Dr Harold Shim
Following his successful surgery, Dr Harold Shim has returned home and is looking forward to getting back to work. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A physician at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (CCAD) recently found himself in need of the urgent care he himself helps provides as part of the hospital’s Emergency Department.

Suffering from a rare form of pneumonia that caused his lung to collapse, Dr Harold Shim had to rely on the medical care at the hospital, including emergency and surgical treatment, in order to recover.

According to a statement by the hospital, Dr Shim first began feeling ill as he ended his shift. As a precautionary measure, he first took a COVID-19 test, and fortunately tested negative for the virus. Suspecting he therefore had the flu, Dr Shim stayed home over the weekend to try and recover. Over the next few days, he began experiencing shortness of breath, even finding it difficult to walk upstairs.

“After a couple of days, the chair of our hospital’s Emergency Department, Dr. Jacques Kobersy, called me to check how I was feeling. When I told him about my symptoms, he told me to come in to get checked out. It was only then that I realised my condition was more serious than I thought. My blood oxygen levels were below normal, and my chest X-ray looked pretty bad,” Dr. Shim explained.

Concerned that his condition could be contagious, Dr. Shim was placed in one of the Emergency Department’s negative pressure isolation rooms while he underwent a battery of tests. A bronchoscopy revealed a large number of white blood cells in his lungs, pointing to a diagnosis of eosinophilic pneumonia, a rare disease. Following the diagnosis and as his condition began to improve, Dr. Shim was discharged to continue his recovery at home.

A week later, despite having felt significantly better, Dr. Shim had a coughing fit and became short of breath. At around 1am, he asked his wife to take him back to the hospital. “Dr Shim’s oxygen saturation had dropped significantly and was even lower than when he had first come in. Our tests showed that one of his lungs had collapsed. His chest cavity was full of air, putting pressure on his lung and even his heart, a potentially life-threatening condition that needed immediate treatment,” said Dr. Ashley Alwood, a consultant at CCAD’s Emergency Department.

Dr. Alwood inserted a chest tube to relieve the pressure in Dr Shim’s chest and reinflate his lung. This led to an almost immediate improvement in his condition, and allowed him to breathe normally. He was nevertheless admitted to the hospital for observation, and it soon became apparent that the leak in his lung wasn’t healing on its own. Doctors determined that Dr Shim needed a minimally invasive surgery to repair the leak, and remove a balloon like pocket of air that had developed between his lungs.

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“I was called to consult on Dr Shim’s case, as he had developed rare and unusual complications from his pneumonia. Looking at his scans was quite surprising as you certainly don’t see complications like his every day. After a discussion, it was decided that a video-assisted, minimally invasive approach was the best way to treat his condition,” said Dr. Redha Souilamas, chair of thoracic surgery at the CCAD.

Following his successful surgery, Dr. Shim has returned home, and is looking forward to getting back to work. “This has been an incredibly humbling experience. I’ve experienced how our patients feel when they come to us scared and sick, and seen how quickly the team respond and offer the highest level of care. I look forward to getting back to work, and building this experience into our approach to treating our patients like they were our own family,” he said.