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Bangladeshi who beat Covid-19 longs to go home

A Bangladeshi worker in Singapore who made a dramatic recovery after a five-month battle with Covid-19 is hoping to go home early next year to see his eight-month-old son.

Mr Raju Sarker, who was Case 42, has yet to hold Safun, who was born in March when his father was in intensive care and close to death.

Mr Sarker has not been home to Joydebpur in Bangladesh’s Gazipur district since June last year. About a month ago, when Safun uttered “baba” (the Bengali term for father) for the first time on the phone, he wept.

“I draw strength from him. The kid has grown up so much, I have to get him married now,” he added in jest.

Mr Sarker, 40, tested positive for the coronavirus in February and spent nearly five months in Tan Tock Seng Hospital, half that time in an intensive care unit. He was discharged in June.

While the coronavirus left him with other health concerns, such as falling blood platelet levels and poor heart function, Mr Sarker said he feels much better now and is no longer on medication.

He hopes to get the all-clear from his doctors later this month to return to Bangladesh to see his family either in February or March. “If not, I will have to stay longer in Singapore,” he said.

The signs are good though. Currently at 59kg, he has recovered much of the weight that he lost when he fell sick. From 64kg, it plummeted to 40kg.

His doctors at the time said they were surprised at his recovery. His oxygen levels had dropped so low they thought he might not make it.

His longer-term career plan is still uncertain. Mr Sarker, who worked for an IT solutions firm as a safety coordinator at project sites, hopes his employer will offer him a less strenuous administrative role.

“My physical capacity is not the same… Earlier, I did not think about my condition. I would go anywhere for whatever job whenever I was asked. I didn’t even bother if I had eaten or not. But now I have to be careful,” he said.

Those three months still make me cry. It was a real struggle and I suffered a lot.

If this does not materialise, he may return to Bangladesh for good.

While his father-in-law has offered to let him work at his grocery store, Mr Sarker hopes the Bangladeshi government will assist him through either a one-time grant or a government job that will allow him to support his family.

Currently lodged at an accommodation provided by his employer, he spends his time chatting with his family on the phone or exploring spiritual Islamic content on his laptop.

His near-death experience, he said, has made him more religious. “Knowing that Allah saved me, I am trying to walk on the right path,” he said.

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Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, his wife, Sanjida Akhter, 18, awaits his return. “Such an unfortunate incident happened abroad. I don’t feel like letting him live abroad now,” she said on the phone from Gazipur district.

The conversation was punctuated by the repeated mooing of a calf at her parents’ house in Kalni, which is where she is living with her son. Even now, whenever she thinks of the time when her husband was ill, she said, her eyes well up in tears.

“Those three months still make me cry. It was a real struggle and I suffered a lot,” she said, adding that she would like her husband to return to Bangladesh and rebuild his career there.

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