Coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus: 47-year-old patient recounts how doctors helped her through ordeal

MRS ZHANG (right, wearing orange), one of 19 patients in Singapore who have recovered from the coronavirus, seen here in a farewell photo with staff at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.
MRS ZHANG (right, wearing orange), one of 19 patients in Singapore who have recovered from the coronavirus, seen here in a farewell photo with staff at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.

As she struggled to breathe because of the coronavirus, Mrs Zhang wondered if her end was near.

The 47-year-old woman, identified in Singapore as case 15, was discharged yesterday after making a full recovery. The Ministry of Health later shared a transcript of her experience.

Describing her time at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), she said she was quickly sent to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) as her condition deteriorated. In the ICU, doctors and nurses moved swiftly to help her.

"At that time, I could not move, but my mind was clear. I heard their conversation clearly.

"A doctor kept holding my head and telling me not to worry. She said: 'Don't worry, we will insert a tube to help you in your breathing.' She kept reassuring me. She is indeed a very gentle lady," related Mrs Zhang.

She and her husband, as well as their teenage son, were among the 92 Singaporeans who were evacuated from Wuhan on Jan 30.

The housewife, a naturalised Singaporean who has lived in Singapore for over two decades, did not show any symptoms when she boarded the flight in Wuhan.

But she was found to have a fever during a medical screening when she landed in Singapore on the same day, and was then sent to the NCID by ambulance.

She recounted: "I was very scared. They stuck the oxygen tube into my nose, and turned up the level so that I could breathe... But because my lungs were not functioning well, it did not work. I remember vividly the day I had extreme difficulty in breathing, and felt that I was dying. I thought: 'Am I dying?'"

 

While Mrs Zhang's husband was not infected with the virus, her son tested positive and continues to receive treatment at NCID.

IN GOOD HANDS

A doctor kept holding my head and telling me not to worry. She said: 'Don't worry, we will insert a tube to help you in your breathing.' She kept reassuring me. She is indeed a very gentle lady. ''

MRS ZHANG (right, wearing orange), one of 19 patients in Singapore who have recovered from the coronavirus, seen here in a farewell photo with staff at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.

Mrs Zhang said a nurse takes a sample from his nose daily and, although he is not cleared of the virus, he has not had other symptoms.

She said: "I am slightly comforted to think that as a mother, I have brought him up to be a sturdy boy, to better fight the virus."

But it is clear the whole ordeal has taken a heavy toll on her and her family. "When I came out of ICU, my husband told me that he hadn't been able to sleep for a few nights. I know if I was in his position, I would have collapsed," she said.

Mrs Zhang expressed her gratitude to the medical staff at the NCID, who treated her "like family" and kept encouraging her every day.

Now that she has been discharged, Mrs Zhang plans to go back to her daily life.

"I just want to go back to my ordinary life, to go exercising with my friends, then grocery shopping, and have a cup of coffee. Later in the night, prepare dinner for my husband and children. I think that would be good."

To the other patients still undergoing treatment, she said: "We must pull through. We have family and friends. This disease does not mean inevitable death.

"I have confidence in our medical team and their skills. I believe they will be able to save us," she added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2020, with the headline '47-year-old patient recounts how doctors helped her through ordeal'. Print Edition | Subscribe