July 8, 2021

Dr Yiannis: Talk to your doctor about getting a COVID-19 vaccine

Dr Yiannis Efstathiadis, Emergency Department Registrar, made headlines last year when he shared his story on contracting COVID-19 and ending up in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) fighting for life. A year after, and now fully vaccinated, he looks back at the scariest time in his life.

The 35- year old doctor had all the usual symptoms – fever, headache, muscle ache, joint ache, and worsening lethargy.

“By about two weeks in, I started to get the dry, annoying cough and by the third week, I couldn’t look after myself. I was home alone, as I had to self-isolate. When I got too weak to look after myself, my wife had to call an ambulance for me,” he said.

He was first admitted to the COVID-19 ward at Northern Hospital Epping, and during one of the vital checks, the doctors noticed his oxygen levels were 86 per cent. While different treatments were implemented, the levels wouldn’t improve.

“Then the Intensive Care team came and said I needed to be intubated. I could see my levels, and I knew what the team was coming in for. Working in Emergency, I had a pretty clear idea where everything was heading,” he said

Yiannis was breathing through the tube for three days. It was a difficult period for him and his family as he couldn’t have any visitors and his colleagues weren’t certain of his outcome. His wife, also a doctor at Northern Health, was the only point of contact for all his family members. Everyone was scared for his life.

“I stayed in the ICU for four days and after waking up, I had to go to a ward for another couple of days. Then the slow recovery started,” he said.

Yiannis had to do four months of physiotherapy to get back to normal. His body felt so weak that he couldn’t go up and down the stairs in his house.

“All my muscles felt so weak and I had no energy. It was very hard to do anything. With my wife’s help, and once I was allowed out of home, we started going out for short walks. I went back to work six weeks after the ICU,” he explained.

Luckily, Yiannis doesn’t have any of the long-term consequences of the virus and feels lucky to have fully recovered. In March this year, as soon as the vaccines were offered to staff, Yiannis was there to receive his.

“I went to get my COVID-19 vaccine late March, on day one of staff vaccination. It’s important to get vaccinated and keep our loved ones safe. Even if it wasn’t just for me, if I had given COVID-19 to anyone else last year, especially family, that would be devastating. I have older grandparents, so many young cousins and people around me with underlying conditions that I couldn’t even imagine what would happen if they caught the disease,” he said.

Yiannis would like to encourage everyone to have a discussion with their doctor and get vaccinated. “If you are hesitant, talk to someone about it and make sure you get your advice from healthcare professionals. Talk to people who know what they are talking about”.

Please see his message to the community below in English:

And in Greek: