Dr Irfan Iqbal is the only person in J&K to have suffered post-Covid complication of acute transverse myeletis
SRINAGAR: Dr Irfan Iqbal has been confined to a wheelchair for nearly 10 months since an infection in his spinal cord disabled movement in his lower part of the body.
Dr Iqbal, however, still goes to hospital to see patients, on the same wheelchair. Daily prayers, too, are offered the same way, so is his bath, his meals, his social interactions.
Until August last year, when the first wave of Covid-19 was sweeping through Kashmir valley, the ENT specialist would work for more than 12 hours a day, at Sub-District Hospital Tangmarg, as well as at his private clinic. In the morning he would jog for an hour around his Sanat Nagar residence, on the outskirts of Srinagar. Three times a week, he would go to a gym to strengthen his muscles and bones.
This life came to a grinding halt one August morning last year when he was taking a bath, getting ready to go to the hospital at Tangmarg where he was in charge of Covid-19 RTPCR tests. In the middle of the bath, his legs crumbled, and he fell on the floor of the washroom. His family picked him up, and took him to a medical facility. Doctors diagnosed that Covid-19 infection had caused him acute transverse myelitis, a rare acquired neuro-immune spinal cord disorder that can appear with a rapid onset of weakness, sensory alterations, and bowel or bladder dysfunction. So far, he is the first one in Jammu and Kashmir having this complication post Covid-19 recovery.
“I am the first person in JK to have suffered this disability due to Covid-19. Nothing can be said about my recovery. I am confined to a wheelchair and I am doing physiotherapy to get myself back on my legs. It can take six months, a year or more, or it can stay with me for life,” Dr Iqbal told Kashmir Reader.
The Covid warrior, Dr Iqbal, was taken to SKIMS for treatment, and then on his personal expense, emergency airlifted to Delhi for advanced treatment. He was admitted there for three weeks, to have the blood in his brain removed through oral treatment. Doctors in the UK and the US have already told him “nothing much can be done.”
Amid this intense stressful condition, Dr Iqbal decided to resume his work. In January, when there were extremely cold conditions, he joined the hospital once again. On a regular basis now, he examines patients. He is also trying to train himself to perform the surgeries he once used to do regularly.
“I keep on thinking about overcoming this state of mine. I do whatever is possible to defeat it. I do win, but temporarily. And I hope that I will get better soon,” he said. “The option of staying at home, doing nothing, is not going to help. It is stressful for me and for my family too. I am better at serving people.”
He has hired two people to help him, one who drives his car to take him to the hospital, and the other who helps him at home, as domestic help. For the 48-year-old doctor, this sudden turn in life has brought another perspective in his life, that beyond medicine, one has to see the possibility of a cure.
“I am waiting for the day when I will walk again on my legs,” he said.
Two decades ago, Dr Iqbal did his MBBS from the GMC, and then an MS from the same institute. He was appointed as a medical officer at GMC where he served for many years, before being transferred to Sub-District Hospital Tangmarg as ENT specialist. It was there that he contracted Covid-19, in the line of duty.