Living a healthy lifestyle is what Abdul Raheem Salam believes helped him beat the Covid-19 after spending more than a month in the intensive care unit.
The 70-year-old Indian expat contracted the virus on April 24 and had pneumonia in both lungs, causing severe breathlessness.
Mr Salam, a school bus driver who moved to the UAE in 1986, was due to return to his home country this year for retirement, but was held back due to his illness and travel restrictions.
Doctors gave him the good news about his recovery on Thursday, however, he must remain on an oxygen tank because of the lung damage caused by the coronavirus.
“I’ve always tried to keep healthy,” Mr Salam told The National on the day of his recovery.
“I moved out of my house in India when I was 23 and I had very little money, so I ate very little. When I moved here, I was trying to be as healthy as possible by eating nutritious meals and keeping fit.”
Mr Salam, who has been in the hospital for 35 days so far, did not have any pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension. Studies have shown diabetic patients and those suffering from obesity are more vulnerable to the virus.
As of May 28, the UAE had a total of 32,532 registered cases. More than two million tests have been carried out across the country since the outbreak started.
There have been 16,685 recoveries and 258 deaths so far.
Dr Dirar Abduallah, the head of the ICU at Prime Hospital, said Mr Salam was placed on a ventilator for the first five days he was admitted.
“He had come in very sick and with pneumonia in both of his lungs, so we immediately suspected that he had Covid-19 because these illnesses are special features of the virus.
“We gave him oxygen and put him on the ventilator, but the virus had consumed 50 per cent of his lungs. We gave him antiviral medications.”
Dr Abduallah said his health gradually started improving, but he remains dependent on a small dose of oxygen.
Mr Salam has developed clots in his lungs’ blood vessels because of the virus and has to take blood thinners for the next few months.
“He is ready to go home now but has to continue taking the oxygen,” said Dr Abduallah.
“What helped him was that he didn’t have any pre-existing conditions apart from elderly age.”
Mr Salam’s wife and two daughters live in India and he shares accommodation in Dubai with other drivers.
He will be returning to his home country once he is well enough to fly and manages to get a seat on a repatriation flight.
Dr Abduallah said Mr Salam was the oldest critical patient his hospital has seen since the outbreak started in the country.
He said majority of the patients in the ICU are 38 and in their 40s.
“We also received many people in their 20s who had mild to moderate symptoms,” added Dr Abduallah.