'I fear death', says Indonesian doctor who survived Covid-19

JAKARTA – Indonesian doctor Tri Maharani felt that she could cope with any disaster because she has attended to patients injured in tsunamis to volcanic eruptions for the past 22 years.

But she was not prepared to be struck down by Covid-19 herself.

“In the first days, I was very distressed. As a human being, I’m scared. I fear death,” Dr Tri told The Straits Times.

“In the first, second and third days, I cried and after check-ups my pneumonia worsened, affecting my lungs,” she said.

Dr Tri, Indonesia’s only toxinologist and advisor to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on snakebite management, however, said she quickly got over her fears and was able to change her mindset, “no longer sad, troubled and disappointed.”

She not only recovered from the disease soon after but went on to set up a Covid-19 survivor group to fight against the stigma patients like her and their families face.

Testing positive for Covid-19 on June 11, Dr Tri went into self-quarantine for two days before being treated at Gambiran General Hospital in Kediri, East Java. She was in hospital until July 23.

While in hospital, she posted about her condition on Facebook and friends responded with sympathy and much needed support, sending her her favourite food as well as masks and other stuff.

She also wrote a letter to Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto, asking for test kits to help in contact tracing for her staff and family.

Soon after returning home, Dr Tri took it upon herself to send care packages to patients across the vast archipelago to lift their spirits.

In fact in January, before the country was gripped by the pandemic, she was already making hazmat suits and masks with the help of her family and a friend, distributing them to market traders as well as health workers, among others.

She has also made and distributed nationwide more than 200 two-metre-long stethoscopes, modified with aluminium pipes which has allowed doctors to maintain a safe distance with their patients. Similarly, another of her creations is a box made with 5-cm thick acrylic which helps minimise physical contact when a doctor deals with a patient.

True to her profession, the 48-year old doctor had volunteered to serve at a Covid-19 facility, the Sulianti Saroso Infectious Diseases Hospital, in Jakarta between April 15 and 30.

“When I now reflect on it, I don’t regret my decision (to care for others) because it can inspire many people and it makes me happy,” she said.

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