"they just said 'your life was touch and go'."
A patient found out that his mother died from Coronavirus whilst in a coma battling the virus himself.
Sohail Anjum had spent 25 days in an induced coma fighting a severe case of COVID-19 with a 50/50 chance of survival.
He has only just regained his speech. Mr Anjum is recovering at Croydon University Hospital where he faces the prospect of relearning how to walk again, as well as developing his motor skills, regaining his sense of taste and coming to terms with his mother’s death.
Mr Anjum, aged 47, lived in Dubai but moved back to London in April 2019 to be closer to his elderly parents.
He assumed that he caught the virus while using the tube during rush hour. Mr Anjum revealed he started feeling ill in early March 2020.
He explained: “People really need to be aware of this disease and how dangerous it is. It is not just the flu.”
Mr Anjum experienced migraines and an itchy throat. He tried to get tested but it proved to be difficult.
“I was trying to call the NHS hotline and I couldn’t get through. A week passed, and my symptoms were getting bad, I was feeling really ill.”
After being sent home from work, Mr Anjum saw his doctor who told him that it was likely that it was a viral nasal infection.
He called the NHS hotline when his symptoms worsened and waited for two hours only to be told that he had the flu.
After another call to his doctor a few days later, he was told to wait a few more days and if his symptoms persisted, to go to hospital.
Instead, Mr Anjum called his brother and they went to the hospital, where he was admitted and placed on a ventilator.
“That was two months ago.
“A few hours later they sent me up to the ward. A doctor came and said ‘we need to put you into an induced sleep’. I was so ill at the time I just said ‘do what you have to do’.
“My oxygen levels were dropping, they just said ‘your life was touch and go’. I could have gone either way.
“They put me under and I don’t remember a thing after that.”
Eight days after his admission, his 81-year-old mother, who he was living with, was also taken to hospital after contracting COVID-19. However, two days later, she passed away.
Mr Anjum was on a ventilator in an induced coma before being placed under sedation, waking up a couple of days later.
On his mother’s death, he told The National:
“Nobody wanted to tell me about my mother because of the trauma I had gone through. I don’t know how to explain it but I just had this vision that my mother was no more.
“That really really hit me hard. I’m still trying to grieve.”
He has been trying to come to terms with his mother’s loss while also regaining his own strength. He cannot stand, can barely use his arms or hands, has trouble remembering things, and cannot taste anything.
Mr Anjum has been recovering in a ward with four other patients. He revealed that he has watched two die from the beds beside him.
“Doctors have to make big, big decisions here about whether to keep ventilators on or switch them off.
“One night I saw this old man trying to climb out of bed at 2 am. Then he just slumped back onto the bed and was still and not moving.
“I pressed the emergency buzzer and a nurse came running. He saw that he wasn’t breathing, and then a whole bunch of other nurses run in, they drew the curtains around. A couple of hours later they took his body away.”
The second patient died on April 28, 2020, when a nurse came in to do morning observations and found he was not breathing.
Mr Anjum hopes to be discharged in a few weeks and to continue his recovery at home.
Doctors told him that it may take six months for him to fully recover. He has not seen his wife in three months. She had been in Pakistan when he was admitted.
Mr Anjum thinks that his father and wife could be asymptomatic carriers of the virus as they all live together.
“For my wife and father, it was such a tragedy because they didn’t know with me which way I would go. So it would have been a double tragedy for them. They’re holding up, though.”
He added: “At the moment my hands tremble when I type. A glass of water is too heavy. The doctors are happy with vitals but concerned with heart rate as it’s too fast and they can’t figure out why. But I’ll get better.
“I’ll go home to a house where I need to get used to seeing my Mum not around anymore. It’s hard.
“But it was my mother’s prayer before she passed away that saved my life.”