Covid survivor owes his life to wife’s stubbornness

Doctor in PPE
Lt. Cmdr. Michael Heimes checks on a patient connected to a ventilator at Baton Rouge General Mid City campus
by Official U.S. Navy Imagery
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I met my first Covid survivor yesterday and I am still in shock. His story is a stark warning to anti vaxxers and Covid deniers. Also, to people who thought opening schools without special safety measures was alright.

Let’s call him Peter. He is now 58 years old and looks so skinny that he reminds of people after a hunger strike. He had lost some 38 kilograms. But he says he already gained five kilograms.

Just a cold?

It started December 2020 with what Peter thought was a cold. But within days, when the result of his Covid test had not yet arrived, he struggled for breath. He thought the infection came from school. Both his wife and son tested positive but they had mild and no symptoms. He, on the other hand was taken to hospital by ambulance with blue lights.

The nightmare began

Peter was on a ward with about 4 beds. He was put on oxygen but he showed no improvement. Every morning, he would see two or three beds being surrounded by curtains. That is where somebody had died. He can’t remember how many but he remembers the horrible sounds he heard. Also, he heard doctors tell patients that they would give them 20 hours of oxygen so that they could see their families to say good bye. So seeing visitors around beds meant one witnessed a tragedy unfolding.

As Peter got no better, his treatment went through the three stages of various oxygen systems. The last one was oxygen with a whole mask on his face. A nurse told him it would feel a bit like putting your face out of the window of a fast car. The machine tries to force oxygen into the lungs.

Several days on the ward did not help Peter to breathe any better. The doctor told him he exhaled more oxygen than he was receiving through the machine.

In Intensive Care

As a result, Peter was told he’d have to go to the Intensive Care Unit, ICU to be put into an induced coma or he would die. Those were the options. He was allowed to make a call to his wife and ten year old son to say good bye. How do you tell a ten year old as a father that you might never come home?

Coma

The ICU seemed to have hundreds of patients connected to various machines. Tired looking staff hurrying around. Then Peter knew no more. He was put into a coma for eight weeks. His wife told him what had happened while he was comatose.

Close call with NRA

Peter has two adult children who were notified by the hospital they were needed. There they were told their father would die. They were presented with a no-resuscitation form to sign. They did.

When Peter’s wife was informed she was irate. She insisted that she, however, had not agreed after only one week in ICU for her husband to be allowed to simply die. She demanded that they give him more time.

A couple of weeks later, as she was driving, she received a call from the hospital telling her they’re switching off the life support the next morning. They told her that she should come to say good bye. She immediately turned round to go to the hospital and lodged an official complaint. So they let Peter live.

After he woke up

Peter was in an induced coma for eight weeks. When he woke up, he was so weak he needed help to lift his head and found it painful to try to sit up. A video showed how hard and painful it was for him to try to stand up. “ One has no muscles left”, Peter remembers.

He came out of hospital in April this year after having spent four months there. However, five months later he still needs to connect to his little portable oxygen ‘canister’ at night and around twice a day. He will need to do this until 2022.

Scars; physical and mental of a Covid survivor

The horrible illness left lots of marks Peter will carry for the rest of his life.

He had a tracheotomy, I.e. a cut where they put a tube in his neck to connect him to an artificial lung. The scar is visible and he tells me he has problems swallowing larger lumps of food due to scar tissues in his throat. “I am supposed to put on weight”, he says, “but how am I supposed to do that if eating is hard?”

He is still too weak to think of anything more strenuous than walking short distances. His skiing and climbing days are over. The day we met was the first time his wife had not accompanied him on the car journey.

The psychological strain of the coma and what he saw in the hospital has also left wounds. He told me that during his stay he saw a man walk about the ward, look at notes and point out some beds to the consultant. After his visit, the patients in those beds he had pointed at received visitors. They had been given their death sentence.

Freedom day?

I asked Peter what he thought of the government lifting Covid restrictions. The so called ‘Freedom Day’.

He said: “ We’ve gone through a lot of pain to get where we are now and they are all destroying it. I think it’s all economics.”

When asked what his advice was for people, Peter said “ Please, be careful where you go, wear a mask and get vaccinated.” He is soon to have his second vaccination. His wife had both. He would even take his ten year old to be jabbed when the vaccines get clearance for children. His son had no symptoms but does one know whether he has suffered some damage which will only show later?

Recording of Peter’s story

if you want to hear the story as told by Peter, here is the recording. Excuse the sound quality. It was recorded in a car.

Peter’s Covid story

Other questions Peter’s story brings up for me:

  1. How many people were “switched off” as they had nobody to fight their case?
  2. And who is the man walking around deciding over life and death?

Peter now visits people who have gone through the same trauma as he has and hopes that sharing the experience with each other helps them cope better. He agreed to my telling his story as a warning to people who still think Covid is just a cold, complain about lockdown or wearing a mask and decide against vaccinations.