Coronavirus-infected nurse: breathed ‘like a fish out of water’

By Thuy An   April 8, 2020 | 10:06 pm PT
Coronavirus-infected nurse: breathed ‘like a fish out of water’
Ha, a nurse infected with Covid-19, is treated at the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hanoi, March 24, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.
Ha, a nurse at Hanoi's Bach Mai Hospital, spent the first five days after being diagnosed with Covid-19 saving her little energy to breathe.

The 34-year-old works at the Center for Tropical Diseases’ Covid-19 quarantine zone in her hospital.

On March 18 she had felt fine in the morning, but by 8 a.m. she had fatigue, fever and pain in her eye sockets, and a cough and a severe headache followed soon.

She called her boss at the hospital to ask for a Covid-19 test.

She knew that despite having worn protective clothing at work anything could happen, but was shocked when her test returned positive.

She lives with her parents-in-law, both in their 70s, her children and other family members, a total of 12 people, and so thought fearfully to herself, "I’m infected, what about them?"

That evening personnel from Hanoi CDC went to her house, took samples of the remaining family members and disinfected the house and its surroundings.

The family was quarantined at Thanh Nhan Hospital, while she was sent to the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases for treatment.

Having been in the health industry for over a decade, Ha had been to hospitals countless times, but the trip to the hospital that day caused her great anxiety since "I didn’t know when I’ll be going back."

A day after she was admitted her condition worsened, with extreme fatigue setting in. She was transferred to the emergency room.

"Seems like all my energy was needed just for breathing," she recalled.

"I couldn’t breathe normally, I felt like a fish out of water, on top of the cough."

Ha was Vietnam’s "Patient 87". After her first test result came positive, Bach Mai Hospital suspended inpatient care at the Tropical Diseases Department, and the following day also shut its Covid-19 examination and screening rooms. Ha’s second test came back positive that evening.

For five days she did not move from her bed. Her family called, but she could not muster the energy to speak. The medical staff taking care of her told her they wanted to tell her to "hang in there" and "don’t be too worried." 

When she felt better Ha found out that not just her family but also her colleagues and the hospital’s board of directors sent her their best wishes.

"Although the epidemic situation was getting complicated and everyone was busy, I did not feel abandoned. Professor Ngo Quy Chau, deputy director of Bach Mai Hospital, even chaired a meeting to discuss my treatment when my condition worsened. I am really grateful for that."

Doctors check on Ha at the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hanoi, March 24, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

Doctors check on Ha at the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hanoi, March 24, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

Gradually her condition stabilized, and then a test showed she was negative for the virus for the first time. She immediately called her family to inform them.

Ha also got messages from former patients, making her even more appreciative of the years she had put in working in medicine.

Ha was transferred from the emergency room back to a quarantine room on March 30 where her treatment continued. Since then time has been passing slower; her family is always on her mind.

"I wonder when this fight will end."

Ha knows better than anyone else the risks at her workplace and how it is difficult to avoid all of them. Sometimes she asks herself how she contracted the disease, but has no answer.

The thought of possibly infecting others weighed heavily on her conscience, and she heaved a sigh of relief when her family members and colleagues all tested negative.

"When I work as a nurse, I often ask my patients about their condition and encourage them to have faith in fighting their illness. When I’m a patient myself, I understand how precious those pep talks are and how they can boost one’s morale even in the most desperate of times. Thank you everyone."

Ha’s condition is better though she still coughs and feels a pressure on her chest. As of Thursday she has been in hospital for 21 days.

When asked what is the first thing she will do when she gets home, Ha bursts into tears.

"I hope to see my family to get some motivation, and then return to work to eliminate this disease."

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