How is the virus changing people’s lives – and especially those of our employees? In the company’s “My life with COVID-19” series, Hapag-Lloyd Communications Director, Nils Haupt (NH) and
his team have asked local staff to deliver first-hand information on how their lives have changed since MAR20.
In this interview, Edwin Bazen (EB), Senior Coordinator Transport Disposition Barge in Area Benelux, shares his incredible story of how the virus turned his life upside down, how he fought his way back from intensive care to learn to walk again, and what he has decided to do with this second chance in life.
NH: Edwin, it has been more than 11 months since you were infected with COVID-19. How are you feeling today?
EB: Good! I’m getting better every day, thank you! If you had told me that I would get seriously ill and end up in a hospital, I wouldn’t have believed it were even possible. There I was: a healthy, active guy in his 40s, without any previous health issues. I went to the gym three times a week and had never touched a cigarette in my life. Nothing could happen to me if I simply stuck to the hygiene and social-distancing rules. Or at least, that’s what I thought…
NH: Are you working again already?
EB: Yes, I have luckily recovered enough to work, but not full-time, yet. I’m only working four mornings a week, and gradually increasing my time. I’m not back to where I was yet, and I’m still seeing a physiotherapist once a week to help regain my old muscle strength. But I’m still thankful that I am where I am today.
NH: Do you know how you caught the virus?
EB: I still don’t know how or when I got infected. This will probably always remain a mystery, as the only time I was leaving the house was to walk the dogs and do some grocery shopping. All that time, I was abiding by the necessary precautions and keeping a distance of 1.5 meters from others. After working from home for three weeks, I suddenly felt like I was getting the flu. I thought that I’d be fine if I just got a few good nights of sleep. But that didn’t happen. I was very short of breath, couldn’t sleep, and getting sicker and sicker, even after five days in bed. So, I called my doctor, who came right over to my house. Thirty minutes later, the ambulance arrived in front of our house. It all happened so fast. I was immediately admitted to the hospital. That was last year, at the beginning of April.
NH: How did things go from there?
EB: I spent the first two days in a special department for people with known or suspected cases of COVID-19. There, I was already so weak and exhausted that the doctors had to supply me with oxygen, 24/7. Unfortunately, my condition didn’t improve. I remember seeing four doctors suddenly standing by my bedside telling me that they had to take me to the intensive care unit right away, to put me on a ventilator. They promised me they would do their best to get me better. But they also made it clear that they couldn’t predict how long I would be in that unit. It could be days, weeks, or even months, they said. And, in the worst case, I could never wake up from it.
NH: That must have been absolutely shocking to you…
EB: It was! Luckily, each patient at the hospital I was in, was permitted to have one visitor. So the doctors called my wife – who was then still my girlfriend – to tell her what was going to happen to me. She rushed straight to the hospital. In fact, she later received a speeding ticket in the mail, but I’m still glad that I was able to say goodbye to her before I was put in an induced coma. But I sadly didn’t have time to speak with my parents or friends. I was in a coma for 13 days before the doctors decided I could breathe again on my own and could be taken out of the coma.
NH: How has this experience changed you?
EB: To be honest, I wasn’t fully aware of the situation as it was happening. I was too sick to realize what was going on. In fact, it didn’t even cross my mind that there was a chance that I would never see my loved ones again. A few days after waking up, it suddenly dawned on me what had happened – and it wasn’t good. My complete muscular system was gone, and I had to learn to walk again. In the beginning, I couldn’t even sit upright for more than 15 minutes. All of this has really made me realize just how serious the virus is! But, to return to an earlier point in my story, I should mention that I woke up in a room full of flowers and postcards with heart-warming messages from friends, family, and colleagues, wishing me a swift recovery. Their thoughtfulness has really helped my recovery! I couldn’t be more thankful for all their support!
NH: I heard that you made a film for your colleagues in the hospital...
EB: Yes, I recorded a video message that I shared with my Benelux colleagues after a few weeks, when I was feeling well enough. After having received so many caring messages from my colleagues, I wanted to inform them personally about my situation – and to warn them about just how serious this virus is!
NH: Has anyone else in your family been infected?
EB: At first, I was the only one in my entire family, circle of friends, or even acquaintances, to be infected. But, after a few weeks, my wife had a pulmonary embolism triggered by COVID-19. So, yes, you can say that our home was struck really hard by the pandemic.
NH: Despite the dramatic course of your infection, you finally recovered, and COVID-19 gave you a second chance at life. What did you decide to do with this gift?
EB: Among many things, COVID-19 has taught me that we only have one life to live, that we should make the best out of it, that we should never take anything for granted, what truly matters, and who I can really count on. So, in a sense, it has also brought me some good things. In December 2020, after 10 years together, my girlfriend finally asked me to marry her, which I did. We both realized that if we can get through this pandemic, we can get through anything, and should be together for the rest of our lives.
NH: What has been your key takeaway from the illness? And what would you like your colleagues to learn from your story?
EB: I have learned that one’s health and well-being are priceless. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take care of yourself, to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and to stay safe. I fully understand that people get tired after such long periods of lockdown and so many restrictions. But I hope that I am the living example of how necessary the government’s restrictions really are. After all, I followed the rules – AND I STILL GOT THE DISEASE. I hope I can inspire the doubters out there to believe that the virus is real and convince everyone else to be even more careful.
NH: And, last but not least, what are you most looking forward to doing once the pandemic is behind us?
EB: Once it is all over and no more restrictions are in place, the first thing I plan to do is to get a beer – or several – with my friends at a bar. And, of course, I finally want to celebrate our wedding and invite all my friends and family to a big party. I’m also looking forward to seeing my colleagues again in person. I really miss them. Phone calls and even Team meetings just can’t beat a real handshake and eye contact!
Interview: Nils Haupt
Hapag-Lloyd’s Nils Haupt started a series of interviews in which shipping line employees talk about their jobs and the daily challenges they have to master during the Covid-19
The interviews are published in Hapag-Lloyd’s in-house channels.
By courtesy of the company’s communications department, we are authorized to run the interviews as well.
This way, a broader readership gets access to the testimonials.
So far, personal reports delivered by Angie Morales from Guayaquil, Ecuador, Soniya Mokal of H-L Mumbai, India, Marcelo Alejandro Saravia working for H-L in Valparaiso, Chile, Sophie Nieves from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Natalie Alexander of Atlanta, USA, Valparaiso Chile-based Roberta Herrera, Rodrigo Gonçalves of Santos, Brazil, Emanuela Lomazzi of H-L’s office in Milan, Italy, and Joana Hidalgo of Lima, Perú, have been published.
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