Trini frontline doctor in UK survives COVID-19

Story by RHONDOR DOWLAT-ROSTANT

Dr Dominic Jaikaransingh stands in front of an image displaying one if his research articles in the UK (Image: DR DOMINIC JAIKARANSINGH)

Trinidadian-born Dr Dominic Jaikaransingh is one of the doctors on the frontline in the United Kingdom (UK), amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. He contracted the disease from one of his patients, but luckily, he survived.

27-year-old Jaikaransingh, originally from Maraval, contracted the disease on March 29—months after the outbreak first began—while working on the frontlines.

Currently based in the Thames Valley (Oxford) deanery in the UK, Jaikaran explained that they have taken a very hands on approach.

“My official job is in acute general medicine, so I did not have a choice to be front line as I already was. Interestingly, most junior doctors (from all specialties) that were deemed supernumerary were redeployed to the frontline specialties like general medicine, so I have been lucky enough to work with pathology, obstetrics / gyneology and surgical trainees who have been moved to the front line specialties.”

“Mentally I took it in stride, as I knew that for someone of my age and health, even if I did contract the virus, I should be relatively mildly effected. Physically, it has been very demanding as we have been asked to work more hours and some doctors have obviously been asked to work in specialties that are unfamiliar to them. Unfortunately, with regards to my own health, I was unlucky that whilst dealing with COVID-positive patients, I contracted the virus and tested positive,” Jaikaransingh said.

The young doctor told Guardian Media that he first started experiencing fevers, then extreme exhaustion, body pains and headache.

“The cough was my last symptom to develop, which was actually severe enough to make me out of breath. I, however, did not have to be hospitalised and after about 12 days, my symptoms had resolved and I was back to work,” he added.

Dr Jaikaransingh went on to say that unfortunately, several of his colleagues also have had to be off sick and self-isolate.

“A small number of nurses and health care assistants are have been severely affected by the virus and had to be put on respiratory support and even intubated,” he told us.  “I think the best advice for anyone is to stay at home. When it is absolutely necessary to leave home, to abide by social distancing. Self-isolate if displaying symptoms and maintain proper hand hygiene,” the doctor said.

“I know it is difficult for people to not work and difficult for some to have to stay at home and not see friends and family, but it is of the utmost importance to protect yourself and to protect the people most vulnerable—such as the very old and people with underlying medical conditions. Even if you are asymptomatic, you may be a carrier and can pass it on to the above-mentioned demographic,” he added.

Dr Jaikaransingh says he has been following what is currently taking place in Trinidad and Tobago.  He believes that getting accurate information is quite difficult, and as such, it is very difficult to get an accurate feel for the actual numbers of those affected and those that have subsequently died, given the limited number of tests done, and also recent reports of false results or mix ups in results.

Dr Jaikaransingh says his primary concern would be that given the reported numbers in T&T, that citizens relax the social distancing measures and other protocols too soon, and the country experiences a second spike in infections.

“Working in general medicine, we actually see the patients who are referred by the emergency department in Accident & Emergency before triaging them to the relevant specialties. So I have seen numerous patients, (very difficult for an exact number). We are also responsible for caring for the patients once they are in hospital; they fall primarily under our respiratory teams. However, when on call, we are the primary carers,” he explains.

“Most of our patients have had relatively mild symptoms and have been discharged home to self-isolate, however we have seen a moderate number of patients (exact numbers are difficult) who have had to be admitted for some level of respiratory support. This has ranged from small amounts of oxygen to more severe cases where patients have been admitted to our intensive care units to be ventilated and/or intubated. Once intubated, it has actually been quite challenging getting patients off of respiratory support and subsequently off of oxygen, especially the elderly patients, patients with underlying health conditions—primarily respiratory conditions like COPD, and obese patients.”

“Sadly, we have had a number of deaths of which have been especially sad as due to infection control measures families weren’t allowed in hospital to be with their family members in their last moments, ” he added.

As a doctor, Dominic Jaikaransingh said that one goes into the profession with the aim of helping and curing patients, but admits that it has been difficult accepting that in numerous cases, despite best efforts, he and his colleagues have been unable to save these patients.

“This is what we trained for and we have to put aside our emotion and focus on trying to save the other patients we are responsible for,” he told Guardian Media. “As I have told some of my friends and family, for medical professionals this is our war. Very much like if you join the army, you won’t quit when it is war time. This is what we signed up for. So, yeah… I would do it again and yes, even if that means getting sick myself again, I will always strive for my patients and do as much as possible to keep them safe,” he added.

“I want to say a big THANK YOU to all the medical professionals around the world, and in T&T.” Jaikransingh said encouragingly: “Keep striving, keep working, stay safe and we will beat this.”