HCMC Covid survivor’s excruciating recovery story

By Minh Phuong   August 1, 2021 | 09:35 pm GMT+7
Le Van Thanh Tung, who contracted and recovered from Covid-19, shares the pain he went through before beating the virus.

The thought of giving up began to cross Tung's mind after his third day in hospital. He had earlier self-quarantined at home for nine days when he did not have severe symptoms before beginning to suffer from respiratory failure and struggled to breathe "like a fish on land," and was hospitalized.

He had bought a Covid quick test kit to check at home and found he was positive. He immediately contacted the HCMC Center for Disease Control, but got no support.

"I received advice from my friends working in the medical industry to self-isolate at home, take medicines for fever, vitamin C and other resistance-boosting drugs," he said.

For three days he had a high fever. He drank a lot of water and gargled saltwater to clear his throat. By the seventh day the symptoms had greatly reduced, but he began to lose the senses of taste and smell.

Le Van Thanh Tunng.

Le Van Thanh Tung. Photo courtesy of Tung.

On the eighth day his parents-in-law began to show signs of shortness of breath and fatigue, and so he began to search for a ventilator to install at home. But he could not buy any since many shops had sold out. Some places said delivery would take five to seven days, but since the ventilators were needed immediately, he became worried.

After spending half a day searching he finally got help from a stranger.

"He said he had two ventilators and I can come over them for my in-laws to use, but he did not want to sell them and would only lend them for me to use. He did not ask for a deposit.

"When I was about to ask someone to pick them up, the man told me an acquaintance of his had an extra ventilator and I could buy it instead. So, fortunately, on the evening of the eighth day, there was a ventilator for my in-laws to use at home."

On the evening of the ninth day he had severe respiratory failure. Though he was taking in air, he felt his lungs were no longer receiving oxygen. He began to gasp, opening his mouth to get air in like a fish on land but asphyxiating.

Seeing his situation was not good, his family decided to take him to the emergency room. They called many hotlines, but few operators even picked up the phone, before finally an ambulance arrived from a hospital in District 7 to pick him up.

"A doctor traveling in the ambulance advised my family to stay at home and self-isolate if they felt alright. I remember the medical staff measured and said my body oxygen was at around 80 percent. One needs medical intervention if it is less than 93 percent. I was very weak and lost consciousness."

Nine-day fight to survive in hospital

At the hospital Tung was quickly tested for Covid, had his lungs scanned and a PCR test done, and doctors began treatment.

The painful days began.

He said his lungs felt like they were badly damaged by the virus. He could only lie on his back, breathing heavily, and even the smallest movement such as turning or sitting up caused intense pain.

"I found myself immediately struggling to breathe and gasping for air even if I made a slight movement. The back pain was killing me but I did not dare move. I kept falling in and out unconsciousness. Since I shared a room with many other patients, it was noisy and hot."

Nights were the biggest nightmare since he could not breathe, turn his body or to go to the toilet.

"When I badly needed to use the restroom, I had to sit up and go quickly to the toilet, and hope I did not have to wait in line.

"I would quickly return to the bed, but most of the time I had to sit in the middle of the hallway to catch my breath. Once I lay down I would breathe heavily for 10-15 minutes before my breathing returned to normal."

A photo of oxygen cylinders next to Tung and another patients hospital beds. Photo courtesy of Tung.

A photo of oxygen cylinders next to Tung and another patient's beds in the hospital. Photo courtesy of Tung.

On the third day he began to be given oxygen from a small cylinder that only lasted two or three hours. One night he had to ask the doctors to change the tank three or four times. But there was also one time when a doctor said oxygen had temporarily run out, and he had to try and breathe and wait until the next morning.

He said the wait felt like an eternity.

Tired, depressed, in so much pain, and struggling to breathe, he admitted there were nights when the thought of giving up crossed his mind.

By the ninth day in hospital, however, he began to feel better and sometimes even disconnected the oxygen to breathe on his own.

"I was able to turn around, I was able to walk, though still dependent on the ventilator, and could go out of the room to get water to drink. I was glad because I was able to get back to the bed without shortness of breath, which meant my lungs were healing."

He was immensely relieved to see the changes.

He is still weak, but can sleep without using a ventilator. Nevertheless, he keeps it next to him at night. Just in case.

After his horrific experience he advises everyone to wear masks and follow all preventive measures to avoid contracting the infection.

Though statistics show 80 percent of Covid patients recover on their own, he pointed out it is possible "you might be in the remaining 20 percent. So you need to protect yourself as much as possible."

 
 
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