Doctor Farooqi recalls isolation in hospital and gives insight into the on-ground situation in the worst-hit city of US.
I am from Pakistan and professionally a doctor living in New York. Covid-19, these days, has become the subject of every conversation here.
That’s because New York — one of the most densely populated cities in the United States — has also been one of the worst-hit by the pandemic, with the state alone reporting more than 10,000 deaths.
Some reports suggest around 10-20 per cent of the country’s total cases might comprise the medical staff fighting on the frontlines of the pandemic.
It is indeed correct that doctors are on the frontline of the battle against Covid-19 because as a doctor working during this time of crisis, I got infected myself while treating patients. But now, after my treatment, I have recovered completely.
Here, I want to share how this difficult time was spent and what the current situation in the United States, specifically in New York, is.
When I was tested positive for Covid-19, the one question that continued to haunt me was: “How did I get the virus?”
Then I thought of a patient and realised that I probably may have been infected by that person. I carried out a medical examination of that patient, few days ago. This person was not one of my regular patients. He had only visited me twice – for an annual checkup or for a general medical examination.
During his first visit, a physical examination was conducted and on his second visit, results of his tests were discussed. Then I came to know that due to the worsening condition of his health, he had been admitted to another hospital.
While he was at the hospital, he started having fever and the test results later confirmed that he was suffering from Covid-19. However, these are just my own assumptions and I may not have necessarily contracted the virus from him. It could very well be possible that I got it from someone else, while roaming outside or in the parking lot.
The first two weeks were very difficult. Cough, fever, and difficulty in breathing made life tough for me. For the first week, I stayed home. My hope was that regular treatment would be enough for my recovery, so I took regular medication, steam and vitamins.
During these days I drank as much water as I could because the body gets weaker, leading to a reduction in appetite. That’s why I made sure that I was getting the right amount of nutrition through my meals.
But then after a week when my condition worsened, I had to call an ambulance and get admitted in the hospital.
Oxygen saturation level test is one of the several tests conducted for patients who are admitted to the hospital to ensure that the patient has the right amount of oxygen in their bloodstream. On an average, the oxygen saturation level is 98 or 99.
The reason for conducting this test is that this virus affects the lungs. As the lungs do not function optimally due to the virus, the rest of the body does not get adequate supply of oxygen. As a result, the patient’s health deteriorates rapidly.
When my oxygen saturation levels were checked, they were quite low. Considering the sensitivity of my condition, no stone was left unturned in taking care of me. I am grateful to God that my condition was not as bad as several other patients in the hospital who were on ventilators.
The eight days spent at the hospital were the most challenging. I was kept in an isolation ward where even my family members and friends were not allowed to meet me. Not just that, but even the nurses and doctors could only enter under critical circumstances. One of the reasons is that they have to take all the precautionary measures before entering the ward which includes wearing protective gear.
Also, why would anyone want to endanger their lives by entering a room with a person infected with this deadly virus?
Adjacent to my ward was a room of an 82-year-old patient whose condition was quite serious. Whereas I was being administered four litres of oxygen through a nasal cannula, he required 30 litres of oxygen yet his condition kept worsening.
It is pertinent to mention here that I did not face any difficulty regarding food. Luckily, they also had halal food available and my family would also send food from home. Because they were not allowed to meet me, my family members would hand the food over to the hospital staff in the lobby, from where the staff would deliver it to me.
Due to the care given by hospital staff and the prayers of my family members I was recovering rapidly. After spending eight days at the hospital, I returned home. Currently, my oxygen saturation level is 95 to 96 and hopefully with God’s grace it will get back to normal soon.
Before going to the hospital, I tried certain home remedies that seemed to work for me. Every day I would inhale steam and consume fruits with high levels of vitamin C. Other than that, honey and nigella seeds (kalonji) also helped in strengthening my immunity. I continued utilising these remedies after coming back from the hospital as well.
This question has been asked quite frequently. I believe the reason for this is that more tests have been conducted in New York than other states, which is why there are around 200,000 positive cases here. But because the condition of the health system and hospitals in New York is not the best, we have seen a death toll of over 10,000.
There is a shortage of equipment required to fight the virus. The number of ventilators is also low, even though emergency arrangements such as temporary hospitals have been set up at three major locations – Central Park, the Jacob Javits Convention Center and the National Tennis Center.
Due to the spread of Covid-19 and rising deaths, the situation in New York has worsened so much that even mortuaries have run out of space. Medical staff, nurses, and doctors are now tired due to continuous work. A lot of doctors have also died after being affected by the virus.
One of the reasons for the spread of virus in New York is that it is densely populated and people from different countries including China, India, and Bangladesh are residing here. Although, tourist arrivals have come to a halt these days, New York, generally, is a popular tourist destination.
Another reason is that, here, in areas such as Queens and Manhattan, people use public transport to go to their workplaces which includes busses and metros. New York is also known as the ‘walking city’, hence, if someone sneezes or coughs while walking, then they too can cause the spread of the virus.
One problem is that the symptoms of this disease are not very obvious and even asymptomatic individuals can be carriers of the virus.
It would be absolutely wrong to suggest that the number of people dying in the US due to Covid-19 is not high. I do not understand why people are saying this because the number of Covid-19 cases in the US has exceeded 560,000 whereas 22,000 people have died.
In the US, the virus is spreading really fast and it has been estimated that cases will continue to rise in the next two to three weeks.
I live in New York and I am quite aware of the current statistics. I can, therefore, refute any claims of the virus not causing many deaths in the US with full confidence.
Mushahid Farooqi is the medical director of the City Health Urgent Care in New York. He is affiliated as Chief Medical Officer with Best Medical Care and is also serving in the Islamic Circle of North America Relief Clinic's New York chapter.
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