The 1% man: the doctor’s near-death experience with Covid-19


By Lou-anne daniels, Henk Kruger 18h ago

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WHEN the Covid-19 pandemic hit the South African coast, Dr Mohammed Yunus feared that his wife, Dr Fawzia Sultana Yunus, would be seriously affected if she fell ill because she has diabetes and other co-morbidities. He didn’t know he would be the one whose recovery would be a near miracle.

On November 20 last year, the couple tested positive for Covid-19 and were hospitalized in Komani (formerly Queenstown) in the Eastern Cape. Dr Fawzia’s symptoms were much less severe than her husband’s and she realized that he was in grave danger.

In a desperate attempt to save his life, Dr Fawzia arranged for Dr Yunus to be airlifted to Cape Town in early December. There was no time to pack their bags or make any complicated arrangements, and the couple were excited about a nearby military airfield from where their lifelong flight took off.


Dr Fawzia spoke of how helpless she felt while waiting outside the hospital for her husband to be ready for the trip.

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“My mother said ‘pray to your Lord he can help you,’ so I prayed… and said if his time is up you can take it. I waited over three hours because they were resuscitating him inside.

Once in Cape Town, the couple were taken to the private Melomed Hospital in Gatesville, where Dr Bilal A Gafoor and his team awaited their arrival. What followed can only be described as a nightmare.

They were admitted to the hospital on December 2, where Dr. Yunus’ condition remained critical even as his wife began to respond to treatment.

When the x-rays revealed Dr. Yunus’ dire health condition, his wife resigned herself to doing nothing more. She was released at the end of December as the country experienced a second wave of infections.

At this point, her husband was on a ventilator.

Daily visits to her husband’s bedside left Dr Fawzia disheartened. “I thought I would never be in my arms again.

“His diaphragm was not working. So at that point, I said to my friend Dr Mohammed Arif, “Don’t ventilate him anymore. If God allows it, he will survive. Otherwise just drop it, ”said Dr Fawzia.

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Dr Yunus and his wife contracted Covid-19 in the Eastern Cape in November 2020. Photo: Henk Kruger / African News Agency (ANA)


But his doctors weren’t ready to give up.

“But he said no, he can’t let go. He will do his best, one last time.

Then came the turning point.

“On January 1, the specialist sent me a message to tell me ‘your husband is deteriorating under the ventilator’. I said, “God can heal anything and everything. He has all the power to do it. My conviction was so strong. I made all the prayers necessary for healing. I read my Holy Quran every day and night. I barely slept because I had nightmares. I would get up in the middle of the night, start reading it or praying for it.

The Melomed team put all of their expertise into saving the life of the gravely ill doctor, and the breakthrough – when it happened – was nothing short of a miracle.

“And all of a sudden God was so merciful. He started to get better, but he was still unable to move, ”recalls Dr Fawzia.

Dr Mohammed Yunus and his wife Dr Fawzia Yunus speak with Nursing Manager Adele Luiters at Gatesville Melomed Hospital. Photo: Henk Kruger / African News Agency (ANA)


On February 2, Dr Yunus was transferred to Spescare Helderberg in the Strand. Spescare hospitals specialize in postoperative care and rehabilitation.

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“We met the doctor; he was so kind and helpful. Then the next day we saw the physiotherapist and the dietitian and occupational therapist and speech language pathologist. They started removing the tubes and eating orally – slowly, slowly. Everyone said it would take a year to walk – six months to a year to walk – that’s the minimum, ”said Dr Fawzia.

“The first day they say he can’t move. On January 14, there was a wobbling movement (in his only finger). From there, within six weeks, he was walking with a frame!

Dr Fawzia thanks the staff as well as Melomed and Spescare for her husband’s remarkable recovery, but she is also very proud of his fighting spirit.

“At the hospital, they said that 99% of people who double intubate, who are twice on a ventilator, do not survive. But my husband is a fighter! He’s a fighter. It’s a miracle.

After spending two months in the hospital, Dr Yunus and his wife plan to return home next weekend.

The Spescare video is reposted with their permission.


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