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Indian frontline volunteer in Dubai Naseer Vatanappally recovers from Covid-19

Hospital staff bid farewell to Naseer giving a standing ovation

Dubai: The novel coronavirus pandemic has succeeded in bringing the world to a standstill. But the viral infection has failed to break the healthy spirits of Naseer Vatanappally, an Indian social worker who was in the forefront to help thousands of people in Dubai’s Naif area to get tested for the disease. 

Naseer was tirelessly working in coordination with Dubai Health Authority and Dubai Police in the emirate’s worst affected areas when he tested positive for covid-19 on April 6. Strong-willed, albeit confined to a hospital bed, he worked for over 12 hours a day attending to the needs of hundreds of people who reached him over the phone seeking help. 

He had virtually converted his room in the hospital as a control room fighting covid-19. “I was extremely sad to hear about my result. I wanted to help more people. Once I felt that I have failed. But then, I realised that I should not lose my hope. I started attending to each case over the phone and connecting with the government authorities.”

In the hospital, Naseer remained in touch with all the volunteers and connected with the authorities over WhatsApp and Zoom app. “I used to get over hundred calls a day. More people used to message me on Whatsapp requesting for help. I attended to each case. I passed the information to DHA and our group of volunteers. They had tried to reach maximum people,” he added.

Completely recovered from covid-19 infection, Naseer left Medeor hospital on Saturday with all the hospital staff giving him a standing ovation as a tribute to his efforts to help the needy during the unprecedented crisis. “I will start working in the affected areas. There are a lot of things that we need to do. Doctors have advised me to wear an N95 mask and gloves. I will be careful now and follow their instructions,” he said.

Naseer and his team of volunteers have helped over 2500 people in the Naif area alone to get tested for covid-19. “Once the outbreak was reported, we were working in close association with the government agencies. One day, I got a call from a person in the Naif area. He said that one of his roommates had tested positive for covid-19 in Kasargode, Kerala, and a few of them were sick. I informed this to Dubai Police and the next day, doctors from DHA came to the spot to collect their samples. Soon, we found that they were many in the region who had symptoms. We collaborated with various hospitals to conduct a massive test for all these people,” he added. 

Speaking about his experiences while undergoing treatment, he said that healthcare professionals are the real heroes. “I was admitted to Medeor Hospital. I am extremely grateful to the doctors, nurses and the staff of the hospital. They treated me with the utmost care. I was deeply hurt to see the hardships they had to undergo. Donned in PPE, covering their face with an N-95 mask and goggles, it is a tough job. But despite these difficulties, they were very helpful. They always motivated me and said that there is nothing to be afraid of. Even the doctors were very supportive.”

Naseer added that one should not be afraid about the infection and stay strong. “This is like any other infectious disease. There is no need to be panic. The disease is only fatal for those with underlying diseases. But it doesn’t mean that we take it lightly. We should be cautious and try to follow the government instructions.”

Indian govt must take immediate measures

Naseer requested the Indian government to take immediate measures to repatriate NRIs who are struggling in the Gulf countries due to the pandemic. “I do not want the government to take positive patients. The UAE government is attending to each case. But many Indians, particularly those who are vulnerable wish to go back home. For instance, there are many pregnant women. Similarly, thousands of people who have come on a visit visa to stay with their children or to search for a job are now caught up in a catch-22 situation. They should be repatriated.”

He added that hundreds of Indians in the UAE used to get their medicines from India and are now deprived due to the present conditions.

Stayed away from family

Once he started to work with the government agencies in helping people to get their samples tested, Naseer kept away from his family. He used to stay in a hotel which was arranged for him by the Dubai police. 

“Family was supportive. I used to call them over the phone and talked to my children every day. So, they were not much affected. Though I got food in the hospital, they used to send me food prepared at home on some days. This has helped cope with the disease.”

Completely recovered

Dr.Saheer Sainalabdeen, specialist respiratory medicine at Medeor Hospital, said that Naseer has completely recovered and is fit. “Unlike others, Naseer was very positive and courageous. He never let the viral infection break his spirits. He was always active. This was a surprise for all of us. I used to tell my other patients about Naseer to motivate them. Now, that he has fully recovered, I have asked him to be careful and take adequate precautions,” he said. 

Dr.Shajir Gaffar, CEO of VPS Healthcare’s Dubai and the Northern Emirates, said that the hospital management used to receive numerous calls from all around the UAE and even India enquiring about Naseer’s health. “His (Naseer) story of winning over Covid-19 is very special and impressive. Even while being admitted to the hospital, he was always working and arranging test for people who required it. His positivity and his way of battling the most deadly viral infection was astonishing even for healthcare professionals like us,” he added.    

April 18, 2020

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