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Hospitals Full, Oxygen Scarce, Brazil Covid-19 Patient Gets Intensive Care at Home

Osmar Magalhaes, 68, who suffers from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), undergoes a physical therapy at his home, where he set up his own emergency ward with air tanks due to lack of oxygen in the public health system in Manaus, Brazil January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly

Osmar Magalhaes, 68, who suffers from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), undergoes a physical therapy at his home, where he set up his own emergency ward with air tanks due to lack of oxygen in the public health system in Manaus, Brazil January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly

There were no intensive care beds available for Osmar Magalhães a week ago, and no oxygen for new patients when his daughter rushed him to several hospitals.

One man in the Brazilian jungle city of Manaus, facing packed hospitals and scarce oxygen in the public health system, has survived COVID-19 in a makeshift ward at home, complete with air tanks his family scrambled to find.

There were no intensive care beds available for Osmar Magalhães a week ago, and no oxygen for new patients when his daughter rushed him to several hospitals.

So she took the 68-year-old former factory worker home while his son went out to buy a tank of oxygen on the black market. With the help of two therapists, they have managed to keep him alive while helping him recover his breathing.

“Thank goodness, I am better,” he told Reuters. “I began to feel better as soon as I got home.”

Osmar began to show COVID-19 symptoms on Jan. 2, his daughter Karoline said, just as a second wave of infections brought the city’s hospital system to its knees. Doctors fought to keep patients from suffocating to death when oxygen ran out.

“The hospitals could not admit him. Their corridors were crowded and patients were sharing oxygen cylinders,” she said. “We were turned away at the door.”

In the chaos of the hospital crisis, overwhelmed doctors were not giving out information on patients to anguished relatives. “I still don’t know whether my mother is alive or dead,” she said.

Karoline and her brother had no alternative but to try to save their father at home.

Two therapists check his pulse and oxygen saturation, massage his back and help him do daily exercises. The treatment has put him out of danger and reduced his dependence on the oxygen tank.

“He only needs 30 minutes a day of oxygen now,” said therapist Karinna Fernandes, as Osmar relaxed in a hammock, glad to be home and alive.

first published:January 22, 2021, 18:48 IST