S'pore doctor shares Covid-19 home recovery experience in hope of removing stigma

Dr Lai Kah Weng had been placed on home recovery from Sept 28 to Oct 8, 2021. PHOTO: LAI KAH WENG/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - A doctor has shared his Covid-19 home recovery experience on social media, hoping to destigmatise the disease as a "life-threatening" one.

Dr Lai Kah Weng, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon from Healthway Medical's Island Orthopaedic Consultants, told The Straits Times on Sunday (Oct 10) that he wanted to do his part in highlighting social responsibility when dealing with Covid-19, without being overly fearful of the disease.

He wrote in a Facebook post on Friday that he had been placed on home recovery from Sept 28 to Oct 8 after developing a runny nose and experiencing mild fever on Sept 27.

Erring on the side of caution, he quickly isolated himself from his family and took an antigen rapid test (ART) that same day, which turned out to be negative.

The flu-like symptoms persisted throughout the night, prompting him to cancel all his patient appointments for the next day.

"I stayed home in the morning, trying to rest and stay hydrated, and I went straight down to my neighbourhood GP later in the afternoon just before closing, so that I could be the last patient (that day) and not risk infecting any other patients waiting to see the doctor," wrote Dr Lai.

His next ART was positive and his subsequent polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test confirmed his infection.

"I had a fever for around 3.5 days and a dry cough with runny nose, which took about two days to resolve," said Dr Lai.

"It just feels like (having the) flu, which lasts slightly longer than usual, and I knew it was getting better each day," he added.

He advises those who have deteriorating symptoms to inform their telemedicine provider for further assessment.

"Admittedly, I was very stressed when I first started developing symptoms on Monday evening (Sept 27), as I had just visited my elderly parents the day before, and seen my patients at work prior to that," said Dr Lai.

Thankfully, all of them were fine.

"Therefore, personal awareness and responsibility are extremely important," he said, adding that he was glad to have swiftly isolated himself without putting anyone else at risk.

Dr Lai, who lives with his wife and their four kids, said that his 15-year-old daughter, who is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, took a PCR test that came back positive.

She was asymptomatic and likely to have caught the infection from him, he said.

This resulted in her entire class at school being placed on leave of absence.

None of Dr Lai's other family members got the disease.

Moving forward, he hopes that testing be focused on those who are symptomatic.

"Testing only when symptoms are present will give the highest yield. If pre-emptive PCR testing is to be considered, maybe we should only test those who are at risk, such as front-line workers or those working in nursing homes," he said.

"And for those with symptoms, repeating the ART tests at daily intervals will be useful. It is not uncommon to have negative ARTs which turn positive later, and I was a case in point," he added.

Noting that home recovery protocols have changed since his Facebook post, Dr Lai expects that the new policy will take some getting used to, but will be easier for people to follow.

For instance, having an automatic time-based discharge after 10 days for those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 instead of a day seven exit PCR test, makes life a lot easier for swabbers and patients alike, noted Dr Lai.

"I was probably one of the last few patients who had to go through that," said Dr Lai, half in jest.

Doing away with quarantine orders and stay-home notices is also a wise move - considering that, at the rate with which the virus is spreading, Singapore could see 10 per cent of the population quarantined or isolated, which is disruptive and impractical, he said.

With these changes in place, he hopes that more help can go to those who need it in the future.

"Contact tracers can then focus their efforts on tracing links to elderly people or nursing homes to curb transmission as soon as possible.

"Those who live with elderly people and need to move to self-isolation facilities, as well as those who might need help buying groceries or food while self-isolating at home, should be given the help they need. It's important to make sure that these people don't fall through the cracks," he added.

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