Two years on: Shropshire doctor's Covid battle continues

Shropshire hospital medic Hamza Ansari today spoke of his joy at being alive – and of the importance of being fully vaccinated.

Happy to be alive – Dr Hamza Ansari with his wife Michelle and children Gianna Valentina and Mia Fallon
Happy to be alive – Dr Hamza Ansari with his wife Michelle and children Gianna Valentina and Mia Fallon

This week marks two years since Covid started to take hold in the UK, with the virus continuing to circulate.

Telford & Wrekin has one of the highest infection rates in the country now as the Omicron variant continues to dominate.

Dr Ansari, 40, today described his ordeal as the anniversary arrived.

He almost died in the first wave of the outbreak back in 2020.

The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital medic describes how he still suffers from the effects of the first illness.

He was placed into a high dependency unit after falling ill and was alone because his family was stranded in Canada after visiting family.

Survivor - Dr Hamza Ansari

“I was really frightened that I would die alone in the hospital," he said.

"I kept thinking about the prospect of my daughter growing up without me if I didn’t make it.”

Fearful of being intubated - where a tube is inserted through a patient's mouth or nose, then down into their windpipe - Dr Ansari asked if his colleagues could consider another option.

Instead of being intubated he was given 100 per cent oxygen through a face mask, was catheterised and fed through a tube – with the process of recovery slowly coming over nine days in the high-dependency-unit as his body was able to fight back against the infection.

Today Dr Ansari is working again for the NHS in Shropshire and has another reason to celebrate – a new baby girl Gianna, who is now seven months old.

Dr Hamza Ansari with his wife Michelle and children Gianna Valentina and Mia Fallon

Dr Ansari says he is proud of being part of the NHS effort to beat Covid in Shropshire.

Despite his brush with death he said he would do the same if he had his time again – and that the instinct of those in the NHS had been to protect others.

He said: “It was frontline workers in the NHS who throughout the pandemic went out to do our jobs. Some got Covid, some didn’t, but ask any one of them and they will say they would do it again.

"I was doing what I wanted. If I could do it again I would not change anything.”

Dr Hamza Ansari

Originally from Venezuela, Dr Ansari, had moved to Shropshire with his family, taking up a post as a foundation year one doctor at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) in 2019.

As lockdown first came into force in the UK, he was alone - with his wife Michelle, 37, and their young daughter Mia, stranded in their previous home of Toronto, Canada, after visiting family.

Working at RSH, the hospital was gearing up for what was to come, transferring non-Covid patients to the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, near Oswestry – a process taking place across the country as emergency departments and intensive care units were being prepped for the the influx of Covid patients.

Dr Ansari, who also suffers from asthma, had actually been given the week off when he first got ill.

What started as a fever rapidly escalated, with his temperature reaching almost 40 degrees as breathing became harder, and harder.

Speaking to 111 he was told he was going into respiratory failure, at which point he phoned Michelle to say he would be going to hospital – just two days after first getting symptoms.

As his condition deteriorated he was moved to intensive care, with his fellow doctors wanting to take the most serious action possible – intubating him and placing him on a ventilator.

For Dr Ansari, hundreds of miles from his wife and his young child, he began to fear he may never see them again.

He said: "I was really frightened that I would die alone in the hospital. I kept thinking about the prospect of my daughter growing up without me if I didn’t make it."

Fearful of being intubated Dr Ansari asked if his colleagues could consider another option.

After being discharged back home, still weak and suffering the effects of his ordeal, Dr Ansari had the added pain of not being able to see his family – a situation that would last for some time.

It was September before Toronto came out of lockdown, with Michelle and Mia finally able to get a flight to the UK.

Dr Ansari said: "I went to London Heathrow to meet them and we had been apart for eight months, and I had nearly died. I had not seen Mia since she was seven months old. I missed Father's Day, Mother's Day, I missed her first birthday, her first steps, her first words, all of those things I missed – but, when I saw them it was just incredible being back together after everything."

Dr Ansari said that his experience had been been a reminder of how family is what matters most.

He said: "You have some people in the pandemic saying they have to spend so much time with their family, with their kids and all that stuff, and my thing is I envied them because I was here helping people in hospital and got Covid and almost died, and my family were stuck all the way across the world and I couldn't see them."

Dr Ansari and his wife have since had a second child, Gianna, who is seven months old, while Mia is now two-and-a-half.

He is currently working on his GP rotation in Pontesbury and said that he still suffers the long-term effects of his ordeal, and recently contracted Covid a second time.

Thankfully, after being triple vaccinated, there was no return to hospital this time.

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