After waking up from a month-long coma battling Covid-19, Bayan Kimamao chose an unorthodox method to let his friends and family know he had survived the traumatic ordeal.
A few hours after regaining consciousness in a hospital in Dubai, the 50-year-old propped himself up in bed – and took a selfie.
"I sent that selfie with all the tubes in my body, with the tracheostomy and everything. I sent it to everyone to tell them that I am OK, I am alive again,” Mr Kimamao said.
The Filipino nursing supervisor contracted the disease while testing new detainees at Dubai Central Prison for the virus.
On April 17, while walking into work, a thermal scanner detected that his temperature was higher than average.
Staff are frequently tested for Covid-19, but it had been six days since Mr Kimamao’s last nose swab. He was taken to a rapid testing centre and, within four hours, it was confirmed that he had contracted the virus.
He had no other symptoms aside from the fever.
"When I came to the hospital, I went with my car. I parked my car in the hospital parking and I admitted myself. I lay down in the bed and they gave me oxygen," he said.
"The next day they gave me breakfast. But after the breakfast I don't know what happened and then I can't remember anything. They sedated me and I was unconscious until I woke up on May 20."
Mr Kimamao is not sure what happened over those next four weeks but his doctors told him he was moved to intensive care and placed on a ventilator. His kidneys then began to shut down and he was placed on dialysis.
In severe cases, Covid-19 causes inflammation of the lungs and leads to pneumonia. Fluid collects in the lungs, limiting the amount of oxygen that can be supplied to the organs through the blood. This can lead to the failure of vital organs and dramatically increases the risk of death.
"Apparently you have nice, butterfly dreams while unconscious,” said Mr Kimamao.
"But for me it was a nightmare. I was swimming in jellylike water and I was always drowning. I [thought] the respiratory nurse and the pulmonologist were calling to me, [saying] 'Bayan, Bayan, Bayan, wake up', and then I swim again and I drown again.
"Maybe I was nearly drowning and that's why I could hear them."
The day he woke up, he remembers little else other than his medical team crowding around his bed, telling him he was a "survivor". It took him a few more days to gather the strength to lift his head and respond.
His colleagues at Dubai Police, where has worked for 26 years, received daily updates on his condition.
"On a daily basis we were checking on him and we were in contact with the hospital,” said Dr Ali Sengel, health consultant at Dubai Police and colleague of Mr Kimamao.
"But when he deteriorated, we had no hope. We thought we were going to lose him."
When Mr Kimamao sent his photo to the nursing team's WhatsApp group, his colleagues were floored.
"It's clear that God did not forget him,” said Dr Sengel.
"We were all so happy. We love this guy and he works so hard. He has a soft heart, he is so polite and so humble. He grew up in Dubai Police, we all know him so well.”
Over the next three days, Mr Kimamao’s lungs were drained of remaining fluid and he had to rely on sign language to communicate.
His medical team, which included a physiotherapist, pulmonologist, dialysis doctor and respiratory therapist, helped him move about his bed and eventually get to his feet.
In the early stages of his recovery, he suffered panic attacks and uncontrolled anger towards the hospital staff. He believes it was a result of the trauma he had endure
Mr Kimamao was due to be discharged on Friday, June 5, but was kept in for an extra few days due to an infection in his catheter.
He was discharged on Monday, after an almost eight-week stay. But he had fairly simple plans for when he returns home.
"Maybe clean my room, do a little bit of exercise and then I will sterilise my room for the virus," he said, adding that he will probably visit his nephew and cousin, who also live in Dubai. The rest of his family are in The Philippines.
He credits American Hospital Dubai with "excellent" care during his recovery, and said the support of Dubai Police was "amazing". He is keen to get back to work as soon as he can.
"If I could go tomorrow, I would. I am very strong I am very confident that I can do everything again," he said.
Dubai Police has ensured his entire hospital stay is paid for, Mr Sengel said, and they would be encouraging him to take as much time off as he needs.
Mr Kimamao urges anyone who is symptomatic for Covid-19 to seek medical advice, as early as possible.
"If you feel any symptoms, don't disregard it – you must check straight away for Covid, because earlier is better than what happened to me," he said.
"God gave me a second life, no one expected me to live."
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