From intensive care to recovery: Singaporean woman who wondered if she was dying from COVID-19 pays tribute to her medical team

From intensive care to recovery: Singaporean woman who wondered if she was dying from COVID-19 pays tribute to her medical team

Patient discharged from NCID Feb 16, 2020
Discharged COVID-19 patient Mrs Zhang (fourth from left) with NCID staff. (Photo: Ministry of Health/Mrs Zhang)

SINGAPORE: Singapore's 15th confirmed COVID-19 case was discharged from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) on Sunday (Feb 16).

The patient, who wishes to be only known as Mrs Zhang, is a 47-year-old Singaporean housewife.

Mrs Zhang, her husband and their teenage son were among the 92 Singaporeans who were evacuated from Wuhan on Jan 30 on a Scoot flight, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.

She was asymptomatic when she boarded the flight. Upon arrival at Changi Airport, she was found to have a fever during medical screening, and was conveyed to NCID, MOH added. Mrs Zhang tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan 31 at about 2pm.

READ: Singaporean evacuated from Wuhan among country's 3 new cases of coronavirus, total now 16: MOH

The 47-year-old requested for her experience to be shared through a transcript of her comments before she was discharged from the centre.

The following is the transcript of her comments provided by the MOH.

Could you describe how it was like when you were in Wuhan?

I was very scared and thought, “Will Singapore fetch us home?” I fervently hoped this would happen. Fortunately, my husband is a man who follows the rules, and did right this time. Before we left Singapore, he informed the Singapore embassy. Thank God, he did it. A Ms Zhang from Singapore Embassy contacted my husband, and arranged for us to leave.

My husband received notification that the Government arranged a Scoot flight to send us back. I was so happy then! I was so grateful for the Singapore Government’s arrangement to bring us home.

Can you describe the care you received from the NCID medical staff?

The medical team here is excellent. They treated me like family. I am really grateful to them. They kept encouraging me every day. They encouraged me to take my medicine, and told me not to be afraid. They asked me not to give up hope, and kept on cheering me on. I am immensely grateful to them. They are also very gentle, e.g. when they took the X-ray for me. I am very thankful.

Can you tell me about your son’s condition? I understand that he is receiving treatment at the NCID.

The nurse takes a sample from his nose every day for testing. He has not been given a clean bill, but he (does) not have other symptoms. 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.

You have shared that you were feeling “normal” at first, but your condition suddenly deteriorated, and you even had to be warded to the ICU. Could you share your experience being sent to the ICU because of low oxygen level? It must have been very frightening.

I was very scared. They stuck the oxygen tube into my nose, and turned up the level so that I could breathe. Initially, it was one-litre/min, later it was changed to two-, four-, and six-litres/min. But because my lungs were not functioning well, it did not work. I remembered vividly the day I had extreme difficulty in breathing, and felt that I was dying. I thought: “Am I dying?” 

The nurse helped me to pack my things meticulously, and sent them to ICU. The doctors and nurses at the ICU acted swiftly. 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.

What will you like to do after being discharged?

I want to go home and slowly recuperate. I want to resume my daily exercise with my friends. But I don’t think it is possible as it is best people do not gather. I just want to go back to my ordinary life, to go exercising with my friends, then marketing, and have a cup of coffee. Later in the night, prepare dinner for my husband and children. I think that would be good.

Do you have any well wishes for Wuhan, China?

I hope that all will be well for them, for everyone to be safe and in good health, and not to fall ill like I did. When I came out from 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.

Do you have any takeaways from this illness?

I think for our safety as well as others, we should take some precautionary measures and not see them as troublesome.

Could you offer some words of encouragement to other patients who are still undergoing treatment?

I think 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.

*The interview was reproduced from a transcript provided by the Ministry of Health based on Ms Zhang's comments before she was discharged from the NCID. With Mrs Zhang’s permission, parts of her comments have been edited for clarity and brevity, MOH said.

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Source: CNA/mn

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