My father, having contracted Corona Virus, spent 14 days in ventilator at HAMS, probably the longest time a COVID-19 patient has been in ventilated intermediate care at that Hospital, before he perished and left us devastated. As a person closely taking care of him, I felt I should share a few things here, on the onset that the pandemic is now widespread into our community and probable disaster could now be inevitable to anyone.
1. Out of all the mild symptoms, the most critical one requiring immediate attention is the difficulty in breathing. Especially the elderlies may not be able to tell you that they are having difficulties breathing. For e.g., my father thought there wasn’t enough air coming from the windows in his room when actually he had trouble breathing during the initial days of infection.
2. If you have anyone with the virus in your family, particularly with symptoms, it is better you keep checking the oxygen saturation. Pulse oxymeters are always handy, available at drug stores I guess. The saturation of below 93 requires immediate hospital care according to the doctor. One unique attribute of COVID-19 patients is that even at critical oxygen saturation, patients do not seem to pass out. In my father’s case, the second day of hospital admission before he was taken to ICU, he had a persistent reading of below 85. While the medical staffs frantically worked to improve his oxygen level, my father was very much conscious and communicating with me all awhile. The doctor said this is very unique to COVID-19 patients, the blood clots are unusual therefore patients do not get unconscious yet the situation is very critical (https://hms.harvard.edu/news/covid-19-blood-clots). They said this is the reason why most COVID patients die unexpectedly and suddenly when left untreated.
3. Counsellings and reassurances from the loved ones, particularly to the elderlies who have contracted the virus, are pretty much quintessential. One biggest regret I will always have is that I couldn’t give reassurances to my father all while he was reading horrible news and watching horrible sights of COVID-19 death cases first hand, as well as right before he was taken to the ICU. Although the elderlies in your family might not express their anxiety to you like my father, they most probably are super anxious because of the daily pandemic news and realizing how vulnerable they are. In addition, the extra precautions medical staffs take wearing scary PPEs and Face Masks during their treatment are particularly distressing to them. One of the fatal reasons my father couldn’t make it out of the ventilator was that every time they tried to wean him out of the ventilator (in medical terms they call it SBT – spontaneous breathing trial), he would go to septic shock and feel agitated, resulting in drastic blood pressure drop requiring him to be re-sedated and brought back to the ventilator. We couldn’t be with him during that process due to obvious reason worsening the situation.
4. All the health care professionals, working in front-line during this pandemic, are most probably over-worked, exhausted and on-the-brink. Yet, they are doing all they can in order to save lives. We must understand that SARS-CoV2 (COVID 19) is a new disease caused by a newer and deadlier strain of Novel Corona Virus: a lot of it is yet to be researched, tested and verified. This means the treatment of this disease is still evolving, which in turn means the doctors are still figuring out how to provide the best care and save as many lives as possible. In this process, we must be eternally supportive and empathic towards them. Yes, we may have our own theories, we look at social media a lot. With whatever little pseudo information we have that we gather from unverified social media posts, it is by no means appropriate to judge, opine and intervene the protocols medical professionals are following in order to treat our loved ones. Therefore, let’s bestow our unwavering trust to our medical professionals and health care system. Probably the least we can do in order to help them battle this invisible enemy.
4. Lastly, while it is true in this failing situation the only option is “Herd Immunity” learning to live with the virus, we cannot find excuses being careless and putting vulnerable people at risk. I wish and pray nobody has to face the ordeal I had to face in the last 25 days, but one must be extra cautious if there are vulnerable people such as elderlies, ones with underlying medical issues, mothers to the newborns etc. in the family. Trust me nobody would want to face this predicament, it isn’t fun at all.
(Issued in public interest)