A Dubai father who contracted Covid-19 said he woke up with no memory of who he was after spending 16 days on a ventilator as doctors battled to save his life.
Angelito Pangilinan, who has now recovered, relied on a machine to breathe after being struck down by the disease.
The Filipino, 38, who lives with his family in Dubai, said he barely remembered being taken to hospital on March 30.
“My family told me that I just couldn’t breathe,” he told The National.
“I can’t remember anything, that’s how critical it was. My memory was zero per cent when I woke up in the hospital. I didn’t know my name or where I was."
Mr Pangilinan, who is married with a young daughter, spoke from quarantine after spending 24 days in intensive care.
Patients are put on ventilators when they can no longer breathe by themselves and a study in New York showed more than 80 per cent of ventilator patients died.
He said he was in a state of confusion for much of his time in Dubai's Medeor Hospital.
"There were nights I would just cry. I felt so much anxiety and frustration," he said.
"I’m so relieved to be home. I want to tell people to take precautions because I don’t really know how I caught Covid."
Doctors examined an X-ray of Mr Pangilinan's chest a month ago and saw white clouded patches that showed where the infection had inflamed the lungs, preventing them from drawing in oxygen.
The ventilator pumped oxygen into his bloodstream, giving him a fighting chance of survival.
Mr Pangilinan, who works as a sales employee at Dubai World Trade Centre, is back at home in quarantine after spending more than a month in hospital.
After being admitted he was prescribed a combination of anti-malaria medicine hydroxychloroquine, antivirals including lopinavir and ritonavir, as well as steroids and a blood thinner called Clexane.
X-rays showed doctors how far the infection had spread. “When you do an X-ray, the lungs normally should look black in colour but for Angelito, the X-ray was fully white,” Dr Saheer Sainalabdeen, a specialist pulmonologist at the hospital, said.
“That means the infection had gone down to the lungs."
Mr Pangilinan was breathing too fast as his body tried to draw in oxygen to no avail.
“If somebody continues to breathe like this for a long time it will affect other organs, especially the heart, and so to prevent that we put him on the mechanical ventilator," Dr Sainalabdeen said.
The turning point came a few days before Mr Pangilinan came off the ventilator. His oxygen retention improved and doctors eased him off sedatives.
“He was weak and he needed muscle power to breathe, but then he improved drastically,” Dr Chaitanya Prabhu, an intensive care specialist who helped treat Mr Pangilinan, said.
Doctors face challenges when they try to wean a patient off a ventilator, as they have become dependent on the machine.
“The sedation paralyses and quietens their muscles but when we remove the ventilator that is the most difficult part,” Dr Prabhu said.
“Two weeks of life were blurred to him. The worst part is the patient wakes up in a strange place and now everyone is wearing masks so it’s very traumatic."
Some patients develop so-called ICU psychosis, which can trigger hallucinations and depression.
“It affects their mental status and they start hallucinating because they don’t have any concept of day and night, the ICU lights are on and they constantly hear background noises,” Dr Prabhu said.
Patients are sedated to prevent them from pulling out the breathing tube that goes directly into the lungs.
“The ventilator basically takes over the function of the lungs when these are injured and scarred,” Dr Prabhu said.
Medics motivate their patients by talking to them about family.
But the recovery of a patient can also hearten the doctors, nurses and physiotherapists who treat them.
“When you see such sick patients that have no hope go on to recover, that is a morale boost for us," Dr Prabhu said.
Mr Pangilinan’s family also endured another anxious moment when Mr Pangilinan’s wife, Rhea, tested positive, but their daughter, 7, tested negative.
Ms Pangilinan said she was afraid when she spoke to her husband on the phone while he was in intensive care.
"He behaved as if he had a memory loss. It was frightening. He asked me why I am sending messages while at work," she said.
“The doctor said it was normal as he had spent a long time on the ventilator. I can’t thank the doctors enough for getting him back to us.”
Courtesy : The National