Dr Rafael Mursalin has been serving as a frontline warrior since the deadly Covid-19 pandemic hit Bangladesh.
As an assistant professor in the Department of Radiology and Imagingat the Ibn Sina Specialised Hospitalin Dhaka, he used to see patients regularly since the beginning of the outbreak, even when eighteen of his colleagues stopped seeing patients.
However, Dr Mursalin will forever remember the month of May as the most painful and disastrous month of his life.
On May 5, Dr Mursalin and four other members of his family – father, mother, maternal cousinsister and grandmother – tested positive for the novel coronavirus. A day later, his father was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Ibn Sina hospital.
On May 9, Dr Mursalin's grandmother was also admitted to the same ICU.He lost his father on May 12 and his cousin sisteron May 15. But the doctor's ordeal was far from over.
On May 16, Dr Mursalin's mother also got admitted to the hospital. He lost another family member – his grandma – to the Covid-19on May 23. The doctor described his birthday on May 24 as the worst possible birthday in his entirelife.
Narrating his harrowing experience to The Business Standard, Dr Mursalin said, "My mother tested negative for the coronavirus on May 26, and I tested negative on May 28. Those are the only positive news I received in the whole month.
"We are devastated and shattered after losing three family members just within a month.How can I forget? How can we bear all this pain in the days to come? Please decide now on what you should do. Please stay home or you mightgo through the same painful experience as I did."
Dr Mursalin's father Major (Retd) Abul Mokarim Mohammad Mohsin Uddinwas a very popular face in Bangladesh during the 90s. Widely considered as the country's best radiologist, Dr Mokarim would appear on television during commercial breaks as the face of Ibn Sina Diagnostic Centre.
With a smile on his face at the end of the commercial, Dr Mokarim would say "Ojotha Barti khoroch keno korben?" roughly translated in English as "Why spend unnecessarily?"
The endearing and lively smile of this apron wearing doctor seen on the television screen is still fondly remembers by many. In a cruel twist of fate, Covid-19 took Dr Mokarim away from his family, leaving his surviving relatives to grieve for the loss.
Five members of Dr Mursalin's family became infected with the Covid-19, but only two survived. All of them used to live at the same house in Dhanmondi area of Dhaka.
When the pandemic struck Bangladesh, many of Dr Mursalin's colleagues stopped seeing patients. But he continued to provide regular medical care at Ibn Sina and Medinova hospitals.
Dr Mursalin continued, "I used to tell other doctors that if I don't see patients during this time of crisis, then when? I told them that now is the time to stand by the patients. Every doctor sees patients during times without any danger."
The doctor believes that he contracted Covid-19 while seeing a patient. Ibn Sina hospital soon designated an isolation unit for Covid-19 cases after Dr Mursalin tested positive for the virus.
Later, he and everyone in his family got tested for the Covid-19. But the results were not all positive.
"When the lockdown started, I was telling my father not to roam around. Please stay at home as you have asthma and heart condition. But he did not listen, Dr Mursalin added.
The doctor further said, "I couldn't keep my father alive despite making a serious effort. Hegot admitted to the hospital after testing positive with the coronavirus. Many people posted on Facebook in a bid to collect plasma for my father's treatment, but no correct match was found.
"From the Ibn Sina Specialised Hospital in Dhanmondi, he was admitted to the Ibn Sina Medical College hospitalin Kallyanpur and later to the ICU of Combined Military Hospital (CMH). Doctors there tried their best to bring him back, but their efforts failed.My father did not recover."
When asked whether plasma therapy could have saved his father, Dr Mursalin said, "It was not 100 percent certain. Besides, the hospitals at that time did not have any initiatives for providing plasma therapy to Covid-19 patients.
"We were among the few people looking for plasma in the country during that time."
He continued, "Three days after my father died, my maternal uncle's daughter Shaira Afia,18, passed away of too. After eight days, I lost my grandmother. I and my mother have tested negative on the latest tests. But have we lost three family members."
Dr Mokarim was a freedom fighter and has taught at the Ibn Sina Medical College Hospital for a long time. He has served in the Army Medical Corps. While he was in the rank of major, he voluntarily retired and joined a private hospital.
He was the chief radiologist of the Ibn Sina Trust, and was one of the best physicians in the country.