Iranian social media has been dominated by dozens of images of a young smiling woman who died of lung obstruction after contracting the coronavirus because of her work as a nurse.
Photographs of 25-year-old Narges Khanalizadeh from Kalachai, Gilan province, show her wearing her nurse's uniform and working for the emergency department of Milad Lahijan Hospital. The young nurse had completed her nursing placement scheme at Imam Khomeini Hospital in Tehran.
According to Khanalizadeh’s colleagues, she fainted during work at the hospital on February 23, and she had symptoms very similar to those linked to coronavirus following a widespread outbreak of this virus in various cities in Iran. Although her colleagues believe that Narges Khanalizadeh has died from coronavirus, authorities have yet to confirm it.
"The nurse's name has not been included in the list of people who have died from the coronavirus disease, and there is a possibility of death from the flu," said health ministry spokesperson Kianush Jahanpour in an interview with the Young Journalists Club.
The Telegram channel East Gilan Nursing Group confirmed the death of the young woman due to "flu" and posted: "Ms Narges Khanalizadeh, the noble nurse at Milad Lahijan Hospital, passed away at the early age of youth at 25 years. We extend our condolences to the honorable Gilan Nursing Society."
Due to the lack of facilities and the lack of a coronavirus test kit at the hospital where she was working, the test for coronavirus was delayed; her test results will be announced on 26 February.
Khanalizadeh’s colleagues have said that they have no doubt that she died from coronavirus. Journalist and activist Pouyan Khoshhal said her colleagues had told him that she had been experiencing problems including fever and shortness of breath, and other breathing problems since February 23, and fainted once while at work. She had been working in the emergency department of Milad Lahijan Hospital, where she may have been infected by the virus.
Khanalizadeh was admitted to an intensive care unit three days before her death due to pulmonary complications and shortness of breath. Her pulmonary complication was severe and medical professionals had to use ventilation equipment to deal with it, which hooks patients to a device that helps combat temporary or permanent respiratory problems through an artificial breathing system, helping them to breathe normally.
Today, photographs of Narges Khanalizadeh's face has been circulated widely online, many of the photos showing her on the ICU ward. A colleague of the young nurse posted a photograph of her Instagram with the caption: "When we were taking her to the ICU, she was under a lot of stress. I took this picture and told her, we will laugh at this photo when you get well. We couldn't laugh...”,
According to some reports, Narges Khanalizadeh’s brother, who accompanied her when she was hospitalized has now himself been held at Razi Hospital in Rasht, where he awaits tests for coronavirus. According to reports, the hospital has the same testing facilities as Milad Lahijan Hospital.
Pouyan Khoshhal quoted the dead woman’s colleagues, who said that lung obstruction had eventually led to her death and that the X-ray photographs of her lungs had been telling, with reports of her lungs looking “white” — meaning that all or part of her lungs were blocked due to infection, and that she had been suffering from an inability to breathe.
Narges Khanalizadeh's colleagues at Milad Hospital are said to be extremely frightened. And yet they face threats that if they leave, no hospital in Gilan province would hire them.
A screenshot of a message from a Telegram channel, said to be from Dr. Saeed Salahi, director of Milad Lahijan Hospital, has been widely shared online. Salahi addresses his message to the nurses of the hospital: "According to today's meeting, all those who leave work without any reason will be noted and their names given to the governor's office and their employment in the provincial hospitals will be banned."
Despite the threats, several nurses have left their jobs in the hospital.
After Qom province, Gilan has the highest recorded number of coronavirus cases in the country. The head of Gilan University of Medical Sciences announced on February 23 that 70 samples were sent to Tehran province for testing. "More than 70,000 people who had entered the province were screened and filtered and suspicious samples were sent to Tehran for investigation."
Gilan University of Medical Sciences official Arsalan Salari has stated that the university hospital lacks the necessary infrastructure to deal with coronavirus because the facilities are over 50 years old. He also pointed to the shortage of equipment. "For example, the only CT scan device in Rasht city is available at Poursina Hospital."