A 56-year-old Aberystwyth man has heaped praise on a dedicated team of doctors, nurses and therapists who spent over five weeks caring for him after he was struck down by Coronavirus - just hours before the UK entered its national lockdown.
Fit and healthy property maintenance worker Martyn Groom has told how, in the space of just 90 minutes, he went from tucking into a bacon bap and a cup of tea to being bedbound with fever, lethargy, nausea and stiffness.
Luckily, thanks to top quality care he received from a team of clinicians led by Bronglais Hospital consultants Dr Donogh McKeogh and Dr Lenka Raisova, Martyn gradually began to recover from COVID pneumonia - and is now “on the mend” back at home with his wife Cheryl, a Clinical Nurse Specialist at Bronglais Hospital.
He said: “It was very quick. I went to work on the 23rd of March with a couple of colleagues and I had a bacon bap for breakfast. We heard the news about a lockdown coming, so we decided to call it a day and went home.
“They dropped me back at home and I had a cup of tea – that was at around 10.30 in the morning – and by 11.30 I was in bed shaking, with a fever, feeling sick and lethargic. It literally came on like a light switch – that’s how quick it was. I hadn’t experienced a cough or any other symptoms up until the moment it hit me.
“I was in bed at home for nine days prior to admission and was very ill in that time. I went to A&E and was taken to the isolation unit where they took bloods and performed a chest X-ray, and then they transferred me to the COVID ward where I was swabbed for the virus.
“Despite having a temperature and cough I didn’t feel short of breath before I was admitted. I felt better after having intravenous fluids and oxygen therapy but then, just as I was starting to feel a little bit better, the pneumonia progressed.”
Over the course of those five weeks Martyn was treated with oxygen in the form of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) – a form of non-invasive ventilation – but revealed how close he had come to being admitted to the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.
“My treatment plan worked for me, I didn’t have to be ventilated although I was very close to it – they rang my wife and said they were probably going to need to take me to ICU at one point, but I was able to fight it and avoid ventilation.
“I can’t speak highly enough of Dr McKeogh and Dr Raisova and their teams and the nursing staff, they were absolutely first class.
“I’m back home now and I can walk about 100 yards before I get out of breath. I am slowly getting better with the support of the dietitians and physiotherapists. Three weeks ago I was in a totally different place needing assistance to even walk to and from the bathroom.”
Dr Donogh McKeogh, COVID-19 lead at Bronglais General Hospital, added: “We learned a lot from treating Martyn. He was one of the first patients hospitalized locally with this disease, and he got very ill at one point. He is the first patient I have ever treated with prone CPAP and it worked really well for his oxygen levels and we learned from that.
“I was grateful to work with someone so willing, with such a positive mind-set. I am sure that attitude will make a big difference in his recovery too, in his willingness to work at the exercises given to him.”
A multi-disciplinary team continues to support Martyn on his recovery journey.
Advanced Respiratory Practitioner Physiotherapy Paul Humphrey explained: “Survival should not be to only outcome measure for our patients. This is the beginning of the patient’s long, arduous journey back to health and wellbeing. Patients often report that the psychological and emotional impact, as well as the physical consequences, can negatively influence their life for years. Rehabilitation, which takes place at hospital and at home or in the community, is therefore really important to address a range of elements around well-being following critical illness. This includes issues such as fatigue and weakness, and breathlessness, which take such a toll on individuals physically, emotionally and psychologically.”
And for Martyn - whose two daughters, Hannah, 27, and Lucy, 26, also work in the NHS - the message to the public is simple.
“COVID-19 is a serious disease and while there isn’t a cure for it yet, there is always hope,” he added.
“There is a lot of focus on how many people have sadly passed away from it, but they never say at the end of the news that 2,000 people have recovered and gone home today.
“I turned 56 while I was in hospital – being able to go home to my family was the best gift I could have asked for.”
Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “Every recovery story that we hear gives us hope and reassurance, but they also remind us how serious this condition. I would urge our population to continue to follow Welsh Government restrictions and stay at home whenever possible.”