Hugh Mullally rolled over to his left and wondered where his bedside table had gone. Now that I think about it, his duvet had also been replaced by a white sheet. How strange. Did his mind play tricks? Had he dreamed?
Then there was a nervous tremor in his stomach. Suddenly he started to remember in fragments the past two weeks.
He was not in bed next to his wife Karen in their house near Bath. He was in the hospital, in intensive care, came back from a nine-day medical coma after he became seriously ill with the coronavirus. A tune came up in his head – Who Knows Where The Time Goes? by Sandy Denny, his favorite anthem.
In the photo Hugh Mullally, the doctor was given ten minutes to say goodbye to his wife Karen and the 24-year-old Tara and Ciaran, 23
One of the last things he remembered was to tell Karen, daughter Tara (24), and son Ciaran (23) to listen to it, to remember him. And as he began to record his wider surroundings – the squeaks, the bright lights, the blurry bodies – the music played in his head over and over. It was everything Hugh, a 65-year-old IT consultant, could focus on.
Remarkably, just a week and a half earlier, doctors had given him only ten minutes to say goodbye. After experiencing worsened symptoms for a week at home on March 20, he was hospitalized. The next day, at 4 a.m., his blood oxygen levels dropped. His only hope of survival was intensive care: being put on a ventilator – a machine that takes over the breathing work when the disease fails the lungs.
The treatment gives patients vital time to fight and recover from the infection. But it is invasive: a tube attached to the equipment is inserted through the throat and into the lungs. Patients must be heavily anesthetized or completely anesthetized to tolerate it.
Hugh was told he probably wouldn’t wake up. While waiting to fall asleep, he called Karen to tell her what would happen. “I had so little time, I had to think of something useful quickly,” he says. That was when he came up with the idea of a song. The lyrics are about cherishing the precious time you have with loved ones. ‘
Later that day, Hugh’s family gathered at their local park to listen – and pray for their father and husband – together.
But Hugh recovered. Very slowly he started to wake up. The first few conscious hours were “dreamlike, a kind of fantasy,” he says. “I remember a vague itch in my chest where the fan tube had been.”
The feeling of total physical weakness was something that Hugh, who plays for a local veterans soccer team, found particularly hard.
“I remember someone asking me if I could get out of bed,” he says. “And I couldn’t. Not for days. My legs were like lead. ‘
“I had been given nutrients and water through an IV for ten days, so there was a constant feeling of incredible thirst – even though I wasn’t dehydrated. A nurse in the area must have noticed, even though I couldn’t speak well. So she dabbed a wet sponge around my mouth so I could feel the moisture without swallowing much. It felt great. ‘
Karen managed to expect a call from her husband – doctors had kept the family informed daily. But when she first heard his voice, two days after waking up, she struggled to speak between tears of joy. “She cried and cried with happiness and disbelief that I made it. We both did that, ”says Hugh.
The family was not allowed into his room, but two weeks later, when he was transferred from intensive care to a coronavirus ward, they could see each other through the window next to Hugh’s bed. “The first time the kids came was overwhelming,” he says. “They called through the window how proud they were of me.”
But it wasn’t until nearly a month later – after two weeks of social distraction, after layoff, they were finally reunited. He says, “My son Ciaran stared at me and said,” Dad – do you think it’s okay to hug you now? “
Do I mask outside and what if I cannot stay 2 meters away from others?
Q Do I have to wear a mask when I’m socializing or exercising outdoors?
A: When you’re outside, you don’t need to wear a mask as long as you’re two feet away from people outside your household or bubble.
This is because the virus is less likely to spread outside.
It can be difficult to socialize while wearing a mask, so instead of always putting it on and off when you want to speak, make sure you keep a safe distance.
And of course, wash your hands.
You must wear a mask on public transportation – and it is also a good idea to do this when you go to the shops, post office or bank.
Q Is it really safe to go shopping now?
A Starting tomorrow, non-essential stores in England – including those that sell clothing, toys and electronics – will open for the first time since closing.
Measures have been taken to make the experience as safe as possible for both customers and staff.
While rules may vary by store, buyers are reminded to keep a good social distance and wash their hands regularly with disinfectants or soap.
Retailers discourage touching and handling products that people have no intention of buying, and most dressing rooms remain closed.
The government also encourages people to shop only when they can, to keep social contact to a minimum.
Q What should I do if I cannot stay two meters away from someone?
A Coronavirus is spread in tiny droplets, emitted when someone coughs, sneezes, or even talks. So the closer you are to an infected person, the greater your risk of contracting it.
But if you come within two meters of others, don’t panic.
A study published in the medical journal The Lancet found that staying one meter away from the patient also reduced the chance of infection.
It is best to minimize the time you are within two meters of people and to avoid personal contact nearby.
“I didn’t want to let him go.”
Hugh had been in hospital since late March and was unaware of the “new standard,” which is now known to the rest of the country. “When I was clear again, my 90-year-old mother called and said,” Can we zoom in? “He recalls. “I thought, what the heck does that mean?” Now, two months later, he enjoys two-hour walks and plans a five-on-five football game.
Intensive care has always had a chilling connotation – even before the pandemic. If you are admitted to the ward for the most acutely ill, you are believed to be nearing the end. Many patients, such as Hugh, will be anesthetized and attached to fans to support their failing organs. Tubes are passed through the wrist, neck, arm, and groin to quickly clear waste and deliver medication. Powerful pain killers and anti-infection medications mean that most are unconscious and unconscious.
About eight percent of those over 50 with Covid-19 and twelve percent of those over 60 need hospital treatment. About one in five people who are hospitalized are admitted to an intensive care unit (ITU). Unfortunately, half of these patients die.
But Dr. Ron Daniels, intensive care consultant at Birmingham Hospital, urges people not to think of these types of treatments as the end of the road. “Last week I said goodbye to a 75-year-old with Covid-19 who left intensive care after nearly two months of respiration,” he says. “We bought him a bottle of whiskey to celebrate when he started to recover – he said he wanted a drink.”
Equally astonishing is the story of 62-year-old Walter Roux, who survived eight weeks in intensive care, two of whom he spent ventilated. The Surrey railroad worker began to feel unwell after returning from Italy in February. Walter, who lives alone, became increasingly breathless, with a rising fever. He was afraid of his life and called an ambulance.
In the hospital, he tested positive for Covid-19. He remembers talking to his doctor, who told him to eat supper even though he was feeling sick. And then nothing.
His condition deteriorated rapidly, leaving Walter unconscious.
Doctors rushed him to ITU, where he was completely anesthetized and ventilated. The following days – while in a coma – he suffered two minor heart attacks and his kidneys began to fail. Ten days later he woke up. The “spider web” of tubes around him was the biggest shock. Although he was no longer on a full ventilator, he had had a tracheostomy – a tube that had been inserted through a hole in the windpipe. This was attached to another type of ventilator, which supports Walter’s weakened lungs, eliminating the need to anesthetize the patient.
“The first thing I did was move my mouth over and over and try to talk,” he says. The tracheostomy tube affects the voice box, leaving patients speechless. “It took me a while to realize that there was no sound,” he recalls. “Not that I had a lot of energy to try. I had to communicate by writing to nurses on pieces of paper or my phone. And knowing that my kids wouldn’t be able to hear my voice was very painful. When I woke up I thought I was in my house. But everything was upside down. I kept seeing strange objects that wouldn’t belong in a hospital. Then they would disappear. ‘
Sedatives and painkillers are known to cause hallucinations and ‘postoperative delirium’ in half of all patients. Walter says, “It has stopped me from sleeping, which is traumatic in intensive care, with all the loud noises and people running around at night. ‘
His psychological trauma is true for Victoria and Albert Museum chairman and former publisher boss Nicholas Coleridge. Within hours of his hospitalization, the 63-year-old, who contracted the virus in March, got the “hint” that his chances of survival were slim. “The doctors were horribly blunt with my wife and daughter,” said Nicholas, who lives in West London. “They called and said they were rushing me to intensive care and that I wouldn’t make it.”
There was no time for parting – Nicholas was already in his own world. “My mind was completely confused,” he says. “Beforehand they pumped me with liters of oxygen. All I could see were visions of snakes and snakes, like a terrifying fantasy. ‘
Fortunately, Nicholas’s lung capacity improved quickly – and he narrowly escaped ventilation. He was awake just 48 hours later – although he didn’t feel like it. “I never thought I was going to die,” says Nicholas. “I know my family didn’t feel the same, but to me it all seemed to be over soon. I told them I planned to come home as soon as possible. And 12 days later I did it. ‘
Today, Hugh Mullally says that, after weeks of intensive physical therapy, he “almost” feels back in his pre-coronavirus itself. “I took a three-mile hike yesterday,” he says. “But I really felt it. I sleep more than ever before. ‘
Nicholas Coleridge is in a similar condition. “I’d say I’m 98 percent healthy again. Six weeks after I got out of intensive care, I took two 12-mile walks. ‘
It may take up to a year for patients who survive in intensive care to fully recover. “Most patients return to about 90 percent of their normal function after a year and more than half are back to work,” says Dr. Daniels. “But this may take longer for those who are on a ventilator.”
For Walter Roux, who has now spent almost three months in the hospital, recovery will be a struggle. He is undergoing intensive physical therapy to help him walk. And six weeks ago, the tube in his throat was removed – he was finally able to speak again.
“The sound of my own voice was very strange and squeaky,” says Walter, who has to wait two to three weeks in the hospital.
“The first thing I did was call my three kids. It was good timing because I had swallowed my first drop of water for the first time. It was as pure as crystal and I wanted to tell them how great it tasted. My family says I survived because many people prayed for me. ‘
Hugh agrees: “My mom is Catholic and went to mass every day while I was unconscious. And many people from the charity of the children I am involved in did the same. I have found a new found belief in the power of prayer. I feel like I have to do something else. As if I have not been spared for nothing. ‘
After a kidney transplant, the virus … and then a miraculous recovery
Thousands watched with bated breath as 48-year-old Hussein opened his eyes – after spending three weeks on a ventilator and fighting for his life.
The remarkable moment was captured on camera as part of BBC2’s fly-on-the-wall documentary, Hospital.
The father of three had a kidney transplant in mid-March, putting him in the patients category with only a 30 percent chance of survival if given Covid-19.
Father of three Hussein, in the photo, received a kidney transplant in March, but was contracted Covid-19 shortly after, giving him a 30 percent survival rate. He was treated with experimental drugs that saved his life
Tragically, he was back at the Royal Free Hospital in London with the virus just two weeks after surgery.
Because his lungs were not responding to oxygen, doctors had no choice but to put him on a ventilator. He was also given the experimental drug Anakinra, which fights inflammation from the immune system.
Against all odds, Hussein started to improve. And at the end of week three, doctors woke him up – and removed the fan. He was fired in early May and is now recovering at home. “It’s a miracle,” said Hussein’s wife Andrea, who is happy that the couple can finally celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary.
Recalling the moment she was told that Hussein might not make it, she said, “They told me they were going to try medicines they didn’t expect to work.”
But his advisor, Professor Alan Salama, now says they have more hope: “Drugs like Anakinra prevent the immune system from becoming overloaded – and anecdotally prove to be effective, but need to be tested in formal clinical trials.”