Interview with Cihan Çelik: “The flattening new infection curve is deceptive”

Doctor Çelik, we talk regularly about your work as a senior physician in the isolation ward for Covid-19 patients at the Darmstadt Clinic. You told us about your own Covid disease three weeks ago. How have you been since then?

After I was released from the hospital, I had to isolate myself at home for ten days. That was an exhausting time in a confined space, I was still weakened from my stay in the intensive care unit. It was difficult to get the cycle going. After the isolation was over, I had a few days for a gentle fitness program and long walks. The biggest complaints were gone. I was able to go back to work the following week. But I still have minor complaints, such as pain in my ribs. I’ve had very severe coughing fits and it takes a long time before a bruised rib is no longer painful. Overall, I’m fine. I’m going to have another x-ray of my lungs soon to make sure there are no leftovers from the pneumonia.

You had a bacterial superinfection in your lungs due to Covid-19. How does that happen?

Proof of the responsible germ is rarely successful, and that didn’t work for me either. If antibiotic therapy is initiated immediately, the germ can usually no longer be detected. In most cases, however, this is not a bacterium that you also catch. With a Covid disease, the whole immune system is severely weakened, so you are more susceptible to infections from other pathogens. In addition, the immune defense is weakened locally in the lungs. So-called opportunistic germs, which we always carry around with us, can then spread in the lungs. It was probably such an opportunistic bacterial inflammation in me. This is a common complication, but it usually doesn’t appear until later in the course of Covid-19. Many people are familiar with the principle of infections of the upper respiratory tract: a cold is often caused by a virus, if a bacterial infection subsequently settles on it, the doctor prescribes an antibiotic.

Was the hygiene concept revised in the clinic after your illness?

The hygiene concept is in place. But we have all become more cautious. Colleagues are even more aware of the fact that they keep their distances from one another and have separate break times and that not too many people come together during meetings. If you work a lot together, at some point you have the feeling of being a household. We are now very cautious because there are also more infections among nurses and doctors, often of course in private life too. This cannot be avoided with such high numbers of infections, but it presents us with additional challenges.

You’re probably immune now. Can you work more relaxed?

I act just like everyone else. I should have antibodies, but haven’t been tested for them yet. In addition, we do not want a two-class society of immune and non-immune. That applies outside and in the hospital.

What was the situation like in the clinic when you got back to work?

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