A coronavirus patient who nearly died twice after his heart stopped is still suffering the after effects of battling the virus months after being released from hospital.
Scott Howell, 48, from Wyllie, near Blackwood, was the first coronavirus patients to be placed in intensive care at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport and was placed in an induced coma for more than two weeks while his body battled the virus.
Sitting in the garden of his three-storey home he shares with his wife Helen and four children, Scott looks as though all is well with the world but the civil servant is still coming to terms with the life-threatening experience he went through.
Despite being able to enjoy family walks and the occasional visit to the pub garden, he is still suffering with heart and kidney issues as well as PTSD from the mental strain the virus placed upon him.
Describing his first symptoms, Scott said: “On March 5 I went to work as usual. I climbed the stairs but when I got to the top I was out of breath and had a cough that got progressively worse. The next day I went for a spa day up Bryn Meadows but I was too ill and had to go home.”
The same night Scott was admitted to Ystrad Mynach Hospital where he was diagnosed with double pneumonia which developed into sepsis.
He was transferred to the Royal Gwent and on March 9 he was placed in an induced coma which he remained in for more than two weeks.
Scott said: “My heart stopped on two different occasions when I was in a coma, once when they tried to put a tracheotomy in. I was on kidney dialysis and my kidneys are still not right.
“On April 13 I was moved to a cardiac ward because I had heart failure. My wife had to be the strong one, she was receiving phone calls saying that they didn’t think I was going to pull through that night. She didn’t have just me to worry about, she had four kids to look after as well.
“I experienced a number of dreams about about being captured and being worked on in underground secret laboratories and the NHS were giving me secret drugs.
“In another dream I was asked to fix the US presidential race so Donald Trump run again. They put £400m in my bank account and if I didn’t use it to win the election they would kill me.
“I have spoken to lots of Covid patients and they have all had similar dream about being chased or experimented on so it would appear that’s common for people who were in intensive care with Covid.
“I wasn’t able to have any visitors and even when I was Face-timing them it was short because I didn’t have the strength to hold the iPad.
“The hospital staff were a fantastic team, they got me from being a head in a bed because I couldn’t move my arms and legs and couldn’t move myself up the bed if I slipped down. Within two weeks they got me walking up a flight of stairs which was just enough for me to come home on April 29.”
Scott was filmed leaving the hospital on a wheelchair to applause and cheers from hospital staff who had made such a vital contribution to saving his life, but despite winning one battle he had another to contend with at home.
He said: “When I first came out I had to move my bedroom downstairs because I couldn’t climb two flights of stairs. I was in there for a couple of weeks. I couldn’t shower myself and had to have a riser for the toilet.
“My wife was fantastic she helped me to dress and shave. Since then it’s back to normal but I can’t lift things and have to take it easy. If I have things delivered I can’t lift it or carry the shopping but it’s all part of the recovery.
“I’m on a physiotherapy programme, the prognosis is that it could take between six and 12 months recovery time. My heart rate is still not where they would like it to be. It’s pumping at 38% when it should be at 60% and my kidneys are not right. One of the only things I struggle with is walking down the stairs one foot at a time. I’m hoping within six months I’ll be back in work and back to normal.”
As the Welsh Government gradually ease coronavirus restrictions, more and more people are returning to some kind of normality but Scott remains concerned that some people are not taken the virus seriously enough.
In one unbelievable encounter, he was told by a group of people who heard about his illness that coronavirus was “a hoax” and a conspiracy.
Scott said: “I went to my local pub last Friday, the first time I could be up there, and as I came outside to use the toilet one of my neighbours asked me to tell this group what happened to me and the whole table were convinced I didn’t have Covid and that it didn’t exist and I was just shaking my head. It’s incredulous people like that exist. I found that unbelievable.
“It frustrates me to see younger people partying with no social distancing and not wearing masks thinking they’re invincible and the virus won’t get to them. It’s not the flu, youngsters as well as older people who can die from it. People still come near me and close to me and I have to ask them to step back.
“I have walked to the local pub to sit outside and there were tables sat together who are not in bubbles because they believe it’s not going to get them. It’s a non-discriminating disease, it will affect youngsters as well as people without underlying health issues. I want to scream and shout ‘please get away from each other’ and use a bit of sense.
“I had given Covid-19 to my wife and all the members of my family apart from my kids. I gave it to 26 people in total. I have type two diabetes and asthma which is why the doctors think it affected me so bad but my wife had no symptoms so you can be asymptomatic and pass it on to your family.”
While the experience of battling coronavirus has taken its toll on Scott’s physical and mental health, he said the illness has taught to appreciate the simpler things in life and has changed his priorities.
He added: “When you’re in hospital and you have had a life changing experience, it changes your outlook. I was previously a massive fan of work and worked long hours but it’s not longer my number one priority. Being able to walk in the fresh air and being able to spend time with friends and family, those are key priorities. It’s all about the time you spend with them.
“It has massively changed my outlook on life. I don’t care about money and I don’t care where we go on holiday, it’s about spending time with family and spending time in the outdoors.”
Scott also wished to pay tribute to the staff at the Royal Gwent and the NHS in general for saving his life and keeping his recovery on track.
He said: “I’m only here because of the great work the NHS has done for me especially staff from the ICU and physiotherapy units at the Royal Gwent. My thanks go out to them for what they have done for me. I can only admire the level of care and professionalism of the staff from the cleaners to the physiotherapists which is phenomenal.
“I truly believe I wasn’t going to walk for 12 months but they got me back up and walking. I have had a tremendous amount of care and I can’t estimate if I had been in the States how much it would have cost but the NHS is free. I will always be grateful for what they have done.”