Oxygen is a basic element in life08 April 2020 bdnews24.com
"I was suffocating as I had severe breathing problems. I felt like I was dying. Only then did I realise the importance of oxygen."
This is how a woman who recovered from COVID-19 infections shared her experience with bdnews24.com.
As a medical worker assigned to the emergency department of a private hospital in Dhaka, the woman was expecting to be on the frontline of an impending battle against the novel coronavirus after Bangladesh confirmed its first cases on Mar 8.
Instead, she was soon left fighting for her own life after contracting the coronavirus infection. She was subsequently admitted to Kuwait-Bangladesh Friendship Hospital in Dhaka and underwent treatment at the isolation unit from Mar 24-31, requiring oxygen as a respiratory aid until the day before being discharged.
While sharing her near-death experience, the woman, who is in her 30s, felt like she had been given a 'new life' the day she started breathing normally without any aid.
"I was calling everyone over the phone to tell them that I had recovered. I can't express how I felt when I saw my husband and children upon returning home," she told bdnews24.com.
Tracing the roots of her infection, she believes a patient at the emergency department of her hospital may have transmitted the virus on to her.
She was working the night shift from Mar 10 to 12, she recalled, and on Mar 12, a Chinese national accompanied a person injured in an accident to the hospital. The Chinese national took a pen from her and returned it later, she said.
"Many people visit the emergency department. It cannot be ascertained if any one of them carried the virus. I can't figure out how I was exposed to the contagion. None of my relatives are infected. My daily routine involves going to my work at the hospital and coming home."
Symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, soon began to manifest.
She had a sore throat and low fever from Mar 20 before showing a few more symptoms the following day. She was staying at home with her two children as her husband was travelling. Concerned about what would happen to her children if she was hospitalised, the woman took some medicine by herself as her condition started to worsen.
"I couldn't speak. I felt someone strangling me. That's why I took some antibiotics. I spoke to the person in charge and sought their support. They informed the hospital authority. I can't forget the support my colleagues gave me during those hard times."
Later, the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research collect her sample to test for COVID-19 and the results came back positive on Mar 23. Initially, she was self-isolating at home but was later admitted to Kuwait-Bangladesh Friendship Hospital as her symptoms worsened.
"I suddenly started having breathing problems along with chest pain. They sent an ambulance from the hospital I work in and I was taken to the Kuwait-Bangladesh Friendship Hospital."
She described her days in isolation as a "very bitter experience, which can't be expressed in words."
"Isolation literally means isolation. It is worse than being jailed, as in jail, at least you can speak to other inmates. But I was trying to save myself. The mobile phone was a big support. Everyone was worried about me. I spoke to all of them and prayed to the almighty that I can return home."
"A person wants to be in the company of their loved ones when they're sick. But that's not an option while in isolation. This is really sad. No- one was there to even pour me a glass of water. I had to do it by myself while being sick," she said.
She had all of the symptoms of COVID-19 infection, although her body temperature never crossed 37.7 degree Celsius.
"I had pain in my throat, chest, fingers and joints. I had diarrhoea. I couldn't open my eyes due to a headache. As I had a blocked nose, my throat felt dried because I was breathing through my mouth. I think I survived due to my age and not having a comorbidity."
The hospital staff used to provide packed food and medicine three times a day, she said.
The IEDCR has collected the samples of her family members but they are yet to return the results.
"My husband had a little cough. His first test came back negative. On Friday, the IEDCR took his sample again. They took samples from my children too. The younger one also has a little cough."
The woman was released from hospital after returning negative results for three tests conducted during her last three days in hospital. But she is yet to regain all her strength.