A 26-year-old doctor in training who was in intensive care after contracting Covid-19 has warned that even those who were previously fit and healthy can go a long way toward recovery.
Dr. Shanath Ramachandran, who works at Leighton Hospital in Crewe, first started to feel unwell on April 5 after treating patients for a busy week. A week later, he was hospitalized.
In an interview with the journal Anesthesia Reports, Dr. Ramachandran that he was aware of the risks of Covid-19, but was reassured because of his age and the fact that he had no underlying health problems.
“When I fell ill, I was unaware of the relationship between members of the Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority Community (BAME) and the risk of becoming seriously unwell with Covid-19,” he said.
“This affects me directly, as I am of South Asian descent with both my parents born in Sri Lanka.”
Dr. At the time, Ramachandran said the infection policy said surgical face masks should not be worn when treating patients in whom coronavirus was not confirmed.
“Both national and local policies have since been changed to include a wider use of respiratory masks, which may indicate that surgical face masks do not provide sufficient protection in the context of a high prevalence of (Covid) infection among the population” , he said.
The first symptoms of Dr. Ramachandran were fatigue, nausea and vomiting – with fever, muscle aches and shortness of breath over the course of a week.
Aware of his serious illness, he called an ambulance on April 12 and was taken to Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester.
Dr. Ramachandran underwent blood tests and scans for suspected Covid-19 and started treatment with intravenous antibiotics and fluids.
However, within 12 hours, he had deteriorated significantly despite receiving oxygen, was transferred to intensive care, and given a ventilator.
“It had never occurred to me before that I would fall into this state; that’s why this news caused a lot of fear in myself and my family, ”he said.
“The short phone call to my family, including a forced positive message, was my last clear reminder before intubation.”
Dr. Ramachandran stayed on ventilation for six days and spent two more days in intensive care, receiving oxygen, physical therapy, and ongoing monitoring.
He also underwent further physiotherapy and speech therapy before being discharged, after which he recovered from his parents for six weeks.
Dr. Ramachandran said, “My mobility was much less than before, and I had lost 10-15 kg in the hospital.
“My voice was incredibly hoarse and quiet, and I occasionally had trouble swallowing fluids.”
For the next six weeks, he rested and built himself up slowly, now that he could only walk 100 meters to three to four miles a day.
Dr. Ramachandran said, “My recovery has been a slow, hard and often frustrating process.
“I’m much better now, but there is still a way to go, there are often days when I get tired of basic tasks very quickly.
“I have trouble sleeping and still have to put on some of the muscle weight I lost in the hospital. I have been told that some of this can take up to a year to get back to normal.”
Looking back at what happened, said Dr. Ramachandran: “One of the problems I immediately noticed was a real and perceived ‘lack of control’ that I was hard to deal with.
“When I care for patients, I can track their progress and anticipate their clinical improvement or decline.
“This was not something I could do as a patient; this led to uncertainty in my own mind and reinforced the fears I already had about my clinical condition. ”
Dr. Ramachandran said his own anxiety ran high because one of his patients – someone younger than himself – died of Covid-19 just before he fell ill himself.
He added, “Being in intensive care was a whole new experience for me.
“In addition to the challenges of being seriously unwell, I also had the additional problem of being a doctor who had treated several patients with the same disease before admission.
“When the country initially went into lockdown and the NHS was preparing for the peak, I was aware that there was a good chance of catching Covid-19.
However, I did not feel that this would affect me seriously as I was normally fit and healthy and never smoked.
“As this case and others prove, this disease can affect anyone, no matter how healthy they were before, otherwise the consequences of this infection can be grim.”
Dr. Ramachandran said he was still dealing with “a myriad of mental and physical health problems,” adding, “It is vital that the public remain wary of this potentially debilitating disease.”