Coronavirus: Dubai resident still feeling ill-effects of 'brutal' Covid-19 fight six weeks after all-clear

There is a growing acknowledgement among the medical community that some sufferers have lasting effects from Covid-19

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 02 JULY 2020. Eman Jamal caught Covid-19 in late April and was fairly mildly ill, mild pneumonia, compared to others. But eight weeks on, she’s still suffering lingering symptoms. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Gillian Duncan. Section: National.
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A Dubai resident said she is still suffering the ill-effects of her "brutal" battle with Covid-19, six weeks after being given the all-clear.

Eman Jamal, 35, said she does not know how she contracted the virus back in late April, which left her with pounding headaches and a cough which "ripped her insides apart".

She said her family took every precaution possible to avoid infection, including immediately changing their clothes after they came home from the supermarket and cleaning everything at a sanitisation station set up at the entrance to their house.

But despite all this, she and all five other members of the household still fell sick with Covid-19.

Ms Jamal, her mother and their nanny all developed mild pneumonia.

“I was having extreme difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, bad headaches, a cough that ripped my insides apart and pounding body pains,” said Ms Jamal, who is Palestinian American.

“This virus is brutal. It made me feel like nothing I ever felt before. I would feel great for a few hours or even days and then out of the blue the symptoms will appear again, what a horrible feeling.”

Ms Jamal spent 18 days at Mediclinic Parkview Hospital in Al Barsha before being discharged on May 17 following two negative tests for the virus.

Her husband became ill first with a bad headache, high fever and chills. Ms Jamal said he was barely able to move and lost his sense of taste and smell.

He went on to become seriously ill, developing double pneumonia, and required oxygen to help him breathe. He did not have any pre-existing conditions that put him at higher risk of complications.

The couple’s two children were also infected despite displaying no symptoms.

Six weeks on, while the rest of the household have fully recovered, Ms Jamal is still suffering.

She has difficulty breathing, tightness in her chest, unexplained headaches and tingling in her body at times.

Ms Jamal is one of a growing number of post-Covid-19 patients to experience lingering symptoms.

Doctors at Yale in the United States have estimated that 20 to 50 per cent of people who have had the virus are left with lasting health effects.

She did not know anyone else who had the virus aside from her family, who did not suffer from the same effects.

And she got to the point she felt so lonely she sought out Facebook groups to reach other people like herself who are still feeling ill, long after they have officially recovered.

“There are thousands of members from all over the world. So that made me feel more like I am not crazy,” she said.

There is now a growing acknowledgement in the medical community that a significant number of Covid-19 sufferers have persistent symptoms.

“A few weeks ago they used to say we can’t find out what is medically wrong with you. And now they tell me we know what you are going through is very real,” said Ms Jamal.

“We just don’t know what the cause is and we are trying to figure it out. On Thursday I am going to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. I will be seeing an immunologist and a cardiologist.”


Dr Srinivasa Rao, a specialist in internal medicine at NMC Specialty Hospital, Al Nahda, Dubai, did not treat Ms Jamal, but said most recovered Covid-19 patients he sees struggle with lasting symptoms.

“Most of the patients who are admitted to hospital and recover do have long term effects. Most commonly the patients have loss of smell,” he said.

“Once the virus infects the epithelial cells, which starts in the nostrils, the nerve endings get damaged. And once the nerve endings are damaged, they cannot smell anything.

“People take sometimes six weeks or eight weeks to recover.”