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Covid-19 survivor tells of his ordeal and its lasting impact as he urges people to take coronavirus seriously

PUBLISHED: 12:00 27 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:29 27 July 2020

Shimol Khakhar, who spent 20 days in ITU at Newham Hospital with coronavirus, has urged people to follow the advice and take the illness seriously. Picture: Barts Health

Shimol Khakhar, who spent 20 days in ITU at Newham Hospital with coronavirus, has urged people to follow the advice and take the illness seriously. Picture: Barts Health

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A Royal Docks man who feared he would die while ill with Covid-19 has shared his ordeal and urged people to take coronavirus seriously.

Shimol Khakhar with his girlfriend Leyla before the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Barts HealthShimol Khakhar with his girlfriend Leyla before the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Barts Health

Shimol Khakhar, 30, says the staff at Newham Hospital saved his life and gave him hope during the 20 days he spent in ITU battling the illness.

While their “incredible care” and the support of his community, partner Leyla and parents helped him recover, Shimol is experiencing lasting effects of Covid-19 on his mental and physical health.

He has post traumatic stress disorder and life-long lung capacity issues.

“With lockdown easing I’m worried people may start to relax on important safety requirements such as social distancing and wearing a mask,” Shimol said.

“To these people, I say: wearing a mask is no different to wearing a seatbelt; practising social distancing is no different to standing back from the platform edge.

“Please do your bit to stop the spread of Covid-19 - anyone can get it and there’s no guarantee how your body will cope with it.”

Shimol’s ordeal began in mid-March, about a week before lockdown was announced.

He was working from home by this time but was starting to feel achy and feverish.

“While my symptoms were initially manageable, within a few days I had a full blown fever and by day five, I had shortness of breath and was coughing continuously,” he said.

“By this point I did not feel in control of my fever or my rational thinking.

“Being diabetic, this was a big problem because I was not able to control by insulin or manage my condition by eating food on time.”

By day seven, his symptoms hadn’t subsided so he called 111.

“As you may understand I was unlucky enough to fall ill at the very beginning of the pandemic when our healthcare services were still trying to understand the virus and put measures in place to care for the masses,” Shimol said.

“However, this did mean that when the paramedics came, they didn’t believe I was sick enough to go to hospital and advised me to stay at home and call back if I didn’t start to recover.

“After three further days my symptoms became completely unmanageable; my fever worsened and I had headaches, coughs, nausea and extreme difficulty breathing.

“In fact, my housemate kept coming to check on me because I was struggling for breath.

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“She was worried I would stop breathing completely.

“I called my parents who were shocked by the state I was in and who immediately called an ambulance.

“When the paramedics arrived, they gave me oxygen and it honestly felt like new life was being breathed into me.”

Shimol was taken to Newham Hospital and admitted to ICU.

He doesn’t remember a great deal from this period, but praised the attentive and patient care of his doctor Dr Neera Patel.

However, being hospitalised can be very lonely and isolating, especially as he was moved to a private room while they awaited a positive Covid-19 test result.

“Not being able to see my family or my wonderful partner of three years on top of being incredibly sick meant my mood was the lowest it had ever been,” Shimol said.

After nine days in ICU, Shimol was told he was recovering well enough to be discharged.

“Although the worst was over, I was facing months of recovery at home to fix the damage coronavirus had done,” he said.

“At this point I was definitely feeling much better but my oxygen saturation levels were still pretty low, which meant that performing even the most basic of tasks was a huge effort.”

Recovery from coronavirus is often complicated.

A week after being discharged, Shimol was still coughing and developed a severe pain in my chest.

What he thought was a broken rib turned out to be a collapsed lung, so he was admitted back into hospital.

He was treated with high flow oxygen to reinflate his lung and waited for his body to recover.

Shimol was discharged on April 18 and has since applied for as many Covid-19 clinical trials as he is eligible for.

He is currently involved in two antibody test trials being run at Barts Health.

“Having been through coronavirus, I will do anything I can to prevent others having to go through the same thing,” he said.

“Something good has to come from what I went through, I have to try to help fight this any way I can.”


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