I experienced this on August 14 and 15, when Pakistan and India were busy celebrating their independence. I felt a tightness in my chest that lasted some 30 seconds, a kind of tightness that I had never felt in my life before.
My cousin, who is in Qatar for more than 40 years, had invited me for dinner. I reached the place early and came out of my car to take a walk through the sidewalks of Pearl Qatar. It was sultry that evening and I thought the tightness was due to the ambient weather and kept walking, completely ignorant of my genetics and the high risks it would cause.
After that, I enjoyed a sumptuous dinner with my cousin and his friend at a Chinese Restaurant, and on my way back, a similar feeling overwhelmed me. While going up the stairs of his building that would last only two minutes, I had to sit down on the stairs to recover. On getting some relief, I walked to the car and drove back home and slept well at night. On Saturday, 15 August, I got up early and reported for my Coivd-19 duty slightly before 6:30 am, which was assigned since March 2020.
The day was uneventful. It was 5:00 pm and I left my office, taking the stairs down, when the same uneasy tightness gripped the chest again. This time I couldn’t blame it on weather which wasn’t sultry, and decided to seek medical attention.
I headed to the Leabaib Health Center. ECG was taken. The attending physician said it was normal. I was not convinced and asked him for specific findings – ST elevation and to get Trop T (Cardiac enzyme that elevates during heart attack). With my questions, he inferred that I am a physician and asked me to wait.
he did not return in the next 15 minutes and I started to get a bit impatient, when he returned and said that an ambulance was waiting to take me to Hamad Emergency Department (ED).
The paramedics in the ambulance put me on a stretcher and performed a repeat ECG, following which I heard them communicating to the HMC ED to organize a bed for me. In the ambulance, I was under the care of a male nurse who was affable and kept a light conversation throughout as we reached the Emergency Department. A battery of investigations were conducted on me at the ED like ECG, CxR (Chest X-Ray). Cardiac enzymes were ordered and blood samples taken… later that night a specialist returned with the news that the ECG is normal but the Trop T is moderately elevated and the potassium levels are low. I asked for the Cardiology consultant to get his opinion, who admitted me for observation and ordered serial (3 hourly) Trop T, RT-PCR to rule out Covid-19 with potassium chloride infusion, Echo and Stress Test the following day.
The next morning, Trop T was falling, repeat ECG had some inconclusive changes, the potassium levels were rising but not to the optimum level. I was given light breakfast with tea. The cardiology team came for rounds at 9:00 am and following a brief examination and history, the results of Echo and diagnostic angiography were given by Dr. Omar Ibrahim, consultant cardiologist.
A consent was obtained for the procedure and the Echocardiography technician arrived for the ultrasound of the heart which showed my heart pumps in good state and the ejection fraction “EF” being in the optimal range, which was quite relieving for me and my physicians.
That evening, the attending physician Dr. Hafiz explained a bit about the procedure… he indicated that I should not eat or drink by mouth after mid-night. The following morning at 6:00 am, I was woken by the attending nurse, took shower and changed into the theatre gown when the staff from the Cath-lab arrived to get me for the procedure.
It was nearly 7:30 am when I was on the gurney, I was rechecked for my IV line and a few questions asked and was then taken to the Cath-lab. The team of Interventional cardiologists explained the procedure and administered an anesthetic in my wrist through which the procedure was to be undertaken.
I did not have to wait unnecessarily between procedures. The ‘time-out’ of procedural safety checklist was adopted and the staff kept time and things progressed as indicated, I did not have to wait unnecessarily between procedures.
The procedure was completed and utmost care was taken and appropriate pain management principles were applied to keep me pain-free throughout the process.
Post procedure, I was transferred to the HDU and was instructed to be in bed for the next eight hours. The recovery thereafter was uneventful with the physician team coming for the rounds early next morning. My vitals were observed, ECG unremarkable and I was pain free and my radial wound on the right forearm was showing signs of healing with some 3/10 pain on movement, when the decision for my discharge was made.
The third day, after lunch, I was discharged with all my medications and follow-up appointments organized, leaving me thoroughly satisfied with the care I received during my stay at the hospital. I fall short of words to thank the entire team of physicians, nurses, technicians, paramedics, administrators, and cleaners at the Heart Hospital at HMC for their significant contribution to my health.
I am a clinician, with professional experience with the British and Canadian public healthcare systems with emphasis on Quality and Patient Safety, and had first-hand experience with the private and public health systems ‘as a patient in India, the UK and Canada” which helped me establish a clear comparison.
Right from the time of referral to the admission and till discharge, I was amazed to see the continuum of care and all the safety procedures being followed as per copy book. The physicians who attended, demonstrated extreme respect and knowledge, besides following the safety procedures as per current requirement for PPE use in the Covid scenario.
I remember asking for a cup of tea at 11:00 pm, and although the pantry was closed, the nurse was courteous enough to find hot water and a tea bag at odd hours.
I would be lacking if I do not express my heartfelt gratitude to the Ministry of Public Health and the government of Qatar for providing ‘world class healthcare’ to all the expatriates serving Qatar. I feel privileged for the treatment I was given and my most prized possession, ‘my health’ was restored in the most dignified manner possible.