The 1% man: Doctor’s near-death experience with Covid-19

By Lou-Anne Daniels, Henk Kruger Time of article published Apr 7, 2021

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WHEN the Covid-19 pandemic hit South African shores Dr Mohammed Yunus was worried that his wife, Dr Fawzia Sultana Yunus, would be severely affected if she should fall ill because she is diabetic and has other co-morbidities. Little did he know that he would be the one whose recovery would be hailed a near-miracle.

On November 20 last year the couple tested positive for Covid-19 and were hospitalised in Komani (formerly Queenstown) in the Eastern Cape. Dr Fawzia’s symptoms were a lot less severe than her husband’s and she realised that he was in grave danger.

In a desperate attempt to save his life, Dr Fawzia arranged for Dr Yunus to be flown to Cape Town in early December. There was no time to pack or make complex arrangements and the couple was spirited to a nearby military airfield from which their flight for life took off.


Dr Fawzia recounted how helpless she felt as she waited outside the hospital for her husband to be readied for the journey.

“My mother said ’pray to your Lord, He can help’, so I prayed ... and I said if his time is over, you can take (him). Over three hours I waited, because they were resuscitating him inside.”

Once they landed in Cape Town, the couple were taken to the Melomed private hospital in Gatesville, where Dr Bilal A Gafoor and his team were awaiting their arrival. What followed can only be described as a nightmare.

They were admitted to the hospital on December 2, where Dr Yunus’s condition remained critical even as his wife started responding to treatment.

When X-rays revealed the dire state of Dr Yunus’s health, his wife resigned herself that nothing more could be done. She was discharged in late December as the country experienced a second wave of infections.

At this stage, her husband was on a ventilator.

Daily visits to her husband’s bedside left Dr Fawzia feeling despondent. “I was thinking I would never hold him in my arms again.

“His diaphragm was not working. So at that time I told my friend, Dr Mohammed Arif: ”Don’t ventilate him again. If God permits, he will survive. If not, let it go,’” Dr Fawzia said.

Dr Yunus and his wife contracted Covid-19 in the Eastern Cape in November 2020. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

Turning point

But his doctors were not ready to give up.

“But he said no, he cannot let it go. He will try his best, one last time.”

Then came the turning point.

“On January 1 the specialist messaged me, to say ‘your husband is deteriorating on the ventilator’. I said: ’God can heal anything and everything. He has got all the power to do it.’ My belief was that strong. I did all the prayers needed for healing. I was reading my Holy Qur’an every day and night. I hardly I slept because I had nightmares. I would get up in the middle of the night, start reading it, or praying for him.”

The team at Melomed poured all their expertise into saving the gravely ill doctor’s life, and the breakthrough - when it came - was nothing short of a miracle.

“And all of a sudden, God was so merciful. He started getting better, but he was still unable to move,” Dr Fawzia recalled.

Dr Mohammed Yunus and his wife Dr Fawzia Yunus speak to nursing services manager Adele Luiters at Gatesville Melomed Hospital. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)


On February 2, Dr Yunus was transferred to Spescare Helderberg, in the Strand. Spescare hospitals specialise in post-operative care and rehabilitation.

“We met the doctor; he was so nice and helpful. Then the next day we saw the physiotherapist and the dietician and occupational therapist and speech therapist. They started taking out the tubes, and started oral feeds – slowly, slowly. Everyone said it will take one year for him to walk - six months to one year to walk- that’s the minimum,” Dr Fawzia said.

“The first day, they say he can’t move. On January 14 there was a flickering movement (in his one finger). From there, within six weeks, he was walking with a frame!”

Dr Fawzia credits the staff and Melomed and Spescare for her husband’s remarkable recovery, but she’s also very proud of his fighting spirit.

“In the hospital, they said 99% of people who have double intubation, who are twice on the ventilator, don’t survive. But my husband is a fighter! He’s a fighter. He’s a miracle.”

After spending two months in hospital, Dr Yunus and his wife are planning to go home this coming weekend.

Video by Spescare is republished with their permission.

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