Indian frontline worker in UAE recovers from COVID after six-month ordeal

Arunkumar M Nair will receive financial aid of 50 lakh, as well as a job for his wife and sponsored education for his child.
Indian OT technician Arunkumar recovers from COVID in UAE
Indian OT technician Arunkumar recovers from COVID in UAE
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The recovery of 38-year-old Arunkumar M Nair after nearly six months of COVID-19 induced complications is considered a medical marvel, as he suffered multiple cardiac arrests and complications during treatment. Arun, an OT (Operating Theatre) Technician in LLH Hospital, Abu Dhabi of United Arab Emirates, tested positive for the coronavirus in July 2021, and after half an year of struggle he has recovered fully. VPS Healthcare has announced a financial aid of Rs 50 lakh (AED 250k), a job for his wife and to sponsor the education of his child.

Arun was working as part of the COVID-19 task force at LLH Hospital in Abu Dhabi when he tested positive for the infection. He has been working as an OT Technician at the hospital since 2013. After testing positive, Arun was moved to a quarantine facility as per Department of Health (DOH) protocol. However, a few days later, his condition worsened to a state that he had to gasp for breath, soon after which he was shifted to a hospital and a thorough check-up found that Arun's lungs were severely infected. On July 31, the doctors put him on ECMO support as he could not breathe naturally.

Dr Tarig Ali Mohamed Elhassan, who is the department head of cardiac surgery at Burjeel Hospital, said that after one month of ECMO support, there was further deterioration in his condition. “He was transferred from another hospital to this facility at Burjeel hospital in Abu Dhabi for a lung transplant programme. We noticed that he was a fighter and as he had a lot of will power and energy to fight against the disease, we delayed the idea of transplant, although he was already listed for a program in India. After 118 days in ECMO, a miracle happened. We removed ECMO and he was able to oxygenate himself on his own lungs, thereby avoiding the lung transplant. In a normal case, the recovery would have been impossible. This is why Arun's recovery is a miracle to all of us. He even endured a cardiac arrest while his body was weak. His fighting spirit is remarkable,” he said.

Recalling what happened, Arun said that his last memory was of him gasping for breath at a quarantine facility and swiftly moving to a hospital. He has no memory of what he had undergone in the past six months. "I do not remember anything. I know I had barely escaped from the jaws of death," said Arun.

Though Arun showed signs of improvement in the beginning and responded well to medication, the progress declined, his condition continued to be critical, and hope began to fade, say hospital sources.

Arun had not communicated that he had tested positive for the coronavirus to his family in India. He had just informed them that he would not make any calls due to a special arrangement in the duty. "We did not suspect anything wrong as he was working as part of the COVID-19 task force. But when we received the call from the hospital, we could not believe it," said his wife, Jenny George, who is also a healthcare worker.

She added, "I did not know what to do. Arun is the lone breadwinner for the family. The news came as a huge blow for Arun's parents and me. We were broken and anxiously pushed days praying for his good health and speedy recovery. We did not even have food for several days."

The daily updates from the hospital were not comforting. Arun's condition was deteriorating. "I felt helpless and desperate. Arun was planning to come to India in August for our housewarming. He had not even seen the baby for over a year then. He had last come when the baby was only three months old. His eyes were tearing up when he saw the child," said Jenny.

“However, the hospital said that if we were willing to come, arrangements will be made for that. Then only his friend informed us that the condition was critical and asked me to come and see him. I didn’t know that it was this serious when I came from India. Arun was in the ICU for about a month then and he showed no signs of progress. I spoke with the doctor, who reassured me that they were doing their best. Though I knew he was in a critical condition, I was hopeful. But when I first saw him in the ICU bed with tubes all over his body, I could not believe my eyes. For the first time, I felt like he would not make it. My husband got his life back because of Burjeel hospital and the people here,” Jenny said.

On one of those days, Jenny had received a panic call from the hospital stating that Arun had suffered a cardiac arrest during a bronchoscopy procedure, and the medical team was trying their best to resuscitate him. “There was a straight line on the monitor, but then suddenly, Dr Tarig found a pulse of life, and he got him back. Dr Tarig is god for us. If it had been any other doctor, I do not think Arun would be alive today. We will always be indebted to him and will remember Dr Tarig, the entire medical team, and the hospital management in our prayers for their sincere efforts in saving the life of Arun," said Jenny.

A co-worker of Arun, Pushpa Perumal, OT manager, said that Arun, who was like a son to him, was a real fighter. “He didn’t give up despite ECMO, intratracheal tube, tracheostomy, catheter tubes and all. He fought back to life”, she said.

VPS Healthcare Chairman and Managing Director Dr Shamsheer Vayalil has announced financial assistance of Rs 50 lakh to support him. The financial assistance was offered to Arun in honor of his service to the UAE and his fighting spirit.

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