James shares his life threatening experience of COVID and ongoing long covid. Whilst he was ventilated in hospital he also had a stroke.
James has been at QEF for about 10 weeks and says:
“Christmas Eve I felt bad, I passed out and they called an ambulance out. They took me into East Surrey hospital, checked my sats, gave me oxygen and when my sats improved I went back home. But the next day it happened again, I passed out and they took me to A&E, then a respiratory ward. I didn’t make any improvement, so a bed was prepared for me on ICU, where they put me on a ventilator that saved my life. I remained in ICU at ESH for a further two weeks until I was stable enough to be moved. During this time, it was uncertain if I would survive.
I was airlifted to the Lane Fox Unit at St. Thomas’ hospital, in the same ward where Boris the Prime Minister was treated. I stayed on a ventilator there for 4 weeks. When I finally came round, I was completely paralysed and I’d lost sight in my left eye. Apparently, I’d had a mild stroke whilst I was on the ventilator and all I could move was my head - I couldn’t even swallow on my own. Whilst I had my tubes in my neck on a ventilator, my kidneys started failing so I was on dialysis as well, so it was a fun time. I was in there for 2 months while they stabilised me and saved my life and then I went back to East Surrey hospital. In total I have now been in hospital for 6 months.
The head physio at East Surrey hospital recommend that I come to QEF as this would be the best place for my neuro rehabilitation needs. I’ve been at QEF about 10 weeks now, since the middle of April. The physiotherapy is unbelievable – they’ve done a marvellous job and have got me virtually walking again – I know I’m aided by sticks, but they’ve got my limbs and my arms working.
When I came here all I could do was feed myself – just. I couldn’t move my legs, I had to be hoisted into bed, hoisted into the shower, hoisted everywhere - I couldn’t even roll over on my side. For 4 months of my time in hospital I laid flat on my back not being able to do anything. It was a place I didn’t want to be anymore. But when I got here after a few weeks I started to see slight improvements and my mind focused on just looking towards the future.
Every time I did physio I saw a change and they saw a big change as well. It’s a brilliant facility here, it really is. I can use both my legs now. I can stand up and walk with crutches and walk with a frame. I’ve got strength in my arms but they make me put most of my weight through my legs.
Long covid has given me a lot of fatigue, when they work me hard at physio I really do feel tired and all I want to do is come back to bed and sleep. I’ve also lost a lot of my voice after the pipes have been down there for so long and the tracheotomy pipe in my throat. My site in my left eye has come back about 50% - I had a big ulcer in my eye from when I was on a ventilator. You have terrible hallucinations when you’re on a ventilator - recovering in hospital and not being able to move was the worst thing ever.
I’ve had both my jabs now but obviously too late. My wife works in the NHS in East Surrey and bought Covid home. My sons both got it too as they were visiting at the time, but they just had cold symptoms for a day or so and I nearly popped my clogs! It was a mad journey and I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through it.
I’m doing a lot of physio here and some occupational therapy, such as cooking for myself, but mainly physiotherapy and this last couple of weeks it’s been intense. The care here has been terrific - the nurses and the carers have been absolutely brilliant."