For hospital staff caring for patients with coronavirus, there can surely be no better sight than to see a patient leaving the ward after successfully beating the disease.
So imagine the joy, not only for ward staff but for the whole of Castle Hill Hospital’s endoscopy team when 52-year old Neil McDonald left hospital yesterday evening.
Neil was not only a patient, but a fellow employee at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, having worked as a healthcare assistant in the endoscopy team for some 15 years.
Neil began to experience coronavirus symptoms at the end of April, testing positive for COVID-19 shortly before he was admitted to Hull Royal Infirmary on May 3rd.
Within a day, Neil’s condition had deteriorated to the point where he required the specialist support of HRI’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU). And that’s where he stayed for the next nine weeks.
Neil was ventilated and sedated, and his condition fluctuated many times while in ICU. Loved ones, staff and colleagues prepared themselves for the worst on several occasions.
But Neil proved to be a proper fighter, and having finally turned a corner in early July, he was able to leave intensive care for ward 5 where he spent a week, before moving on to complex rehabilitation ward 9 at Castle Hill to complete his hospital-based recovery.
Friend and endoscopy team registered nurse, Allyson Pattison said:
“As healthcare workers, we’ve been all too aware of the devastating impact coronavirus has had on individuals and families, but it hits even harder when it’s someone close to you who’s affected.
“Endoscopy is a close team, so finding out that Neil was seriously ill in hospital with COVID19 was such a blow to all of us. It was absolutely awful, and we were so worried about him, especially as his condition seemed to keep fluctuating; there were several times when we thought we were going to lose him.
“Obviously he wasn’t able to communicate with us while he was in intensive care, so it was such a relief when a few of us started to receive messages from him again just before he moved onto ward 5. We’d heard nothing for weeks and then we started to see him pop up on social media again, it was brilliant and just what we’d all been waiting for.”
Allyson has paid tribute to all of her hospital co-workers who have cared for Neil and supported his recovery:
“The staff in ICU who cared for Neil have done an amazing job, in fact I take my hat off to all of the staff who have played a part in his recovery. They did their absolute best to keep him going.
“When patients are with you for a long time, you do bond with them so it must have been incredibly hard for them to see a colleague so desperately ill too. They’ve been through the highs and lows with us and with Neil’s loved ones, and we’re just so fortunate and grateful to have him back.”
Having spent weeks being fed via a tube, Neil has had to re-train his stomach to start accepting solid food again, and being able to enjoy proper, home-cooked food again is one of the things he’s said to be looking forward to most.
In a short but heart-felt message sent after leaving hospital, Neil said: “To my family, ICU staff, the staff on ward 5 at Hull Royal Infirmary and Ward 9C at Castle Hill Hospital, friends and colleagues: thank you all for your support to help me beat COVID19 and be here to tell the story of my recovery. THANK YOU SO MUCH.”
Neil’s manager in endoscopy, Lucy Holgate, and the rest of her team are thrilled to see Neil doing so well, with many even popping down to cheer him off the ward yesterday:
“After spending months on an emotional roller-coaster, we were all so moved to spend the moment with him when he left ward 9C. We have missed him so much on the unit, especially his humour, and we are all so, so happy to see him on the road to recovery”.