Husband and pregnant wife's lives disrupted by Covid-19 infection

Dr Low Lee Yong with his wife Meek and their baby, who just turned one on Jan 21. PHOTO: LOW LEE YONG

SINGAPORE - When pregnant housewife Meek Low tested positive for Covid-19 on Jan 30, her husband, Dr Low Lee Yong, took her to the hospital, thinking she could be isolated and monitored there.

After waiting for 2½ hours, they had a consultation with the medical officer that lasted for about five minutes, and she was then sent home to rest, Dr Low said.

His wife's gynaecologist had told them she was a high-risk case, given factors like her symptoms, a complicated pregnancy, and the fact that she has yet to take a vaccine booster jab. The gynaecologist also advised that she be admitted to hospital so as to monitor the foetus' well-being.

But Dr Low was told that the only beds available for his wife were in a 30-bed ward where other Covid-19 patients were isolated.

Admitting her into a private hospital was not an option either, as Covid-19-positive walk-in cases are not allowed there, said Dr Low, the retired founder and former chief executive of MHC Asia Group, a firm that provides third-party administrative and healthcare services.

He wanted to admit his wife, who is 21 weeks pregnant and did not want to give her age, to hospital not only to monitor the foetus, but also because they have a one-year-old baby at home. Their helper has also yet to take a booster jab.

Dr Low, who has taken his booster shot, said he had no choice but to monitor his wife's condition at home himself.

That meant he had to adopt even stricter hygiene practices, and he started wearing the N95 mask at home, and even to bed.

Being the one who prepares the baby's food, he said, he kept washing his hands and "sterilised everything".

Despite this, he tested positive last Tuesday, the start of the Chinese New Year. Dr Low, 58, had tested negative just the day before.

The next day, he woke up with a chill, runny nose and severe muscle ache. A day later, he developed a cough and a bad sore throat as well.

On Friday, his sore throat worsened. He coughed out some green phlegm and became hoarse.

Thankfully, their helper - who had received two mRNA vaccine doses following her arrival here some two months ago, after having previously taken two Sinovac jabs - tested negative for Covid-19 and could continue caring for the baby.

Mrs Low subsequently tested negative, though she still has a stuffy nose and cough, and wears an N95 mask to see her baby.

The question is how she caught the virus. "I am very strict and even use my elbow to press lift buttons. I wash my hands like crazy," Dr Low said.

"We wear N95 masks when we go out. My wife only recently switched to surgical masks as it's easier for her to breathe. And we make our visitors wear masks when they go near the baby."

He said that they could have caught Covid-19 from a recent visitor who had apparently just recovered from a bad bout of the flu.

"They were eating," he said, referring to his wife and the visitor. They would have had to remove their masks to eat.

The day after the visit, Mrs Low developed a severe headache, which Dr Low at first dismissed as a tension headache.

But a new symptom would appear as each day passed - from a sore throat, runny nose and cough to a fever on Jan 30.

Dr Low said he would have appreciated more isolation options, like a bed in a private hospital or at certain hotels for higher-risk patients like his pregnant wife.

"Our lives got disrupted all of a sudden. It's hard to see the baby crying and we couldn't go near her."

Besides getting the vaccines and a booster jab, he said, it is best to have a contingency plan.

He is thankful that many people offered to help them.

His advice for those who have babies or vulnerable elderly folk at home is: "Don't socialise with others unmasked."

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