A prison service worker who was admitted to hospital with coronavirus three days after his dad’s funeral is finally home after 10 weeks fighting for his life.
Gary Graves (54) had experienced odd days with a sore throat, headache and cough, but had put all of his symptoms down to the stress of losing his dad and planning the funeral.
Gary’s wife Astrid, who is a health care support worker, at Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, knew things were much more serious when he found it painful to breathe.
Astrid said: “The alarm bells started to ring in my head and I called our doctors who asked me some questions – we then went to A&E and that was the last I saw of him for more than nine weeks.”
During that time Gary was put into a medically-induced coma. He came round several times, but had to be sedated again to allow his body time to recover.
Gary, who has worked for the prison service for more than 34 years and is diabetic, was awake on his birthday. He said: “The nurses did everything they could to make it special for me and I can remember them standing around my bed in all of their masks and PPE singing happy birthday. They were amazing.”
A few days later Gary was once again sedated. It was only later that the couple heard that he had nearly died twice and that at one point he only had a 10 per cent chance of survival.
Astrid added: “The time Gary was in intensive care was the worst nine weeks of my life. It was terrifying. There were times when I just cried and cried and cried. I decided to go back to my work on a ward for patients being tested for coronavirus to keep myself busy and to try and keep my mind occupied.
“There were tough days when I knew Gary was very poorly on the second floor in intensive care while I was upstairs on the ward. But I needed to keep busy.”
Astrid believes without the care of her family, friends and colleagues Gary would not have survived. She added: “It was a real rollercoaster. But through it all, the nurses and doctors in the intensive care unit were amazing. They were angels. I have worked at the hospital for almost 24 years and knew he really was in the best possible hands. They kept me updated and they kept Gary alive. They saved him.
“Because of them Gary’s mum still has her son, I have my husband and Cassie and Scott still have their dad. We can never thank them enough, we are just so grateful that he is still here with us.”
Gary, who has lost over four stone during his battle with coronavirus, added: “I take my hat off to all of the staff at Pilgrim hospital, particularly those working in intensive care and on the wards. They have been absolutely brilliant.
“I honestly believe that somebody up there has been watching over me and I think that it was my dad Peter. He kept popping up in my dreams when I was sedated telling me ‘you can beat this’ and telling me that I had to fight.”
When Gary finally left the intensive care unit he was given a guard of honour by the doctors and nurses and Astrid had popped down from the ward to see him for the first time in person.
Gary added: “I didn’t know what to do when they were clapping and cheering, because the truth of the matter is if it wasn’t for all of them I would not be today. We can never thank them all enough.”
Gary is now continuing his recovery at home with Astrid’s care.