Doctor beats coronavirus, returns to fight virus at hospital

CHICAGO -- A cardiologist who became infected with COVID-19 beat the virus and has bounced back to fight it on the front lines.

"My job is tiring, so I don't know if it is because of the virus itself or my job," said Dr. Khachig Ishkhan, an interventional cardiologist. "Actually, we are overwhelmed with patients, so yeah, I'm tired."

The COVID-19 patients keep coming at Community First Medical Center in Chicago, where the patient profile is 60% Medicare and 20% Medicaid and resources, including personal protective equipment, is limited. About a month ago a particularly ill man presented with coronavirus symptoms.

"The person was coughing and short of breath and he was very sick," Dr. Ishkhan said. "Me and multiple nurses and respiratory therapists and pulmonary therapists were exposed to that patient."

It was one of many such encounters and with little COVID-19 testing available, Dr. Ishkhan just kept going with his 12-hour days, staying on call every night of the week.

By the last week of March, he was experiencing mild COVID-19 symptoms, mostly headaches. He then got tested and found he now had the antibodies to the disease like 93% of Chicago doctors, according to the Chicago Medical Society. His fears of getting the disease had come true.

"Especially for the asymptomatic ones," Dr. Ishkhan said. "We don't know are we in fact infected. Are we carriers, are we infectious? So yes, it's scary."

But that fear quickly gave way to new strength as the doctor on the front lines realized his relative immunity has positioned him to lead in this unprecedented emergency.

"As a doctor or a nurse, we always have to take care of the patient first," Dr. Ishkhan said. "Without thinking about anything else, that is our duty. That is the oath that we took."

He said he's ready to donate his blood for convalescent plasma therapy to help others battling COVID-19.
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