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COVID-19 Story: I am alive, one more time-- Nurse recovering from a 10-day coma

By: Ralph Deocampo

I still remember the evening of the 7th of April--- I had a high temperature but I delayed going to the hospital until the next day because I didn’t want to leave the kids on their own going into the night. When I got in the hospital the following day, I was already septic and short of breath. I had the virus, COVID-19. While my breathing was unstable, I told Brenda, my wife, to calm down and allow the team of doctors to decide which path to take. This led them to manage my condition through intubation and admission to ITU after putting me to a medically-induced coma.

My 10 days of unconsciousness never bothered me at all. I could have died in my sleep painlessly and passed to the next dimension, like one dream. But it would have been tough for my children and for their mum to handle such a sad ordeal. Brenda recalled her agony as she waited for my body to respond to treatment and to subsequently wake up.

After a few days in ITU, thankfully, I have recovered. I was cheered by colleagues as I finally left the hospital. Behind me, pushing the wheelchair, was my Brenda. The feeling was surreal. Almost a year now since my ‘dark experience’, I have been back in the hospital for seven months, not as a patient but as a nurse.

On my first few days following my return to work, I must have heard my colleagues, a countless time asking me, “Are you alright caring for Covid-19 patients again?” When I hear this kind of questions, I just smile as I realise how lucky I am that the odds turned to my favour. Recently, I was stuck in a room for at least an hour with the team as we resuscitated a Covid-19 patient, who unfortunately never survived. Rushing to attend to another unwell patient after, I was stopped by a doctor who thought that this kind of anxiety-provoking experiences could possibly break me. So, I reassured him and said, “It never did”. One might think that I suppress my emotions or my ‘apathy’ is associated with trauma. This is not the case at all.

Waking up from a 10-day coma gave me a whole new perspective towards life and my profession. As a nurse, I would see patients struggling in critical condition. I have always thought that I understood fully their plight. But it is a totally different experience when you, the nurse, becomes the receiver of the care, that you would normally give. I value my profession even more. I see how our role as health care professionals impact the lives of others and how it makes a difference to the community, as a whole. I also now realise how compassionate, care, direct eye contact, kind comforting words or a gentle squeeze of one’s hand, even without any spoken word, matter more than what medication or clinical procedures can do to relieve your anxiety, fear or pain. Our profession as nurses is noble. As frontline staff, the Covid pandemic has tested our resilience. We go through hard days and we have to care for each other more. I now have a deeper respect and appreciation for my colleagues. We are not just numbers on the battlefield, each one of us plays a vital role in this fight against COVID-19. I have recovered fully and it is the best feeling in the world to give back and pay it forward.

When all the worries and uncertainties of today’s exceptional pandemic challenges inundate me, when all the fear and anxiety relating to what might adversely happen confront me, when I get tired and exhausted as ‘carnage’ escalates in the workplace and even when my days turn upside down, I don’t complain anymore. I try not to be part of the problem but a solution. I feel that I have no reason to moan or sod off, as when everything blurs, I now find comfort as I take a glimpse of seeing myself waking up from that deep sleep. That very day I realised, “I am alive, one more time”. I am privileged to have been given another chance to do my job in saving lives, to navigate through the pandemic (as I know Covid-19 will probably stay for as long as we live) and make the most of each day that I get to see my children growing up.

Now 21 years in the NHS, 26 years as a nurse, I guess, the pursuit of my journey derives from a humble understanding that I have come alive (one more time) for a reason.

About the Writer:

Ralph Deocampo is a Site Nurse Manager, Site Operations Team at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. He is also a father of three beautiful girls and a husband to a NHS ward manager, Brenda.


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