Abu Dhabi: A frontline healthcare worker in Abu Dhabi has made a remarkable recovery after a six-month hospitalisation that also saw him placed on extracorporeal life support for 118 days.
Still overwhelmed by his own recovery, Arunkumar Nair, 38, was today feted by his colleagues and caregivers, who repeatedly deemed his recovery ‘miraculous’.
Nair first fell ill after contracting COVID-19 in late July last year, while he was supporting other patients as an operation theatre technician at the LLH Hospital, part of the VPS Healthcare network of medical facilities. He was placed in quarantine, but when his condition deteriorated, he was transferred to a hospital and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to support his weakened lung function.
Nair was eventually transferred to Burjeel Hospital in September 2021 for prolonged treatment, and remained on the ECMO machine for a whopping 118 days.
“The ECMO machine can support patients in his condition, but they also face other hazards, such as the increased risk of infection and bleeding. Nair not only survived this long period on ECMO, as well as several cardiac arrests, but was able to fight for his recovery even after being taken off the machine. It is heartening to see him able to walk, and I believe he will be able to manage without any oxygen support within a month,” Dr Elhassan told Gulf News.
Dr Elhassan was part of the team that cared for Nair in the intensive care unit, and also helped nurse him back to health.
“[Nair] is a great fighter. I have never seen one like him in my career. He is still weak, and will need physiotherapy and rehabilitation to regain strength, but he is in a position to be back at work soon. His grit and determination are astonishing,” the doctor added.
Nair was discharged from hospital today, and went home accompanied by his wife, Jenny George, and two-year-old son, Arjun.
Speaking to media, a tearful Nair said he did not remember much about his ordeal, except that he was close to dying.
“I had developed simple cold symptoms last July, and I know I tested positive for COVID-19. I remember being in quarantine as well, and also being taken to hospital. But I cannot recollect my time in the intensive care unit. When I came to, I saw my brother, who explained to me what had happened,” Nair said.
“I thank God for blessing me with a new life. It is the support and prayers of my family, my friends, my colleagues, and VPS management that has helped me live,” he added.
Nair’s wife, George, also thanked the team profusely for her husband’s recovery.
“When I first learnt that my husband was unwell, I did not grasp the severity of his illness. But when the team arranged for me to travel here in September 2021, my husband’s brother called me before the flight and told me how unwell [Nair] was. It was difficult for me to see him the way he was, but everyone around him supported me and helped me retain hope and positivity,” George said.
George was also particularly grateful for the care that her husband was given.
“If it had been any other doctor, I do not think Arun would be alive today. We will always be indebted to Dr Elhassan, and remember him, the entire medical team, and the hospital management in our prayers for their sincere efforts in saving [my husband’s life],” said Jenny.
At the ceremony organised by VPS, Nair was presented with a Dh250,000 in financial assistance for his service. The healthcare provider also added that it would offer his wife, who is herself a professional nurse, with a job within its network, and also support the education of his son.
To celebrate his recovery, Indian filmstar, Tovino Thomas, delivered a special message to Nair, hailing him as a real-life superhero. Thomas is himself famous for playing a superhero in his latest hit, Minnal Murali.
After a cake-cutting, Nair and his family were driven home in a Rolls Royce to a one-bedroom apartment provided by VPS.
Vows to return
The frontline worker will travel to India to continue his recovery, but said he will be back.
“I was dying, and everyone put in their best to help me survive. Now I have to build back my health and my strength so that I can come back and serve other patients at VPS and in the UAE,” he said.