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Dubai: While the number of coronavirus cases has risen in the UAE, most people who contract the virus eventually get better. It took Shady Gouda, an Egyptian man living in Dubai, a full 20 days from when he got sick until he was discharged from the hospital on April 16, 2020.

Gulf News spoke to Shady over the phone. “This isn’t my normal voice,” he said hoarsely. “I haven’t been able to speak for the last four days. They put a lot of things into your throat when you’re in the hospital. My throat muscles were widened a lot while I was there because of all the tubes and the ventilator. So, yeah, my throat is pretty injured after all of this happened. If you had called me yesterday, I wouldn’t have been able to physically talk to you.”

Over the last four days, Shady hasn’t been able to do much else either. But today, he tells us his story:

"When I left the hospital, I could hardly step on my own feet. I lost so much weight, I can’t even tell you how much. I am just catching up on some sleep and trying to eat, so I can regain all the energy that was sucked out of me because of this virus.

In the grand scheme of things, 20 days isn't such a long time to be sick, but in reality, with corona, you feel every single minute of it. I wasn’t able to sleep and I didn’t eat any solid food for 14 days.

You would think that because I was in a hospital that I was sleeping all the time, however it was too painful to sleep. I am usually a side sleeper, but my lungs were in so much pain, I couldn’t turn on either side. I was forced to lie on my back.

Lucky to be treated in UAE

Doctors and nurses were coming into my room at all hours of the night doing blood tests, taking my pressure and checking on my vitals. They worked day and night on me. They were superheroes.

I feel so lucky that I was being treated in the UAE. The treatment here is on a whole other level than anywhere else in the world. Because here we stand a chance. We have the opportunity to be isolated. We have space in the ICU and we have access to our own ventilator.

If there was no ventilator, I know I wouldn’t have had a chance to survive. Literally, there was not enough oxygen traveling to my brain and the rest of my body. Ventilators are so important. People should not underestimate them.

'You guys, I think I have corona'

I remember it so well. I got sick on March 26, 2020. It was a Thursday. I thought it was just a normal flu, but it just kept getting worse and worse. At first I was scared to go to the hospital. I was nervous about being forced to stay there for weeks. Maybe I was being a little stubborn. But when my fever started getting worse and I noticed that I wasn’t able to breathe properly, I went straight to Al Zahra Hospital.

When I got there, I went to the emergency room. I said, “Guys, I think I have corona”. I was showing all of the symptoms. Throat ache, fever, body aches and of course difficulty breathing.

I did the test and it came out negative at first. But the doctors knew better. They were sure I was infected. So we did the test again. That was when it came out positive.

The mouth swab portion of the test is easy to get through, the nose swab part is more uncomfortable, but it only lasts a few seconds.

I spent the first three days in a hospital room being treated, then it got much worse. My lungs were full of fluid. On April 1, I was moved to the ICU and put on a ventilator. “Your situation is looking really bad. Let’s see what happens,” they said to me. The ventilator is pretty uncomfortable.

Ventilators gently force a mixture of air and added oxygen through a breathing tube, into a patients' airways and down into their lungs.

That was the most difficult time for me and for my family. There was no way I was able to communicate with them. They knew I was in the hospital but we both had no idea when I would come out. I wasn’t even properly conscious to text my own mother.

I spent a week in the ICU. Eventually, I started coming to. I felt like it was an intervention from God. I felt my body was starting to beat the virus. They finally took me off the ventilators but I still had to stay in the ICU. The funny thing is, I am such a health freak. I don't smoke, I don't drink and I am very active. The virus didn't care. 

I stayed another five days in the ICU, but as I got a little stronger every day, I was moved out of there and into a room alone. It then took another four days to get back to regain even more strength and beat the virus. I finally did the COVID-19 test and it came back negative.

'An exhausting 20 days later, I got discharged'

It is so difficult adjusting to my normal life again. I don’t have any stamina. I am tired all the time and really sleepy. But at least I can finally turn to my side now while sleeping.

I don’t just appreciate the little things, I appreciate everything. I appreciate air. I can breathe now. Getting sick with the coronavirus changed my life. I don’t think I ever appreciated it this much. I felt like I looked death in the eye. But I was given a second chance to live.

I feel like I am finally awake now. I know what’s important in life and I know what I need to change about myself. I basically spent my life living on the edge and just throwing caution to the wind and doing whatever I wanted. Now, I need to change so many things that I've been given this chance.

Since I’ve left the hospital, I've been quarantined at home. I have to be quarantined for another 10 days. My mom is here staying with me, but we are isolated from each other, because it is still dangerous for us to be together.

We do meet in my balcony every night. It’s a very big balcony so we sit on either side and we talk from a distance and enjoy the fresh air.

They told me at the hospital that I could possibly get sick again, so I want to be extra careful. I also can't risk getting my mother sick. No one should have to go through what I went through."