Frontline hero tells of incredible recovery from coma after six-month Covid-19 ordeal

Arunkumar M Nair was on life support for five months during hospital stay after infection ravaged his lungs

A frontline health worker who made an amazing recovery from a coma after a harrowing six-month Covid-19 ordeal says medical colleagues in Abu Dhabi saved him from the “jaws of death".

Arunkumar M Nair, from India, contracted the deadly virus in July while supporting coronavirus patients as an operating theatre technician at LLH Hospital in Abu Dhabi.

After testing positive he was moved to a quarantine facility, where his condition swiftly deteriorated, leaving him struggling to breathe.

Doctors discovered his lungs were severely infected and on July 31 he was put on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support, as he was no longer able to breathe on his own.

He remained on the machine for 118 days. During his fight for survival, Mr Nair, 38, overcame many hurdles, including several operations and a cardiac arrest.

He spent five months on a life-support machine in the intensive care unit of the capital's Burjeel Hospital under the care of a team led by Dr Tarig Ali Mohamed Elhassan, department head of cardiac surgery.

His wife and children arrived from India soon after he fell into a coma. On Thursday, their months of heartache gave way to happiness as Mr Nair was discharged from hospital.

His release came less than a month after he was able to leave the intensive care unit as his health slowly improved.

'Doctors gave me second shot at life'

The tears rolled down his cheeks as he reflected on a lost six months and thanked the medical team for saving his life and reuniting him with his family.

“I do not remember anything. I know I had barely escaped from the jaws of death,” said Mr Nair.

“Thank you to God for blessing me with a new life. It is the strength of the prayers of my family, friends, and hundreds of others that I am alive today.

“I do not have words to thank them for their support and care. Also, a million thanks to Dr Tarig and his team for the exceptional care they have given to me.

“I now realise that if it were not for their constant efforts, I would not have got a second chance at life. My family and I will always be indebted to Burjeel Hospital and Dr Tarig for this new life.”

VPS Healthcare, which runs Burjeel Hospital as well as LLH Hospital, arranged accommodation for Mr Nair's wife Jenny George and their son Arjun Arunkumar, 2, so they could be by his side during his time of need.

“Though I knew he was in a critical condition, I was hopeful. But when I first saw him in the ICU bed with tubes all over his body, I could not believe my eyes. For the first time, I felt like he would not make it,” Ms George said.

“I was completely broken. But the medical team at Burjeel, VPS management, and Arun's friends were of great help. They supported me and filled me with positivity.

“If it had been any other doctor than Dr Tarig, I do not think Arun would be alive today. We will always be indebted to him and will remember Dr Tarig, the entire medical team, and the hospital management in our prayers for their sincere efforts in saving the life of Arun.”

Arunkumar Nair with his wife Jenny George during his recovery at Burjeel Hospital.

'Recovery is a miracle'

Dr Elhassan said Mr Nair had to battle every step of the way after being hit hard by a devastating infection.

“Arun is a great fighter. I have never seen one like him in my career,” he said.

“His lungs had failed, and it was beyond repair. He was breathing only with the support of an ECMO machine. And this continued for about 118 days. In a normal case, the recovery would have been impossible.

“This is why Arun's recovery is a miracle to all of us. He even endured a cardiac arrest while his body was weak. His fighting spirit is remarkable.”

Mr Nair's lungs and other organs are now functioning normally. He will undergo physiotherapy and rehabilitation to regain strength.

“It might take some time for Arun to get back to normal life. Hopefully, he can get back to duty in a month or two. He has achieved the impossible. His grit is astonishing, and he will succeed,” said Dr Elhassan.

VPS Healthcare rewarded Mr Nair for his courageous comeback with financial aid of Dh250,000 ($68,000) at a function held on Thursday to celebrate his recovery.

The healthcare group will offer a job to his wife and will take up the expense of the education of his son.

The event was made even more special by a message delivered by Indian film star Tovino Thomas.

The actor took on the role of a superhero in his latest hit Minnal Murali, but said it was people like Mr Nair who are superheroes in real life.

Mr Nair was driven home in style in a Luxury Rolls-Royce to a one-bedroom apartment provided by VPS Healthcare.

He will soon fly to India to visit his parents and continue his physiotherapy.

He has vowed to return to duty next month to provide the life-saving help to others he is so thankful for.

Updated: January 27, 2022, 6:48 PM