On Friday night, Khalid started to develop concerning symptoms: high fever, chills, breathing difficulties, and a drop in oxygen. These are concerning in and of themselves, especially in a cardiac post-operative patient, and more so given that the extremely contagious novel COVID-19 virus, which is presently tearing through most countries, shares many of these symptoms.
We considered whether to wait with Khalid at home for 48 hours according to quarantine guidelines, but after checking with the cardiac ICU it was agreed Khalid should come in immediately.
Coworker Georgia and I brought Khalid and his dad to the ER of Sheba Medical Center. Upon arrival, we weren’t allowed into the building. Khalid was taken into a quarantine area where none of us, not even his dad, could accompany.
For seven hours Khalid’s dad, Georgia, and I alternated between sitting in the car or braving the cold night rain to ask if there were any updates. The lab running the test for COVID-19 virus was closed, but around 4:30 in the morning the kind nurse at the desk outside the ER let us know that the doctors didn’t think it was COVID-19, and therefore were willing to discharge him so long as until the test came back he and his dad remained in isolation, which is possible at Shevet because he and his father share a room with a private bathroom. He was discharged with antibiotics and went home to rest.
Today we got the results, or as we called them the golden ticket, which confirmed that he was, thank God, negative for the virus.
Khalid had a follow up echo today, which showed that his heart is doing well, and actually a lot of his medications are being tapered off or stopped.
The doctor said that once the borders open and it’s possible to fly back to Kurdistan, then Khalid should have one last appointment to make sure everything is okay with the surgery. We stopped to see fellow Shevet patient, Imdad, who is recovering from his heart surgery. It was a bit of good encouragement for Imdad to see Khalid and his father, who have so recently walked this path.
As we drove to the hospital at 9:30 that night, for the first time I was confronted with the reality that if Khalid has this virus, then most of us at Shevet likely do too. Many people throughout history would be familiar with the feeling of ‘plague dread,’ as if the virus is closing in and doom is impending. But the Heidelberg Catechism, though written in the 16th century, is timeless in its veracity and extremely relevant to our current day. It asks: What is your only comfort in life and death?