“I feel like one of the lucky ones” - Halifax man thanks NHS staff who saved him from coronavirus

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A father-of-four from Halifax has thanked the NHS staff who saved his life after being in a coma with coronavirus for three weeks.

Paul Regan, 51, who lives in Hipperholme with his girlfriend, has now been back home for a week after being given a 50-50 chance of surviving the virus by doctors.

He has praised the staff at Calderdale Royal Hospital, where he was treated, and says he feels lucky to be alive.

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“The first symptoms were in the middle of March, I had a bit of a cough and a headache, but it went away so I didn’t think much of it,” he said.

Paul in hospitalPaul in hospital
Paul in hospital

“The week after the same thing happened, and the third week it became more serious. I was at work and I started feeling really tired, I struggled to get out of my chair when I finished on the Thursday, March 26.

“Then on the Friday morning I was sweating when I was driving to work, by the time I got there I was wet through, and my manager told me to self-isolate.

“I got worse over that weekend, and I phoned 111 on the Sunday and was given some antibiotics, but within an hour of taking them I was violently sick.

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“I gradually got worse and eventually phoned 999 on Monday, March 30 and went into hospital because my oxygen levels were so low and my temperature was so high.

Paul Regan with his girlfriend Debra NutbrownPaul Regan with his girlfriend Debra Nutbrown
Paul Regan with his girlfriend Debra Nutbrown

“I don’t remember much after that but I was in the medical assessment unit (MAU) for two days and then it was decided, because I was getting worse and my oxygen levels weren’t picking up, to put me into ICU and into a coma on April 2.”

Paul was taken out of the coma three weeks later, during which time he had his 51st birthday.

“I had a happy birthday banner above my bed when I woke up, and some cards.

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“It was longer than they were expecting me to be in but for three weeks my condition didn’t improve.

“Before they put me under they told me it was a 50-50 situation, you either improve and wake up or you die.

“When they first woke me up I was dazed and confused so they put me back under for another day.

“Then I went into the coronavirus ward, where they keep you until they’re happy for you to come home. I was there for another six or seven days and I came home on Tuesday, May 5.”

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Paul added: “Your body’s in that much of a fall down, my oxygen was so low, my temperature was so high and I was struggling to breathe so much, your body shuts down and I felt at that stage that I just wanted to die.

“The last thing I can remember was being in the MAU having been told I had pneumonia.

“When you’re in a coma they keep turning onto your front and your back, doing different things to get you going, but there was no improvement for a long time so my family were quite worried.

“I feel like one of the lucky ones because some people in ICU didn’t make it while I was there.

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“When you see the empty beds the next day it really brings it home to you. you start thinking about your own mortality and how lucky you are.

“I am very grateful that I’m still here. The staff at the hospital were absolutely fantastic, every single one of them.

“I can’t thank them enough because they’re the ones who have kept me alive. Always friendly, always happy, always trying to cheer you up. I can’t speak highly enough of them, they’re worth their weight in gold.”

Paul also has a message for the public not to take coronavirus lightly.

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“I believe I was quite complacent. I probably didn’t wash my hands enough at work, probably didn’t worry enough about social distancing,” he said.

“I don’t know where I caught it, and I haven’t got any underlying conditions.

“Because I was fairly healthy I probably thought I was a bit indestructible and I thought ‘if I do get it, it’ll probably be like a bit of flu’.

“So people need to stick to the guidelines.

“There were a lot of questions they couldn’t answer like whether I could get it again or whether I’m immune to it, so I am being very cautious.

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“I just wouldn’t wish what I went through on anybody because it was absolutely awful.

“Those two days when I gradually got worse and got into delirium, and then going into the coma, you experience some awful things when you’re in a coma.”

Paul is now dealing with his recovery, which he feels is going to be the hardest part of all.

“I’ve been assigned the head of pulmonary rehabilitation,” he said. “Because everything’s new to them with coronavirus, it’s like a pilot of what support they give to people.

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“It’s a holistic approach, so the physio comes and they’re looking at not just the physical side of things but the psychological side, so they refer you to psychologists and psychiatrists.

“There is a bit of post traumatic stress disorder because my experience of the coma felt like I was dreaming continuously.

“They were lucid dreams which seemed real. My experience of speaking to other guys on the ward was that we all dreamt the same things but in different dreams, about fighting to save yourself. Maybe it’s part of your body trying to stay alive.

“Post fatigue syndrome is quite common when you’ve been in a coma, so that’s the main thing now.

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“Initially I couldn’t walk, now I can shuffle about a bit. But if I come up the stairs, when I’m at the top I have to stop for a minute to get my breath back.

“Nobody knows how long it will last. Another common outcome is losing your sense of taste and smell. I’ve still got them but no-one knows how long that will last.

“A physio will come to see me twice a week for six weeks so the post-recovery support is really good.”

Paul says his first contact with his family after regaining consciousness was using Zoom.

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“It was quite a while before I saw them in person, but it was emotional,” he said.

“I’m not really an emotional person so I was quite pragmatic about it. Just happy I was coming home.

“My girlfriend’s been really helpful. She’s booked time off work so she’s looking after me, which has really helped.

“Work has been really good, really supportive.

“My sisters were struggling because we lost both our mum and dad last June within two weeks of each other and I think they’re still grieving from that so if they’d lost me then I think they’d have been really struggling.

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“My sister picked me up from hospital and she was upset but happy.

“As a family, we’re just happy we got the right outcome.

“My kids were obviously worried about me and now they just want me to get back to how I was.

“My oldest sister Janet provided regular updates on Facebook and my youngest sister Joanne was the contact with the hospital.

“My son Cameron was also a great support in finishing a house renovation that was almost complete before I got the virus.

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“I was also overwhelmed and grateful for the support from people on Facebook and social media.

“It felt like I had the support of the whole of Halifax.”

Paul works in a bank and is a part-time student at Leeds Beckett University studying Sports Coaching.

And he says he is determined to make the most of his life and follow his passion.

“When I was in the coronavirus ward I was thinking ‘why have I survived and others haven’t?’ he said.

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“But maybe this is a sign to change how I am in life. I used to be a bit of a worrier before, I used to worry about everything and think of the future, but now I’m thinking more on a day-by-day basis.

“Fewer things wind me up, I just let things go now because they’re not important.

“It’s reconfirmed that I want to crack on with my studies and use my qualifications in health and well-being to help people.”

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