Nearly two months after testing positive for Covid-19, Dr Sanket Mehta, a 37-year-old anaesthetist from Surat, was airlifted to Chennai on Sunday after chest scans showed severe damage to his lungs.
While his friend, Dr Jayesh Thakrar, said Dr Mehta, who tested positive in July-end, took a turn for the worse in the second week of August, a couple of days after he intubated a 70-year-old Covid patient who was lying in a neighbouring bed in the Intensive Care Unit of the BAPS Pramukh Swami Hospital in Surat, the hospital’s intensivist denied this.
“He saw the patient crashing and immediately rushed to intubate the patient for inserting the tube for ventilator support. Intubation is essentially the work of an anesthetist and the doctors in the ward would have taken several minutes to don a PPE suit and move forward with the procedure. While the patient died four or five days later due to comorbidities, Sanket’s condition started deteriorating after that,” said Dr Thakrar.
However, the hospital’s intensivist, who did not want to be named, said another doctor was already intubating the 70-year-old patient. “A doctor was already intubating the patient, and Dr Mehta helped her. A couple of days later, Dr Mehta’s condition improved and he was shifted to the general ward. But two days after being shifted to the general ward, his condition deteriorated again, and he had to be shifted back to the ICU,” said the intensivist.
As his condition continued to deteriorate, Dr Mehta was put on an ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) machine. With no improvement, a decision was taken to airlift him to MGM Hospital in Chennai, which specialises in heart and lung transplantation procedures.
“The doctors at BAPS Hospital consulted their counterparts at MGM Hospital, the case papers were shared and discussions were held on what could be done. It was decided that although he was already on an ECMO machine in Surat, an advanced version of it could be used at MGM… The first objective is to control the infection, followed by an assessment of the cause of lung damage, which would tell us whether the damage is reversible or irreversible,” said Dr Thakrar.
While there was an initial round of crowdfunding for a possible lung transplant, Dr Mehta’s father stopped the move.
“The family was of the opinion that according to their religious beliefs, they should not rely on charity… Sanket’s mother had renounced worldly comforts a year ago. His wife is an engineer-turned-homemaker, and he has a seven-year-old daughter,” said Dr Thakrar.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr K R Balakrishnan, senior cardiothoracic surgeon and director of the Institute of Heart and Lung Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support at the MGM Hospital said, “He was sedated for the last few weeks but is now undergoing lung physiotherapy as his lung muscles are very weak. His lungs have shown some improvement since he was admitted here, and we expect further significant improvement in the coming days. His oxygen saturation levels are okay, and, at this point, he is not a candidate for lung transplant. We have to first get the infection under control. Once that clears up, we can determine if there has been irreversible damage, in which case a lung transplant may be required.”
Dr Mehta is suspected to have contracted the infection from one of the surgeries that he attended. He was primarily associated with two private hospitals in Surat – Lifeline Hospital and Surat ENT Hospital.
While he remained under home isolation at first, he was admitted to BAPS Pramukh Swami Hospital in Surat on July 28 after his oxygen saturation levels dropped. He was shifted to the ICU in the first week of August.
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