To Hell and Back: Cameraman Survives Covid-19

KUALA LUMPUR: Do not take the threat of Covid-19 lightly. This is the stern warning by Covid-19 survivor Asrul Ambia Ahmad, 49, a freelance cameraman who went to hell and back during his battle with the virus.

In light of the recent report that many people are showing signs of apathy towards the life-threatening virus, Asrul reminded Malaysians to adhere to the government’s health and safety measures under the standard operating procedures (SOPs), having spent 16 days in a hospital’s Intensive Care Unit himself.

As one of the 8,574 survivors of the virus, Asrul said the virus changed his life.

“I was one of the 18 TV production crew members who went to Scotland for the filming of a drama series. Thirteen of us tested positive for the virus,” he told the New Straits Times recently.

“After almost a month in Scotland, a week before flying back to Malaysia, I developed fever. Days passed so slowly and I started losing appetite and sense of smell. My body ached so much that I found it hard to sleep.”

On March 30, the production team made its way home to Malaysia from Scotland, with a transit in London on March 31.

“We landed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on April 1. To this day, I have no recollection of how I ended up in the ICU ward or how I travelled back to Malaysia. My friends told me that my face had turned bluish during our journey back. I didn’t know it was due to Covid-19.”

Asrul said he remembered being wheeled into the airport as he was unable to walk.

“When I opened my eyes, I saw nurses and medical officers in an ambulance. We were on the way to Sungai Buloh Hospital. I slipped in and out of consciousness and woke up alone three days later in an ICU room with wires attached to my body.”

Asrul said he remembered seeing doctors and nurses in Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) who told him that he had Covid-19.

“When I was admitted, my oxygen level dropped to below 50 per cent. If it had dropped any lower, I could have risked getting other complications that could affect my brain.

“I was told to sleep on my chest and shortly after that, my body started to react in a strange way. I became delirious and started to go berserk.

“I pulled all the cords and screamed at the doctors and nurses to a point that they were forced to strap me to the bed!” he said, adding that the experience was relayed to him by his wife and the nurses.

Asrul said he was unconscious for 16 days.

“It was like being in a coma and it was all too much for my wife. She was inconsolable when I was warded in the ICU. You can only imagine her fears and worries after not seeing her husband for a month only to find him strapped to a bed in the ICU and unconscious!”

On day 17, he slowly regained his health.

“Two days later, they moved me to a quarantine ward. I was there for the next five days. After that, I was allowed to go home to undergo quarantine for a period of 14 days.”

Asrul believed that the virus affected his memory, though the excruciating pain when the virus attacked his organs was still vivid in his mind.

“If I sit alone and try to remember how I returned to Malaysia or the time when I was in the ICU, I would get frustrated because I can’t remember anything. But I have scars to remind me of what happened.”

During his home quarantine, Asrul said he didn’t leave his room for 14 days.

“My family members couldn’t even meet me at the bedroom door. We were very, very careful,” he said, adding that he was given a clean bill of health following the completion of his quarantine

“Although the doctor described my recovery as miraculous, I was left with mental and physical trauma from my battle with Covid-19, with my lungs ravaged by blood clots due to the viral attack.

“Until today, I can’t have a good night’s sleep. I can only close my eyes for one or two hours and even then it is always disrupted by flashes of my traumatic experience.

“I am so scared that if I sleep for too long, I would wake up being strapped in an ICU ward again.”

Asrul said his first-hand experience with the virus has left his body weak.

“Just walking 10m feels like 50m or 80m. I get breathless and have to pause between conversations to catch my breath.”

Currently, Asrul is on medication for his lungs.

“When I was sick, it frightened me when I saw the texture of the phlegm — it was rubbery and it felt as if you were spitting out a chewed gum,” said Asrul, who has been discharged from the hospital for almost three months.

Asrul reminded Malaysians to always follow the government’s SOPs as the threat of the virus was real.

“When I look at how relaxed people are and their attitude towards the virus, I am terrified. People are behaving as if the virus is gone, but it is still very much around.

“Please, I beg you not to let your guard down. Follow the SOPs. Wear your mask and practise social distancing. Until a vaccine is found, don’t mess with Covid-19.”


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