As we prepare to mark two years since the first lockdown, we chat to Dave about his Covid experience.
On July 23rd 2021, Dave, 57, was admitted to hospital with Covid. He wasn’t too worried; he’d had both vaccinations, but his temperature was high and the reading on his home oxi-meter showed that his oxygen levels were dropping. He felt ok, but NHS 119 suggested he should go and get checked out at Tunbridge Wells Hospital.
After that, things changed quickly. Dave nearly collapsed in the toilet and he felt weak and disorientated. That night he was moved into Intensive Care as he needed help with his breathing. He still wasn’t too worried; he was sitting up and chatting on the phone to his wife and three girls.
Dave’s breathing was getting worse though, and he was intubated and placed in an induced coma. He continued to deteriorate and blood clots were discovered in his chest, lungs, neck and groin. The hospital wanted to transfer him to Guys & St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, but he was far too poorly to travel. The blood clot in his groin caused Thrombosis so the surgeon had to come to him and amputate his left leg in an emergency operation. Without the surgery, Dave would have died.
By this point, Dave was unaware of what was happening to him. His wife, Roz, was kept uptodate by what the family describe as ‘the brilliant team in Intensive Care’. Roz was allowed in once to ‘say goodbye’ and was told that Dave was unlikely to survive the night.
But survive he did
Dave remained in a coma for several weeks. His body, ravaged by Covid, also had to deal with sepsis, 8 blood transfusions and several chest infections. Roz was told his internal organs were shutting down and he was on dialysis. Yet again Roz was told to prepare for the worst.
‘When I woke up, Roz wasn’t there’
When Dave finally woke up, he had lost 22 kilos and had scars on his face from the equipment.
“The nurse said to me; before you wake up fully, I need to tell you that we had to amputate your leg. But he said it in such a kind and caring way.”
Dave tells us, “Bizarrely the news didn’t set me back. I tried not to let it worry me, I just thought that I’ll have to adapt and find a way of living with it.”
“I’ve had a few scrapes in my life, but nothing like this”
When Dave woke up, he couldn’t talk, he couldn’t sit up, he couldn’t hold his phone or change the TV channel. “I literally couldn’t lift my little finger.”
Dave talks passionately about the dedicated and hard working team from the Intensive Care Unit at Tunbridge Wells Hospital who saved his life and nursed him back to health.
“They were so patient with me. Because I was still on the ventilator with a tracheostomy in I couldn’t talk, so to communicate they would go through the alphabet and I would flick my eye to spell what I wanted to say. It was so frustrating.”
16th August was a big day, as wife Roz was finally allowed to visit. “She hardly recognised me!”.
Remembering Roz tells us, “The staff had prepared me, but it was still very traumatic. Brilliant, but traumatic.”
It wasn’t until the end of September that Dave could speak again, but he was still being fed by the nurses as he didn’t have the strengthen to hold a spoon.
Now the hard work began
After a few weeks in a general ward, Dave was transferred to the Amputation & Rehabilitation Unit in London. “I came along quite quickly there. I was really determined to get my strength and mobility back and by week two, I got my ‘training leg’.”
Surrounded by people in a similar situation to him, Dave worked hard but still needed help to get in and out of a wheelchair. Mental health support was offered to both Roz & Dave, but both told us they haven’t needed it yet.
“Lots of Doctors said I shouldn’t be here”
Dave came home just before Christmas. “I’m home now and am largely pain free. I’ve got my prosthetic leg, I’m driving and back in the pub with my mates.”
Dave is talking about going back to work and planning a return to the golf course.
“When I was in the coma, they told Roz that I had a body of an 85 year old, so now I’m just getting younger every day. Not many people can say that!”