Sreenivas Rao (left) with doctors at the Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A Dubai-based COVID-19 survivor had his legs saved from amputation following a series of surgeries at a private hospital in Abu Dhabi.

Sreenivasa Rao, 50, a businessman from India had developed thrombosis in his legs following his bout with COVID-19, and doctors at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi led a four-hour long surgery to treat his condition.

COVID-19 diagnosis

A resident of Dubai for 24 years, Rao tested positive for COVID-19 on October 30, 2020 while he was on vacation in Chennai. Facing breathing difficulties, he was admitted to a hospital on the same day, and was on oxygen support for about a week. Out of risk, he was discharged from the hospital and spent the rest of the days in isolation at home till he tested negative for COVID-19.

But while he was isolating, Rao developed a nagging pain in both his legs. Though mild, it became worse with each passing day. Then, on November 23, he collapsed at home and his family rushed him to the hospital, where the doctors suspected thrombosis and referred him to a specialty hospital for expert treatment.

Unable to move

“It was exactly 13 days since I had developed the pain in my legs. By the time I reached the specialty hospital, I couldn’t move my legs. My feet were cold and numb. I couldn’t sense or feel anything. So I underwent a series of checks. Finally, they diagnosed that my arteries in both the legs were occluded, and advised me to undergo immediate surgery, otherwise my legs would have to be amputated,” Rao said.

He underwent an open surgery the next day, and stayed at the hospital for over a week. Back at home, he was on complete bed rest and walked only to meet his personal needs. But there was still no relief from pain.

Risk of amputation

Rao then travelled back with his family to Dubai on December 7, and discussed his concerns with various doctors. He was told that there has been a long delay in diagnosing his condition, and that the possibility of curing it through surgery was negligible. “They said I had to amputate my legs. I was completely shattered. I even checked with doctors in India from other cities. They had the same opinion. I had no clue what to do,” Rao said.

Burjeel surgical plan

It was then that Rao discussed his issue with the doctors at Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi. His medical reports were evaluated by Dr. Ali Keivanjah, consultant vascular and endovascular surgeon, Dr. Georgie Thomas, specialist cardiologist, and Dr. Georgey Koshy, cardiovascular disease consultant at the hospital. After several rounds of discussions, the doctors decided to carry out an interventional surgical procedure, including angiography, catheter thrombectomy, ballooning and multiple stent implantation, as other procedures posed the risk of infection and the subsequent need for amputation.

Rao was admitted to the hospital on December 27, 2020, and underwent surgery the next day. The post-procedural course was eventless, and Rao started walking the next day.

Miraculous recovery

Speaking about the case, Dr. Keivanjah said that Rao’s recovery is a miracle, and that it would still take him a few months to recover fully. “The blood clotting had affected all the arterial vessels of [Rao’s] legs, and there were some complications of the surgery he had undergone in India. We had told him about the risks involved. But he was very positive, calm, and composed. He has shown stupendous recovery and is now able to walk longer in a single stretch,” the surgeon said.

“We are grateful to the doctors at Burjeel Hospital for their care and support. We have been going through a tough time. They stood by us and imbued us with confidence and hope,” Rao said. He is now feeling better, and walks for an hour in the morning and evening, even though it will take him a few months to recover completely.

Severe COVID-19 risk

Several studies have highlighted how patients infected by severe COVID-19 may be at the risk of developing blood clots. An autoimmune antibody circulated in the blood cause clots in arteries and veins, which then affects the oxygen supply in the body and results in serious issues.