While recovering from the virus, the doctor helped other patients stay mentally strong
Professor Dr Md Rifat Hossain Malik, an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) doctor, contracted Covid-19 while treating a patient at Delta Medical College Hospital at the beginning of the outbreak.
After 22 days of treatment at the Kuwait-Bangladesh Maitree Hospital, his symptoms have disappeared.
Looking back on his experience, Dr Rifat told The Business Standard on Saturday afternoon: "An elderly patient was admitted to Delta Medical College's ICU unit on March 17 with breathing problems and other symptoms of Covid-19."
"Ignoring the risks of treating such a patient, as the head of the ICU unit, I decided to take care of him. While administering the treatment, I had to get very close to him. He died on March 24 and tested Covid-19 positive," he said.
"Everyone has a right to be treated. However, the patient's family misled us with wrong information and there was no community transmission of the disease at that time.
"After admitting the patient, we, the ICU team and other staff, got too close to the patient. My mouth was close to the Covid-19 patient as I had to deal with his ventilation, breathing and oxygen checkup," he explained.
"Additionally, we did not even wear personal protective equipment (PPE) while treating him. We just wore a surgical mask and gown, and most of us got the deadly virus from the patient," he continued.
"I ended up with throat pain, fever, chills and body aches. I did not have any symptoms of coughing or anything like that, but my family members forced me to do the test. And, on March 27, I tested Covid-19 positive. Luckily none of my family members were infected," he recalled.
Dr Rifat was admitted to the Kuwait-Bangladesh Maitree Hospital on March 28. He was unable to eat and had come down with acute diarrhoea.
What came next was days of pain and anxiety. "I have diabetes and high blood pressure. In the first few days, it was difficult for me to take insulin. When I had acute diarrhoea, I felt like I was going to die. But, I tried to stay calm and eat," Dr Rifat said.
"After Dr Moinuddin and Dr Foysal's death, I was scared and started praying to the almighty. I started recovering from the first week of April. During my 22 days, the doctors suggested they shift me to the ICU unit. However, as a doctor, I refused to be admitted there because a critical patient might have needed the spot," he stated.
"After recovering from diarrhoea, I tried to help other patients on my floor stay mentally strong. Most of them had stopped thinking about ever going back home alive," he said.
"During mealtimes, we came across each other. And most of them asked me a lot of questions. Many patients also sought me for mental support. I told them to relax, have food, medicine and exercise regularly," he recalled.
"However, at the beginning, things were scary as the panic-stricken on-duty doctors rarely visited patients. They would look after us from a distance. But, I do not blame anyone as this a time of global crisis," he continued.
"Even when the nurses came to inject me with saline, they were unable to trace my veins as they were wearing PPE and a face shield. As the safety equipment blurred their vision, I helped the nurses inject me with saline," he described.
Hed added, "After 22 days of treatment, I was released after testing negative. Every day I was in the hospital, I thought of myself as a doctor, not a patient. And I tried to help everyone in any way I could."
"I urge all frontline doctors not to be scared. Not every Covid-19 patient will die. Treat them humanely and wear safety equipment while you are on duty," he advised.