Doc tells of experience as Covid-19 patient

Dr Laeequa Bayat from Groote Schuur Hospital.

Groote Schuur Hospital’s
Dr Laeequa Bayat knows all too well what Covid-19 patients go through: she’s had the virus herself.

Newly qualified, Dr Bayat, 26, from Pinelands, caught the virus at the end of May. She has since made a full recovery and returned to work on Thursday June 11.

She has been doing her internship at Groote Schuur after graduating in December from Stellenbosch University with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.

Dr Bayat says she got a big shock when she learnt she had tested positive. “I began to cry, and I asked myself the question, ‘where did I go wrong?’. I did everything that I was trained to do, but I realised there could have just been a split second where I touched my face without realising it.”

Dr Bayat had body pains, a blocked nose, a lost sense of taste, a cough, fever and shortness of breath.

She stays with her parents but in a double-storey house so she was able to self-isolate on the top floor.

“My family was devastated, though. It was hard that they could not offer me the physical comfort and contact that I needed.”

She says she took great care keeping her distance from her parents because they both have underlying medical conditions that put them at greater risk.

Dr Bayat says it felt like her body went to war each day with the virus. She relied on pain pills, nasal spray and Vitamin C.

She had no appetite and suffered constant nausea.

Dr Bayat was inspired to go into medicine after doing volunteer work as a Grade 10 at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital’s oncology ward, but she says nothing prepared her for being a doctor during this global pandemic.

“Being fresh out of university and being a young doctor and coming to work is extremely terrifying especially when dealing with a virus, where there is no cure available.”

But despite this, she says she has never doubted her decision to do medicine.

“There has not been a day that I regretted becoming a doctor, I gained a lot of perspective and even during this process of being infected with Covid-19, I got to experience what the patients go through.”

She follows a strict daily routine to avoid taking the virus home with her from work: she pulls into the garage, puts her scrubs in a wash basket and then dons a gown before entering the house.

When she is not working, she enjoys cycling and keeps a journal to reflect on her day-to-day experiences.

Dr Bayat says she misses going out with her friends to dinners and nightclubs but realises sacrifices have to be made to fight Covid-19.

“Everyone must continue to wear a mask, maintain their physical distancing and wash their hands regularly,” she says.

“Those of the public that are most vulnerable to Covid-19, like our parents and grandparents, need our protection, so we need to do better to be better to beat Covid-19.”