The coronavirus outbreak has dampened the mood in Turkey and the rising number of new cases has shown little sign of abating in the past two months. Daily fatalities hit a new high Tuesday with 211 deaths. Amid this grim outlook, stories of recovered patients serve as a dire warning to people, who still neglect basic safety measures like mask-wearing and social distancing.
Osman Okumuş, the mayor of the Türkoğlu district in southern Turkey's Kahramanmaraş, survived the virus. "We understood how valuable it was to breathe, to have the oxygen God has blessed us with," he said.
The 49-year-old father of four saw his wife Funda hospitalized about a month ago after she started suffering from fatigue and muscle pains. When she tested positive for COVID-19, the couple moved to another house to protect their children. As Okumuş cared for his wife, her situation worsened and she was hospitalized again. Despite their effort to protect the children, Okumuş learned that the entire family had already been infected. It took them one month to fully recover.
"I have to interact with people because of my job, but I have always been careful. Still, I was infected," Okumuş told Anadolu Agency (AA) Wednesday. "The worst part of it was seeing my wife hooked up to an oxygen support unit. My condition was a little better, but I felt death was imminent and understood how much my family meant to me," he said.
The mayor himself lost his sense of smell and taste, as well as a high fever. "You can't see what hit you but you come to empathize with other patients. This disease has taught us a lot," he added.
It also pushed him to boost the district's measures against the virus and push the delivery of free masks and hygiene kits to people in need.
Dr. Yusuf Can Matrak, who works at the emergency room of a private hospital in western Turkey's Denizli, described his battle against the virus as "stormy days."
He was relatively lucky, recovering in self-isolation at home with drug treatment, unlike many others who spend days, if not weeks, in intensive care units.
"I first thought it was the flu, but then joint pains kicked in and they were followed by fatigue. In the end, I tested positive. I was okay the first few days, but the last three days were the hardest. I wouldn't have recovered if it weren't for the medicines," Matrak said.
The 29-year-old doctor is also living proof against the baseless claims that the virus does not affect younger people much. "You cannot know if you will easily recover or die. I had young colleagues and patients who succumbed to the virus," he warned.
Matrak likened the pandemic to the recent earthquake that hit Izmir, as it has been just as "disastrous." "Just like the earthquake, you cannot prevent a pandemic, but you can take measures to reduce the damage. We can do so by wearing masks, adhering to social distancing and paying attention to personal hygiene," he said.
Dr. Mahmut Tekin, the deputy chief physician at the same hospital in Denizli, is back to work after he was infected and eventually recovered. "As a doctor, you know what the virus can do to your body, but you are still in a panic. You are in constant fear of losing your breath," he said.
Tekin, who lost his mother to the coronavirus, said the only way to recover is to stick to the medicine regimen administered by doctors. "Doctors do everything to heal people, but the public should be careful not to be infected in the first place. It is their responsibility," he said. "Emergency rooms at hospitals are full of people who did not believe they would be infected and ignored the measures," he said.
"I remember screaming because of my pains," associate professor Özlem Sönmez told Demirören News Agency (DHA) Wednesday about her battle with the coronavirus.
Sönmez, who serves as the secretary-general of the Association of Medical Oncology and recovered from the virus in August, said she is still haunted by the impact of the disease. "You can't go back to your life before the virus. I feel sad when I see how careless people are. People are dying. They don't understand it," she said.
"It was one day in late July. I was alone in my room and removed my mask to drink coffee. Just then, a cancer patient of mine entered the room. She was happy to learn that her PET CT (Positron Emission Tomography/Computed Tomography) results were good. Suddenly, she hugged me despite me protesting. She had pulled her mask down to her chin, and I was without a mask. We immediately put our masks back on. The next day, she called me and started crying. She had tested positive for the coronavirus," she recounted.
Sönmez recovered from the virus after a 15-day hospitalization but still has breathing problems at times. "I cannot describe how bad it is. The pain was intense. It has been months since I recovered, but I still feel tired. My hair also started falling. If you experience the coronavirus harsher than others, its impact lingers," she added.