Housewife who was Singapore's 15th COVID-19 case discharged; thanks NCID medical staff

Mrs Zhang (back row, fourth from left) with the healthcare staff at NCID. (PHOTO: Mrs Zhang / MOH)
Mrs Zhang (back row, fourth from left) with the healthcare staff at NCID. (PHOTO: Mrs Zhang / MOH)

SINGAPORE — A 47-year-old woman who was Singapore’s 15th confirmed COVID-19 case was discharged from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) on Sunday (16 February).

The housewife, who wishes to be known only as Mrs Zhang, was one of the 92 Singaporeans evacuated from Wuhan aboard a Scoot flight on 30 January, said the Ministry of Health (MOH). Her husband and teenage son were also on the flight from the city in China at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.

While Mrs Zhang was asymptomatic when she boarded the flight from Wuhan to Singapore, she was found to have a fever when she landed here and was taken right away to the NCID in an ambulance. Her condition worsened two days later and she was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).

Mrs Zhang’s husband and son were both quarantined upon landing in Singapore. Her son tested positive for the virus and remains under care at the NCID, while her husband was found not to be infected with the virus.

Below is the transcript on an interview conducted by MOH with Mrs Zhang, who is a naturalised Singaporean and has been living here for over 20 years:

1. Could you describe how it was like when you were in Wuhan?

I was very scared and thought, “Will Singapore fetch us home?” I fervently hoped this would happen.

Fortunately, my husband is a man who follows the rules, and did right this time. Before we left Singapore, he informed the Singapore embassy. Thank God, he did it. A Ms Zhang from Singapore Embassy contacted my husband, and arranged for us to leave.

My husband received notification that the Government arranged a Scoot flight to send us back. I was so happy then! I was so grateful for the Singapore Government’s arrangement to bring us home.

2. Can you describe the care you received from the NCID medical staff?

The medical team here is excellent. They treated me like family. I am really grateful to them.

They kept encouraging me every day. They encouraged me to take my medicine, and told me not to be afraid. They asked me not to give up hope, and kept on cheering me on. I am immensely grateful to them.

They are also very gentle, (for example) when they took the X-ray for me. I am very thankful.

3. Can you tell me about your son’s condition? I understand that he is receiving treatment at the NCID.

The nurse takes a sample from his nose every day for testing. He has not been given a clean bill, but he has not have other symptoms.

I am slightly comforted to think that as a mother, I have brought him up to be a sturdy boy, to better fight the virus.

4. You have shared that you were feeling “normal” at first, but your condition suddenly deteriorated, and you even had to be warded to the ICU. Could you share your experience being sent to the ICU because of low oxygen level? It must have been very frightening.

I was very scared. They stuck the oxygen tube into my nose, and turned up the level so that I could breathe. Initially, it was one-litre (per minute), later it was changed to two-, four-, and six-litres (per minute).

But because my lungs were not functioning well, it did not work. I remembered vividly the day I had extreme difficulty in breathing, and felt that I was dying. I thought: “Am I dying?”

The nurse helped me to pack my things meticulously, and sent them to ICU. The doctors and nurses at the ICU acted swiftly. At that time, I could not move, but my mind was clear. I heard their conversation clearly.

A doctor kept holding my head, and telling me not to worry. She said, “Don’t worry, we will insert a tube to help you in your breathing”. She kept reassuring me. She is indeed a very gentle lady.

What will you like to do after being discharged?

I want to go home and slowly recuperate. I want to resume my daily exercise with my friends. But I don’t think it is possible as it is best people do not gather.

I just want to go back to my ordinary life, to go exercising with my friends, then marketing, and have a cup of coffee. Later in the night, prepare dinner for my husband and children. I think that would be good.

5. Do you have any well wishes for Wuhan, China?

I hope that all will be well for them, for everyone to be safe and in good health, and not to fall ill like I did. When I came out from ICU, my husband told me that he hadn’t been able to sleep for a few nights. I know if I was in his position, I would have collapsed.

6. Do you have any takeaways from this illness?

I think for our safety as well as others, we should take some precautionary measures and not see them as troublesome.

7. Could you offer some words of encouragement to other patients who are still undergoing treatment?

I think we must pull through. We have family and friends. This disease does not mean inevitable death. I have confidence in our medical team and their skills. I believe they will be able to save us.

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