My COVID Experience
Dr. Firoz Mahboob Kamal
In the name of Allah Subhana wa Ta’la –the Most Merciful and the Most Compassionate, I like to say that I feel greatly blessed to share my COVID experience with others. In fact, I have been given a new life. By His great mercy I returned back from the very edge of death. I am very grateful to Almighty Allah SWT for His great mercy on me. I was taken to my local hospital in London on the 25th of April and released on the 17th of September in 2020. I was treated as a case COVID-19. Of my 146 days in the hospital, I was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for 120 days. For about two and half months, I was in a coma and was on a ventilator. I am highly grateful to the doctors, nurses and other carers of the UK hospital for their wonderful service. It is very rare to have such a long stay in the ICU. COVID has three forms: mild, moderate, and severe. I passed through all three forms and turned out to have the most severe one. Seven days prior to admission, I developed mild symptoms like a dry cough that changed to fever and shivering in the night. In about 90 percent of cases, the disease subsides without any treatment. In the remaining 10 percent cases, it may turn very severe, need ICU admission, and may cause death.
On 24th April 2020, one day prior to my hospital admission, I didn’t feel that much unwell which could warrant my hospital admission. On that day, I drove for 3 hours on a motorway at about 70 miles per hour from my workplace where I used to work as a consultant in acute medicine. After returning to my residence in London, I had a good sleep that night. On 25th April, in the afternoon, I started feeling weak and unwell; but still, surprisingly, I didn’t have any shortness of breathing or any serious symptoms. But COVID sometimes runs silently and harms badly. I felt I must check my oxygen level. I didn’t have any oximeter at home; my son bought it from the market. I found my oxygen level at 86 percent; normally it should be 94-98 percent. It was alarmingly low. I didn’t have any doubt that I have COVID. So it was clear to me that I needed oxygen and must go to a hospital. My family called an ambulance and within ten minutes it arrived. In the meantime, I send an email to all my mailbox contacts informing them about my COVID and requesting them to make sincere dowa for me. In those days, thousands of people were admitted into hospitals each day and hundreds of them were dying. So, getting COVID-15 was a matter of serious shock for everybody. I have 4 daughters, a son and a daughter-in-law; all of them quickly came to my house. In those days hundreds of people were dying every day; so my COVID was a huge shock for my wife and the children. Their faces turned very gloomy with an apprehension that I may not return back from the hospital. They paid gloomily goodbye to me.
The ambulance paramedics found my oxygen saturation quite low and quickly started with oxygen. I was taken to the resuscitation room of the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department of King George Hospital –the nearest hospital from my house. I was still alert, oriented, and conversant. Initially, I had started with a simple oxygen mask. After a while, I was started with CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) oxygenation. It was difficult to tolerate the CPAP machine. In the past, I worked as a registrar in respiratory medicine. Now I realise why some of our patients in the respiratory ward preferred to die instead of taking a CPAP machine. It was really difficult to tolerate. I was worried, how long it would be there. I can’t remember how long I was on CPAP. At one point I was told by one of the doctors that I need a ventilator. It was really very alarming to me; I got the message that my situation is quite serious. The doctor was asking for my consent. I told him to go ahead with it.
Since I was told that I need a ventilator, it was a tremendous shock for me. I felt I may not survive. I have had a dream since my school days. I felt my dream now stands shattered. I have a firm belief that we the Muslims do not have any scarcity of wealth but have a serious shortage of knowledge. We have scores of people in agriculture, business, industry, army, and other professions. But we need many more people in the field of writing. And it is the Sunnah (tradition) of Allah SWT to start with disseminating knowledge. Seeking knowledge and dissemination knowledge –both are great ibadah. Knowledge sets the status of humans –both here and in the hereafter. Adam (peace be upon him)’s knowledge -as imparted by Allah SWT made him fit to get sijda (prostration) from the angels. So, it has been my passion to follow the sunnah of Allah SWT. I took my pen as a weapon to fight for Islam. I took the medical profession as a decent survival tool and also as a tool to serve humanity. But my prime objective in life was to work as a servant of Allah SWT –especially in the field of knowledge.
When I was told that I need a ventilator, I thought, the time has come to return back to my Allah SWT. But I had a deep apprehension that I am leaving this world almost empty-handed. I wrote hundreds of articles in Bengali and English. All those articles are written in the last thirty years to address the problems of the Muslim Ummah and to find out the solution. Although those articles were published in various newspapers, journals, blogs, I could publish only one book. In order to give long life to my thoughts, I needed to publish them as books. Hence, prior to hospital admission, I started to edit all those articles for final compilation in several books. In my absence, nobody can do it. Since COVID related deaths were mounting in London, I felt a sense of great disappointment. However, I realized that I can only dream; things are not in my hands. So I possessed no other option but to surrender to the design of Allah SWT. I couldn’t see my own face; but it must be a very gloomy one.
I don’t exactly know when I was put on a ventilator. Probably, at that time I was drowsy. Since a ventilator can’t be fitted while the patient is awake, I needed to be induced with a comma. One day I found my son sitting beside me. He was smiling. Seeing him, I was also smiling. This is the first smile on my face. After my admission to the hospital, it was the first time that I saw any of my family members. My son asked me whether I know how long I have been in hospital. I told him, maybe one or two days. He told me that I was in a coma for about two and a half months. I was very surprised. It was like the story of the historic young men of the cave (ashab-e kahaf) -as mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. I didn’t even know that I was still in an ICU bed. My son informed me that I was critically unwell. The doctors were struggling very hard to bring my oxygen level to the desired level. I had a tracheostomy. Still I was being given oxygen through the tracheostomy tube.
Later on, I came to know from my family that I was so unwell that even the ICU doctors thought I was losing the battle. In the middle of the month of Ramadan, I deteriorated so much that the doctors asked my family for an immediate visit for a final departing look. However, by the grace of Allah SWT, I didn’t deteriorate further and survived. But after about two weeks, on the day of Eid ul Fitr, my condition worsened for the second time. The doctors lost hope. My family was asked again to rush to the hospital. At that time, my family had sleepless days and nights. All praises to Allah SWT, I survived that critical moment, too. On the following day, my family was informed that my condition has started improving.
While I was in a coma I didn’t know what happened to me. But while I came out of the coma, a new phase of difficulties started. I started to have excessive secretions from my throat, hallucinations, nightmares and bizarre dreams. Nurse couldn’t be available all the time. I had to keep a suction machine in my hands to suck secretion from my throat. My left arm was totally powerless. Most of these are the symptoms of post-COVID syndrome and the side-effects of medications.
Since I am a doctor, the consultants, the registrars, and the nurses started to tell me their story about the severity of my illness. They told me that it was a miracle that I recovered. And only Almighty Allah SWT could do such a miracle. The doctors showed me my CT scan. When I saw the CT scan with my own eyes, I became sure that the doctors were right. It was really a miracle to survive after such an extensive lesion in both the lungs. Moreover, I had a multi-organ failure. I had pneumonia in both lungs, huge clots in both lungs, and fluid in both lungs. I had kidney failure that needed dialysis. I also had heart failure secondary to clots in the lungs. My liver function also got deranged. Whereas, I was a reasonably healthy man before this COVID attack. My lungs, heart, kidney and liver were perfectly normal. It is a great blessing of Allah SWT that my organs recovered quickly.
I was also told that the ICU team observed my birthday and posted the photos on the NHS website. I am not aware of any of that. Later on, I knew that my friends in the UK, in the Middle East, Bangladesh and other countries could see those photos on the internet. It looked strange to me; since I didn’t celebrate my birthday myself in my whole life.
All my days in the hospital gave me a personal spiritual experience. During my old days in schools, colleges, universities, I hardly got a chance to have an exclusive long-time focus on the ultimate destiny in the hereafter. Such thoughts used to come and go and showed little sustenance. My difficult days in the hospital gave me detachment from the world and more attachment with the thoughts of the hereafter. The death and the days after the death stood so close to me. I was standing on a sharp cliff, needing only a slight push to slip onto the other side of life – the endless hereafter. My COVID could go worse at any time. The severity of the disease was enough to kill me. We are so vulnerable. We are living in a sea of invisible killers; but still we are not aware of that. Any time anything can happen. All of our earnings in this life will be useless if we can’t transfer those assets to the hereafter. Allah SWT has given us enough potentials; what could be the best option than investing those potentials for qualifying for the mercy of Allah Sub’hana wa Ta’ala. After death nothing can be done. There is no doubt that Allah SWT has given me a new life with new opportunities to enrich my treasure in the hereafter. While lying alone in a hospital bed, it was my predominant thought, how can I use these newly bestowed opportunities.
It is true that the issue of life or death is not decided by the doctors, nor on the surface of the earth. It is decided only by Allah SWT in heaven. No disease, no virus and no bug can kill a man unless it is sanctioned by Allah SWT. Hence dowa works. It is a powerful tool to seek Allah SWT’s help. Almighty Allah SWT listens to dowa and also responds to dowa –as revealed repeatedly in the Holy Qur’an.
By keeping me alive, Allah SWT has given me opportunities to know some unbelieving things. I have never been a highly connected man. But I am deeply moved to know that thousands of people all over the world prayed for my recovery. In many mosques in London, people made a collective dowa for me. Some shed tears for me. That happened in Bangladesh, too. There were zoom dowa sessions over the internet. Some people give sadaqa for my life. My close family members kept fasting for me. My wife and children spent hours after hours on the prayer mats to make supplications for me. I never imagined that the people whom I didn’t meet in my life would show such deep empathy for me. It is incredible. I feel these brothers and sisters overseas become emotionally connected to me because of my writings. I am deeply grateful and thankful to all of them. May Allah Sub’hana wa Ta’ala bless them. I understand, they could show such deep empathy towards me only because of their intense Islamic sense of brotherhood. I am sure they will get rewards from Allah SWT for their love for one of His humble slaves. Such love and fraternity are indeed the great asset of the Muslim Ummah. It also works as a strong source of inspiration for me. 23/11/2020