Dr Ibragim Yevtemirov still coughs every so often as he talks. A paediatric trauma surgeon in Dagestan, in the Caucasus region of southern Russia, his ward had been full of Covid-19 cases for a couple of weeks when he got infected himself.
He says seven colleagues in his town have now died, including nurses, orderlies and laboratory staff, according to a count kept by local medics themselves.
“All three doctors on my team got sick. We were replaced by dentists until we recovered,” Dr Yevtemirov told the BBC by phone from Khasavyurt, where he’s now back at work in the central hospital.
“At the peak, there were 10, 11 patients dying a day here,” he says.
The doctor’s account of dire shortages and deadly chaos is just one, stark snapshot of a Covid-19 crisis in Dagestan so serious that the republic’s chief mufti this week described it to President Vladimir Putin as a “catastrophe”.
As the holy month of Ramadan ends this weekend, Akhmad Afandi has been urging people in the mainly Muslim republic not to gather to celebrate Eid with friends and extended family – as it may cause a further dangerous spike in cases.
But it was a startling interview with the local health minister that first exposed Dagestan’s struggle with this epidemic.
The minister told a blogger that 40 medics had died in the republic: more than the total, official number of Covid-19 fatalities.
“At the start, the kit we were given was very primitive,” Dr Yevtemirov explains, from his personal experience.
“It’s not that we weren’t worried, but when this epidemic hit there was no alternative. It’s like we had to rush straight into battle,” he says.