The head doctor of an intensive care unit in Yemen spent 10 days in a coronavirus-induced coma after being misdiagnosed with dengue fever because experts didn’t think Covid-19 had reached the country.
Dr Madhi Mahdi Abdel Kawi, head of ICU at Aden German International Hospital, was initially diagnosed with the tropical disease spread by mosquitoes in April.
He stayed at home battling a fever for 10 days and tried ease his symptoms by taking paracetamol. But drugs failed to work and he decided to go to hospital.
When he arrived he began to suffer from respiratory problems such as coughing and shortness of breath — two other tell-tale signs of Covid-19.
After he was correctly diagnosed with Covid-19, he spent five days there on oxygen before being put on a ventilator and intubated, a procedure where a tube put is put in the trachea to help breathing.
During this time he was heavily sedated with drugs in a bid to encourage his body to heal itself, effectively putting him in a coma for 10 days.
Dr Kawi has now spoken out about the dangerous ‘state of denial’ people in Yemen were in at the start of the outbreak.
He described how if people had applied social distancing measures early on, the number of cases wouldn’t have ‘skyrocketed’.
And he outlined that because there were no confirmed cases due to a lack of testing kits, experts didn’t think the virus had reached Yemen yet.
Dr Madhi Mahdi Abdel Kawi spent 10 days in a coronavirus-induced coma in Yemen after being misdiagnosed with dengue fever because experts didn’t think Covid-19 had reached the country
He was initially diagnosed with the tropical disease spread by mosquitoes in April. Pictured: a community health volunteer teaches children in Yemen how to practice good hygiene
Now he has recovered, Dr Kawi volunteers in his own time at a treatment centre for coronavirus patients because most doctors in Yemen are no longer being paid due to a breakdown in their healthcare system.
Dr Kawi is also warning the world about Covid-19 in the war-torn Middle Eastern country.
When the virus broke out, Yemen only had 500 ventilators — a crucial piece of equipment in the treatment of severe Covid-19 cases — and only half of the country’s health facilities are in use.
When the virus broke out, Yemen only had 500 ventilators — a crucial piece of equipment in the treatment of severe Covid-19 cases. Pictured is a food distribution centre in Yemen practising social distancing
Dr Kawi first became ill in April with a high temperature and was told he had dengue, which is common in Yemen
There are currently 1,585 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 444 deaths — but the World Health Organization says there could be a million cases in the country.
Dr Kawi first became ill in April with a high temperature and was told he had dengue, which is common in Yemen.
He stayed at home for 10 days with his fever — one of the tell-tale signs of Covid-19 — but grew so unwell he was forced to go into hospital.
Before April there were no official confirmed cases of Covid-19 so doctors were not using personal protective equipment (PPE) to treat patients.
Dr Kawi, a specialist in emergency medicine and intensive care, said: ‘There were no confirmed cases in Aden, only suspected ones.
‘We used to try to get in touch with the disease surveillance but they repeatedly told us those symptoms were not Covid-19 symptoms.
‘Therefore, we did not use PPE because we thought Yemen was virus-free back then. We had three or four suspected cases at the hospital, but there were no testing kits.’
Dr Kawi is desperate to draw attention to Yemen, which was last year classed as the most fragile state in the world.
Dr Kawi is desperate to draw attention to Yemen, which was last year classed as the most fragile state in the world. Pictured is a CARE charity employer giving a man in Yemen some hand sanitiser
Dr Kawi said: ‘They didn’t believe coronavirus existed at all in Yemen, even though the virus was spreading exponentially, and deaths cases were surging.’ Pictured are people in Yemen lining up for charity handouts while practising social distacing
He said: ‘People were in a state of denial at the beginning of the outbreak.
‘They didn’t believe coronavirus existed at all in Yemen, even though the virus was spreading exponentially, and deaths cases were surging.
COVID-19 HAS AT LEAST 19 SYMPTOMS, EXPERT BEHIND UK SYMPTOM TRACKER APP SAYS
Professor Spector and researchers from King’s College London have developed a symptom-tracking app which has seen millions of Britons sign up and report their symptoms.
The full list of symptoms, in order of how predictive they are of the disease, include:
1. Loss of smell/taste
2. Persistent cough
4. Loss of appetite
5. Skin rash
8. Severe muscle pain
9. Shortness of breath
12. Abdominal pain
13. Chest pain
14. Hoarse voice
15. Eye soreness
16. Sore or painful throat
17. Nausea or vomiting
19. Dizziness or light headedness
‘Had they applied social distancing, avoided handshakes and hugs, and stayed away from crowded places, the number of cases wouldn’t have skyrocketed.
‘People are taking necessary preventive measures and following social distancing guidelines.
‘However, some of them are still refusing to accept that this virus is real, not only in Yemen but in the world. But the virus is real.’
Dr Kawi said that once he was admitted to hospital he had ‘no idea’ what happened to him.
After 10 days his condition began to stabilise and he slowly regained consciousness.
He said: ‘My condition began to stabilise. Two days later, I regained consciousness. I started to recognise the place and my friends, and thank God, my condition was improving.’
He left hospital and went back to work, despite not being paid, which is common given the breakdown of the healthcare system.
Dr Kawi said: ‘I went back to work because people needed us. I resumed work as soon as I started to feel better.
‘I am a volunteer. I take absolutely no remuneration from any organisation or hospital.’
‘Some physicians are afraid to visit quarantine facilities to treat Covid-19 patients. But this is wrong.
‘If you have PPE, you can see the patients and treat them, because the current circumstances in our country make it necessary for you to go back to work.’
He added: ‘However, starting May and June, hospitals started providing PPE such as protective masks and suits, and they started dealing with Covid-19 patients with ease.
‘Thank God, it has become way easier for us to deal with Covid-19 patients and we are starting to defeat the disease.’
But Yemen has a long way to go. The country, which has a population of 28.5million, had only 500 ventilators when the virus broke out.
Some 24.1million people (80 per cent of the population) are already in need of humanitarian assistance.
Yemen, which has a population of 28.5million, had only 500 ventilators when the virus broke out. Pictured is a man walking through a makeshift refugee camp on the site on an unfinished school near Aden, Yemen
Before April there were no official confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Yemen so doctors were not using personal protective equipment (PPE) to treat patients. Pictured are people queueing for food handouts
The Disasters Emergency Committee launched its Coronavirus Appeal last week for Yemen and six other fragile places in the world and has already raised £13.5million. Pictured is a community health volunteer teaching children how to wash their hands
The Disasters Emergency Committee launched its Coronavirus Appeal last week for Yemen and six other fragile places in the world with high refugee counts and displaced populations who find it difficult to protect themselves from Covid-19 because of a lack of clean running water and soap.
So far it has raised more than £13.5million in one week.
Its chief executive Saleh Saeed thanked the British public for the donations.
He said: ‘Here in the UK, we’ve witnessed great suffering and made unprecedented sacrifices to protect each other and save lives.
‘We have seen too the tireless dedication of staff in our amazing NHS.
‘But, imagine living in one of the world’s most fragile states – where there is no NHS – and no other safety nets for the very poorest and most vulnerable.
‘Families who have been forced to flee conflict, drought and floods – living in crowded refugee and displacement camps – with little access to clean water, medical care or enough food – now face a new, deadly and silent threat.’
To donate to the DEC, click here.