‘This is a battle that everyone has to fight’

Published: March 31, 2020
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A doctor who treated first COVID-19 patient in Pakistan shares his experience. PHOTO: FILE

A doctor who treated first COVID-19 patient in Pakistan shares his experience. PHOTO: FILE

As the coronavirus threat escalated following the contagion’s discovery near the end of last year, Dr Faisal Mahmood, a professor at Aga Khan University Hospital’s (AKUH) infectious diseases’ department, anticipated a healthcare emergency in Pakistan.

Understanding how grave the problem could turn out to be, he and his colleagues were quick to assess the preparedness of healthcare facilities and started corresponding with the provincial and federal government for the purpose.

Following this, Pakistan’s first COVID-19 patient was identified on February 26.  He was a 22-year-old man who had returned from Iran. The man had been feeling unwell and he came to AKU to be tested. “Once he tested positive, we admitted him immediately,” Mahmood said.

“Although he showed COVID-19 symptoms, he seemed healthy and calm,” the doctor added. Since he and his colleagues were prepared to deal with COVID-19 patients, it was an easy decision for the team and they were quick to put the patient in an isolation ward. Meanwhile, the Sindh government was equally prompt and immediately quarantined the patient’s family, said Mahmood, all of whom later tested negative for the infection.

‘Never before had I seen doctors dressed up like aliens’

Dr Mahmood and his team’s hard work paid off when he patient soon recovered.

“It was a memorable day for the patient, his family and our team at the hospital,” Mahmood stated, with a smile on his face. “He is now doing well, talking to the media and spreading the message that being COVID-19 positive is not a death sentence,” he added.

Meanwhile, the relieved father of the recovered patient has written a letter of appreciation to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, praising the provincial government for its timely response and AKUH for their excellent care. He especially lauded Dr Mahmood and his team “for showing utmost care and professionalism in the line of their duty”.

Currently, the nationwide tally of COVID-19 patients has crossed 1,900 with 676 cases in Sindh, 658 in Punjab, 153 in Balochistan, 221 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 166 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 58 in Islamabad and six in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

The virus has so far claimed 26 lives in Pakistan, while 55 COVID-19 patients have fully recovered.

This is not a fight that we can win through health workers or government measures, said Mahmood. “This is a fight that every individual has to fight for themselves by reducing the risk of getting infected and reducing the chance of others getting infected from them,” he stressed.

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