Brush with Sars taught her to better treat patients

SINGAPORE - She was terrified of dying alone in an isolation ward of the Communicable Disease Centre a decade ago.

Ms Ashirdahwani Asmawi, 34, who works as a nurse at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), was among 238 people here diagnosed with Sars during the March 2003 outbreak. She said: "Then, we did not know what Sars was all about. I was very scared."

Describing her ordeal, Ms Ashirdahwani said: "I felt really breathless, had diarrhoea, had no appetite and was losing a lot of weight." She lost 10kg during her 28-day stay in hospital.

She said she probably contracted the Sars virus after coming into contact with Singapore's first Sars patient and the nurses who treated the patient.

Singapore's patient zero, who survived the viral attack, caught it during a holiday to Hong Kong and passed it on to 22 others here.

What made matters worse for Ms Ashirdahwani was that she had to postpone her wedding, slated for June that year.

But, in hindsight, she counts it as a "blessing in disguise" as she saw how supportive her then fiance, Mr Heryawan Kamis, now 38, a technician, was of her, despite her predicament.

Mr Heryawan could not visit her in hospital, but he comforted her through regular phone calls. On the day she was discharged, he was at the lobby of TTSH, waiting to take her home.

Ms Ashirdahwani, who is now a senior staff nurse and a clinical instructor, said: "I wouldn't have known how much he loves me."

The couple wed in 2004 and now have four children, aged between two and seven, with another child on the way.

The medical treatment she received also taught her a lesson which she now practises at work. Ms Ashirdahwani said: "How I treat my patients is how I want to be treated."


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