Covid-19 recoverees recall harrowing experience in ICU

Covid-19 recoverees recall harrowing experience in ICU

KUALA LUMPUR: Sales executive Toh Sharon declares she will never forget the trauma of fighting for her life in the intensive care unit (ICU) about three weeks ago.

Said Toh, 48, who lives in Melaka and tested positive for Covid-19 on April 22: “I will never forget what I went through on the night of May 1… there I was lying in the ICU bed (in Hospital Melaka) struggling for breath as my heart rate had plunged to 40 beats per minute… I thought I was going to die.”

The mother-of-two, who was in the ICU for nine days before she recovered fully and was discharged from hospital on May 14, said not once did she imagine she would find herself infected by the dreaded Covid-19 coronavirus, let alone reach the fourth stage of the disease and require respiratory aid, as she has always been in good health.

Recalling her ordeal in the ICU, Toh said she vividly remembered the eventful night when her heart rate dropped dangerously low.

“There were tubes attached to my body and connected to a ventilator, and my mind was drifting between conscious and unconscious states… there were times when breathing became so difficult I felt I was going to die.

“But I fought back to stay alive and I kept telling myself to remain strong. Fortunately for me, my body’s oxygen level started to improve after that with the help of the hospital’s frontline staff,” she told Bernama.

On how she became infected, Toh said on April 18 she had dinner at a restaurant with a friend who then tested positive for Covid-19 three days later.

As Toh was a close contact, she decided to quarantine herself at home. On April 22, she and her 22-year-old son who lives with her went to a government health clinic to get themselves screened for Covid-19.


“I tested positive. Fortunately, my son’s result was negative,” she said, adding that a day earlier she had already been experiencing symptoms such as fever, sore throat, flu, diarrhoea and joint pain.

At the clinic, she was given a pink wristband to wear and told to quarantine herself at home while waiting for a phone call from the Ministry of Health.

On April 25, Toh was transferred to Hospital Melaka and was told that she would be shifted to the low-risk Covid-19 quarantine and treatment centre at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park in Serdang the same day. Later, however, while she was still at the hospital, she was informed by a healthcare staff that her body’s oxygen level had dipped to below 88 percent – the normal level is 95 percent – and that she would need to be admitted to the ICU.

“At that time, I was in a daze and did whatever I was told. That night (in the ICU), my body temperature shot up to 39.6 degrees Celsius and I fell unconscious.

“The next day, I regained consciousness, with various tubes attached to my body to help me breathe. I was still in a daze when the doctor informed me that my lungs were infected,” she said.

Toh was then given the option to take the antiviral drug Favipiravir for five days to treat her lungs – she was also told of its side effects, as well as the fact that its prescription was still in the clinical stage. Without any hesitation, she agreed to take the drug.

“Whilst taking the drug, I couldn’t take any fever medication and had to bathe in cold water daily to bring down my body temperature. But at one point, my temperature rose so high that they had to inject me with steroids to treat my lungs.”

Thankfully, Toh’s condition improved and she was transferred to a normal ward for observation.

“All in, I was in the hospital for 20 days and was finally discharged on May 14. But my doctor advised me not to carry out strenuous activities and to observe the SOPs (standard operating procedures) strictly.

“Even though I had recovered, my health condition was not the same as it was before… I found myself getting tired easily,” she said.

Having been pulled back from the brink of death, Toh urged Malaysians not to take the Covid-19 threat lightly.

“Don’t think you will just experience fever or temporary loss of your sense of smell and taste. There are mild cases as well as serious cases. Now I know why the government keeps stressing SOP compliance… if a healthy person like me can end up in the ICU, then what about those in the high-risk group?”

In the case of another Covid-19 survivor Soh Teong Kok, 35, a photographer with a Chinese daily here, he took a Covid-19 test at a private hospital on April 21 as he had high fever. He was relieved when the result emerged negative.

Subsequently, however, Soh developed a bad cough and suffered from fatigue and could not sleep at night. He even lost his sense of smell and taste.

Nine days later, he became almost lifeless and his family had to rush him to a private hospital in Petaling Jaya. This time, he tested positive for Covid-19.

He was immediately admitted to the ICU as his condition was considered critical. His oxygen level was so low he had to be put in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator.

“I was in an induced coma for four days. When I regained consciousness, I had the chance to make a video call to my family members but couldn’t speak… I could only respond by nodding my head,” he said, adding that his doctor informed him that he was in the fifth stage of Covid-19.

The doctor’s words came as a shock to Soh who has always been healthy and led an active lifestyle.

“I felt terrible… there I was lying motionlessly in the bed (in the ICU). The only thing I could do was to stare at the ceiling,” he said.

After spending eight days in the ICU, Soh was moved to the normal ward but he still required close monitoring and respiratory aid.

“Although I was able to speak and walk, even a short walk to the toilet would leave me breathless. Fortunately, by then I was already out of danger and had regained my sense of smell and taste,” said Soh, who was discharged from hospital on the eve of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

He is not sure how he became infected but thinks the source could have been one of his friends or members of the public who were asymptomatic.

Soh is fortunate he escaped from the jaws of death. Others may not be as lucky as him.

“As our government keeps stressing, please comply with the SOPs. You may think it’s okay for you to meet your friends regularly because you’re healthy. But, remember, the virus is already lurking in the community and it can infect you if you don’t observe the SOPs,” he added.-BERNAMA