virus. Stay calm." Dr Saheer says that about 80 per cent of patients have mild symptoms. "About 15 per cent of the patients suffer moderate-to-severe symptoms and 5 per cent are critical. Those with mild symptoms have recovered with minimal supportive treatment." If there is one thing that has remained constant between our previous and recent interaction, it is his sheer positivity. He sums it up succinctly when he says, "This, too, shall pass."