Bangladeshi worker who beat Covid-19 after 5-month battle in S'pore longs to go home

Mr Raju Sarker spent nearly five months in Tan Tock Seng Hospital, half of which were in an intensive care unit. PHOTOS: ARIFFIN JAMAR, COURTESY OF RAJU SARKER

NEW DELHI - A Bangladeshi worker in Singapore who made a dramatic recovery after a five-month battle with Covid-19 is hoping to go home early next year to see his eight-month-old son.

Mr Raju Sarker, who was case 42, has yet to hold Safun, who was born in March when his father was in intensive care and close to death.

Mr Sarker has not been home to Joydebpur in Bangladesh's Gazipur district since June last year. About a month ago, when Safun uttered 'baba' (the Bengali term for father) for the first time on the phone, he wept.

"I draw strength from him," he said. "The kid has grown up so much, I have to get him married now," he added in jest.

Mr Sarker, 40, tested positive for the coronavirus in February, and spent nearly five months in Tan Tock Seng Hospital, half of which were in an intensive care unit. He was discharged in June.

While the coronavirus left him with other health concerns, such as falling blood platelet levels and poor heart function, Mr Sarker said he feels much better now and is no longer on medication.

He hopes to get an all-clear from his doctors later this month to return to Bangladesh to see his family either in February or March.

"If not, I will have to stay longer in Singapore," he said. The signs are good though. Currently at 59kg, he has recovered much of the weight that he lost when he fell sick. From 64kg, it plummeted to 40.

His doctors at the time said they were surprised at his recovery. His oxygen levels dropped so low they thought he might not make it.

His longer-term professional plan is still uncertain. Mr Sarker, who worked for an IT solutions firm as a safety coordinator at project sites, hopes his employer will offer him a less strenuous administrative role.

"My physical capacity is not the same... Earlier, I did not think about my condition. I would go anywhere for whatever job whenever I was asked. I didn't even bother if I had eaten or not. But now I have to be careful," he said.

Mr Sarker's wife Sanjida Akhter and his son Safun, who was born in March this year. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SANJIDA AKHTER

If this does not materialise, he may return to Bangladesh for good. While his father-in-law has offered to let him work at his grocery store, Mr Sarker hopes the Bangladeshi government will assist him through either a one-time grant or a government job that will allow him to support his family.

Currently lodged at an accommodation provided by his employer, he spends time chatting with his family or exploring spiritual Islamic content on his laptop. His near-death experience, he said, has made him more religious. "Knowing that Allah saved me, I am trying to walk on the right path," Mr Sarker said.

Meanwhile, back in Bangladesh, his wife, Sanjida Akhter, 18, awaits his return. "Such an unfortunate incident happened abroad. I don't feel like letting him live abroad now," she said on the phone from Gazipur district.

The conversation was punctuated by the repeated mooing of a calf at her parents' house in Kalni, which is where she is currently living with her son. Even today when she thinks of the time when her husband was ill, she said her eyes well up with tears.

"Those three months still make me cry. It was a real struggle and I suffered a lot," Ms Akhter said, adding that she would like him to return to Bangladesh and rebuild his career here.

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