I can't believe it’s one year since the UK first went into a national lockdown! On reflection, it has made me realise how hard it's actually been. But most importantly, how lucky I am to have my loved ones still here. Coronavirus has been hard for us all, but I didn’t expect it to ever come as close to home as it has.
I wanted to share my story with you about my courageous and inspiring dad and his personal battle with coronavirus...
I’m Jessica, my dad Alan’s youngest child; he’s 74 and a father of 4. I have always looked up to my dad as a role model and as a dad. He has a very giving nature, growing up his admirable, consistent nature of always giving 100% has inspired me.
Now he's a little older and living alone, he is just very content with what he has - his kids, his dog, his garden, and his unbelievably loud classical music!
The weekend before Christmas 2020, he fell ill. At first, the symptoms were mild and that of a cold. On Sunday, I started to become concerned as he wasn't sounding like himself and seemed confused and delirious. He was put on a 7-day course of antibiotics as he was showing signs of an infection, but by Wednesday, Christmas Eve, he wasn’t getting better.
After speaking with his GP again, they decided to see him for a face-to-face appointment. I left work to take him, and the doctor didn’t seem concerned much at all with his observations, that was until they checked his oxygen saturation levels. The Oximeter showed up at 74%, and my heart dropped.
“You need to take him to accident & emergency straight away, and inform them he has symptoms of coronavirus needing immediate oxygen support.’’ explained the doctor. The rest was a blur for me, the car journey, walking him into the hospital, and having to leave him there all alone, full of confusion and pain.
For the remainder of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, he was on the respiratory ward with oxygen support known as CPAP. Critical but stable. I spoke to him over the phone on Christmas Day, not knowing that I wouldn’t speak to him again for an unknown amount of time or maybe ever.
Around midnight on Christmas Day, I received a call from the hospital. The doctor explained that, unfortunately, my Dad’s health has deteriorated drastically and he has been put in an induced coma on a ventilator and moved to ICU.
“He may not make it through the night, so please keep your phone with you at all times for any updates.’’ That night was the worst night of my life, but he made it through.
After that, all of the days rolled into one. As soon as there were slight improvements and his oxygen support reduced marginally, something would push him back a few steps. Throughout the period of being in a coma he went through: anaemia, 3 blood transfusions, sepsis, numerous bacterial infections, and an unfortunate unknown mass incidentally discovered on his pancreas.
On the 22nd January 2021, my half-sister Vicky and I were asked to visit my dad in ICU to see if we could be the missing piece to the puzzle of him coming out of the 4-week coma. Whilst the sedation had been stopped my dad wasn’t showing any signs of waking up. Seeing him in a hospital bed with tubes in his nose, trachea and arms, and him having to wear safety mittens to prevent him from causing damage to himself was a heart breaking experience.
But… it worked! After that day, he slowly began to wake up. His oxygen support was reduced, and he was well enough to move out of ICU. After two to three weeks of physiotherapy, respiratory support weaning - and some very funny moments of him being in a confused state but telling some hilarious stories - he was ready to be discharged from the hospital.
Friday 12th February, my dad was discharged to stay with my half-sister as he cannot live on his own for the foreseeable future. Since then he’s been doing really well; reunited with Lucky (his dog), had his first covid vaccine, and has now actually been well enough to visit the local garden centre!
During this challenging experience, I stayed strong, not just for myself but for my dad and family! One lesson I've learnt from this experience is, ‘we don’t know what other people are going through or what battles they are fighting - so, be kind.'
Special thank you to the ICU Nurses & Family Liaison Team. And Gerry, a wonderful nurse.