Dubai: Evelyn Alay Quidlat, 58, a former human resources professional with an oil-and-gas company from Jebel Ali, is a fighter in every sense of the term as she has survived more than just COVID-19 and emerged victorious after nearly 36 days in hospital. She was in Medcare Hospital, Sharjah, from April 13-May 16 — of which, nearly ten days were spent in the intensive care unit.
Quidlat does not feel afraid of death as she has had a series of mishaps that began in 2019, when she lost her husband due to a cardiac arrest. “My husband died in the Philippines in May 2019 and I realised I was all alone as I have no children,” Quidlat said. “When I contracted COVID-19, I just felt that if I have to die, I will. There is no point in feeling bad as I view death as a transition to the other side where God is waiting to take care of us,” said Quidlat, who has had the support of her nieces and nephews here in Dubai.
Having been in Dubai for 12 years, Quidlat takes life as it comes. She worked in war zones in Basra and Erbil in Iraq as a purchase officer. In fact, when Quidlat contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalised or 36 days, many of her friends and colleagues thought she would not survive. “One colleague even told others: ‘Oh Evelyn is not coming back!’ I am pre-diabetic, I have hypertension and high cholesterol. But I fought back COVID-19 and here I am,” said Quidlat who was served with a termination order on July 14 by her employer.
Yet, Quidlat, who had to give up her apartment and take a bed space, remains unfazed. A deeply religious person who believes that God has a plan for everyone, Quidlat feels she will find another job soon.
“I do not question God as I have a deep and abiding faith, said Quidlat who was very careful throughout the lockdown period, working from home and taking her multivitamins and drinking hot water with lemon and honey as a special concoction to keep COVID-19 at bay.
But the inevitable did happen. Quidlat recalled: “This was the second week of April. I had developed fever and I went to the Medcare Hospital, Dubai, initially. However, my tests came negative. I had no loss of taste or smell like others felt. During the following week, the fever relapsed. I recall it was Easter Sunday and I could smell the rack of ribs from another room, my sense of smell was not impaired. Gasping for breath, but refused ventilation
“I was admitted to hospital on April 13. I wasn’t sure what was wrong, but when they administered oxygen, suddenly I felt so good and breathed easy.”
Quidlat was not aware, but her oxygen saturation level, which should normally be 95 and above, had dropped to 82 or 83, said Dr Vikas Arora, specialist intensivist from Medcare Sharjah where she was later transferred. Dr Arora said: “Evelyn was tested again on April 14 and she was positive, but her results came in a week later. However, we had put her on anti-viral, hydroxychloroquine and antibiotics. She refused to be intubated when we asked for her consent. But we were on alert as she was initially on 14 litres of oxygen per minute via the face mask.
Quidlat continued: “By April 14, I was coughing so violently that I felt my insides would pour out. I was wracked with pain. However, I refused any kind of ventilation. I told my doctor, if I cannot breathe on my own, let me pass on peacefully, don’t intubate me. I wasn’t afraid of death as I think of it as just a transition,” recounted Quidlat.
In the next ten days, Quidlat struggled to breathe and was administered almost 12 litres of oxygen per minute and had to lie on her stomach to improve her breathing. She remained in the ICU for ten days. Quidlat said: “On Day 11, when I picked up a quarrel with the ICU nurse, I knew I was recovering. I felt either too hot or too cold and argued with the nurse to either dial down the air-conditioning or make it warmer. The tussle continued and I was happy to be talking to the nurses who were dedicated to my care and attended to me very diligently.”
Until Day 10 of ICU, Quidlat was so weak that she could barely go to the washroom even on a wheelchair and even with mobile oxygen support. “I wondered when I would be able to move out of ICU like the others. Finally on the 11th day, I was able to wobble on my own to the bathroom although I still had oxygen through face mask. When I got out of the washroom the doctors and nurses clapped and cheered and I felt so good. In the ten days they had become family for me and so when I was moved to the COVID-19 ward in an isolation room, Quidlat missed her ICU ‘family’ and felt lonely.
Progress was slow and she took a very long time to be weaned off oxygen. “I tested negative seven times after the tenth day, but still could not go home as I was dependent on oxygen-support. Whenever thy weaned me off, within three hours my saturation would drop to 85 and so I had to stay in hospital for 33 days, taking in two litres of oxygen per minute. It took me long to gradually wean myself off oxygen-support as my lungs were badly affected. I was finally discharged on May 16,” said Quidlat whose real ordeal began only after discharge.
Out of hospital and on the long road to recovery
Weak with the impact of the virulent infection, with her lungs still struggling to breathe, Quidlat knew the road to recovery would be long and painful. “I was put into a hotel for the next seven days and I had to work hard to improve my health. My muscles felt very weak as remaining in bed for so long had destroyed their tone. I had to slowly but surely build up my strength with good nutrition, short walks and plenty of sleep. “I would fall asleep by 3pm and sleep through the night. Sleep helped me recover well,” said Quidlat.
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When she was terminated on July 16, Quidlat took it in her stride. “I knew this was coming, so I simply moved out of this apartment that I shared with other others to something more affordable. I now have a bed space and I am looking for a job. I hope to get one soon or else I will have to move back to the Philippines.”
Never give up
In her message to others Quidlat was very positive: “Some people feel COVID-19 happens to people who are unclean or unhygienic. This is not true. This virus is so insidious, it can infect anyone anywhere. I was taking all the precautions and yet I got infected. The other thing I want to tell people is that testing positive is not the end of the world. There is a strong possibility of being able to fight back as many have done. I am also so thankful that I got this infection in Dubai. I am amazed by the preparedness of the government, the dedication of the doctors and nurses at Medcare Hospital Sharjah who looked after me around the clock.”