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“I thought I was dead by then,” a Singaporean man in Madrid recalls his time in the ICU

Daryl Tan Chen Ming spent three days in the intensive care unit of Hospital Principe de Asturias, in Madrid




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By: Natasha Zaman

Daryl Tan Chen Ming, 47, was at the pharmacy near his house in Madrid buying his asthma medication when he fainted. The next thing he realised when he woke up was having a heart attack and taking his last breath.

“I thought I was dead by then.” Daryl said. “ I already crossed over, I saw the light.”

Daryl is one of the Singaporeans in Madrid, Spain, where the total number of registered cases is 245,567 as of 3rd May, the second highest in the world according to Worldometers.

Daryl spent three days in the intensive care unit of Hospital Principe de Asturias, Madrid, where he had three organ failures. “The first week was difficult, I cried everyday,” he said. He added that he had no means of contacting his family during the first two weeks of his hospitalisation.

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Given the contagious nature of the virus, visits to patients are restricted. In another hospital in Madrid, the hospital staff have been reducing the length of their patient visits. “We try to make conversations (sic) with patients whenever we enter their rooms,” said Pilar Parra, a doctor from the hospital when asked about combating negative emotions in patients.

In order to boost patient morale, tablets are used to contact family members. “With a tablet, we call their families so that they can talk with them for a while.”

However, at the beginning of March, the number of patients hospitalised for COVID-19 was high. As a result, there wasn’t enough time to contact families, especially on weekends, she said. “A lot of families felt uninformed.”

Daryl had been moved around various wards approximately four times due to restructures within the hospital. When he eventually tested negative, he was moved from the COVID-19 to a normal ward.

The situation in the hospital is calmer now than before as the medical team understands what they need to work on, according to Daryl. “They are very organised. Before, they weren’t prepared for it.”

Similarly, Pilar said that the conditions in the hospital she works in improved over time due to more experience in managing the illness. “In march, it was like a tsunami of patients arrived. We had no way to attend to the number of patients that arrived.”

However, despite his near-death experience, Daryl has had a positive experience with the hospital staff. He said that they have been very caring and did very well.

A case of mild symptoms
Pat Cheng Yunn Huey, 47, a Chinese teacher in a Chinese academy in Madrid, started experiencing chills and slight muscle pains approximately in mid-March. She didn’t think much of it till she started experiencing a loss of taste a few days after her husband did.

“I completely lost my sense of taste and smell,” she said. After discussing with some friends, she realised that she might have contracted COVID-19.

She contacted the Madrid hotline to report her symptoms. Her second call got through and she was advised to stay at home and wait for it to pass since her symptoms were mild. She was told to call the ambulance only when experiencing breathing difficulties.

Eventually the symptoms passed and she recovered without requiring medical attention.

Advice to symptomatic people
Pat insists that it is important not to panic and to monitor the symptoms. “The only real danger is when you have respiratory symptoms and you can’t breathe,” she said.

Pilar recommends that patients under 60 with no underlying conditions visit a family doctor and to avoid the hospital unless they experience breathing problems. On the other hand, people above 60 or with pre-existing conditions with symptoms should get checked as soon as possible.

Similarly, Daryl advises people with symptoms to get them checked as soon as possible. “I waited three or four days. That was a bad idea because the virus spread,” he said. “Be a good Singaporean, be a bit kiasu.”


Natasha is a Singaporean freelance journalist based in Madrid. Follow her on Twitter (@XNatashaZaman) or Instagram (xNatashaZaman) for Spain-related happenings. /TISG

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