During a shift that started like any other, Dr Mina Nabil, an intensive care and anaesthesia doctor, received a phone call at 4pm, informing him of a critically ill patient suffering from a dangerously high temperature and breathing difficulties
During a shift that started like any other, Dr Mina Nabil, an intensive care and anaesthesia doctor, received a phone call at 4pm, informing him of a critically ill patient suffering from a dangerously high temperature and breathing difficulties.
As routine process, the patient was transferred to a nearby hospital for several X-rays and tests to rule out the likes of stroke or other health issues. Until this point, the patient showed no signs of alarm or eccentricity and Dr Nabil’s day was as normal as it can possibly get for a doctor.
However, the relative serenity did not last long. Only an hour later, the patient’s wife called Nabil and asked for his immediate intervention as her husband had completely lost the ability to breathe. Much to the doctor’s shock, by the time the hospital’s ambulance reached the other medical centre only minutes away, the patient was already in a terminal state.
“When the ambulance’s doctor called to inform me that the patient is already terminal, I insisted on bringing him to the hospital,” Nabil added. “After several basic tests in the ambulance, I was partially certain that it was not a stroke and examining him in the intensive care unit might save his life, it has happened before many times.”
By the time Nabil got the chance to examine the patient at 7pm, he was beyond saving, with the shocked medical team starting to suspect they were facing an unknown disease.
“The patient kept showing signs of up normality even post death; the average human body takes three to four hours in order to stiffen, however, this patient only took one hour before reaching an advanced stage,” Nabil explained.
The doctor was left with a mystery on the case.
“The patient was only 32 years old, and in normal cases the virus would take between 72 hours and four days before taking the patient’s life,” he said.
The suspected virus attacks brain tissues, and it is normally treated instantly with anti-virals. Nonetheless, normal treatment did not seem to affect this case, and the body’s deterioration post death was quite outstanding.
“The post-death deterioration is beyond rapid, which is a rate that has never been documented or reported before,” Nabil said.
He was left with his theories and disbelief of such an extraordinary case, yet, it was not long before another case followed. “The second case reached the hospital in a much better status, with mild fever and breathing difficulties,” he said.
The abnormal deterioration of the case struck a resemblance with the previous case, according to Nabil. The patient was only disoriented when he reached the intensive care, but passed away in a matter of hours.
“Intensive care units use broad-spectrum treatment coverage the minute any patient arrives. The wide treatment is developed to treat several possible issues all at once without causing any harming effects.”
Regardless of the treatment and the care provided by the doctors, the 36-year-old patient was put on a ventilator after falling into a coma two hours after reaching the hospital. It was not long before the patient passed away, and showed identical post-death deterioration.
After the second encounter with the unknown virus, Nabil was able to conclude several primary facts about it. According to the doctor’s personal theory, which is built on the patients he has met, the virus is not air borne, as it needs close and constant contact for up to three hours.
“I asked the nurse to take precautions by wearing gloves and a mask, meanwhile, I preferred dealing with the patient without any barriers to test the virus’s contagious pattern.”
Nabil prefers categorising the unknown disease as a mutation of a brain-damaging virus that developed into a much faster and more aggressive virus due to the current heat wave. Meanwhile, several doctors have created other theories.
“Whenever I meet other doctors who work in other hospitals, we cannot help but discuss the current stunning number of mortalities, especially the ones left unexplained,” he said. “Many assume that it is heat stroke, as it does not necessarily occur due to direct sun exposure. Even in shade, the body can lose an evident amount of fluids due to sweating.”
However, Nabil does not support this assumption, as part of the initial treatment in any intensive care unit is injecting fluids, which should solve the issue in a matter of minutes and prevent death.
The two cases that Nabil has encountered happened in two different (private and government) hospitals. While the private sector is not obliged to report such cases, governmental hospitals do report all similar cases.
Even though he did not report it personally, he still remembers the Ministry of Health’s passive feedback from the early period of detecting H1N1 virus in Egypt couple of years ago. “The ministry has not applied any quarantines, nor has it ordered anyone to keep these strange cases as a national secret.”
According to his previous experience with novel viruses, the ministry usually blames the doctors at the beginning of any similar spread. “Their feedback is usually something between the lines of ‘you did not treat the patient correctly or according to the confirmed protocol’,” said Nabil.