SGH’s first COVID-19 patient was also Singapore’s first. Unlike members of public who blamed him for bringing the virus to Singapore, SGH staff saw the person, rather than the disease.

Nurse Syaheda from Ward 68 (Isolation) was one of those who attended to Patient 1 in the Isolation Ward (IW). “The patient was fearful, affected by his diagnosis. I tried my best to reassure him, despite a language barrier. I saw him hyperventilating as he read comments on social media blaming him and his family for bringing the virus to Singapore.”

Getting the first patient home was an elaborate affair. As viruses were known to survive on surfaces, there was much concern that his belongings would have live, infectious viruses on them. IPN Kwee Yuen decided that whatever could be wiped down with antiviral/antibacterial wipes would be wiped down. Whatever could not would be subjected to ultraviolet irradiation. 

Care continues outside the hospital 
Medical social worker Vivian Chan was involved in the discharge plans. “The patient, in his sixties, was travelling overseas for the first time. As he was discharged before his son, arrangements were made for him to be housed in a hotel. He wasn’t very savvy digitally, so I helped him set up a WeChat app on his phone. The nurses were concerned that he might feel lost so they gave him the phone number of the IW. I accompanied him to the hotel, and I noticed that the hotel staff were initially reluctant to assist him with his luggage. That night, the patient called the ward, informing them that his blood pressure (BP) was sky-high! He owned a BP set and had brought it with him to Singapore. The ward nurses asked the doctor on-call to assist him and advice was given over the phone. Not comfortable with what had happened, we decided to bring him back to the ward the next day. The staff checked his BP device and calibrated it against the ward’s BP set.”

Editor’s Note:

Mr Wang was diagnosed on 23 January 2020 and admitted to SGH for 28 days. It was the first time he travelled out of China. His son, who sent him to SGH, was admitted as our second COVID-19 patient after being tested as a close contact. 

Excerpt is from “Singapore General Hospital Purpose with Passion – Our COVID-19 Stories” book. Read more stories from the book here