‘I can’t thank the NHS enough for saving my life after coronavirus’

Stuart Sayer making a cup of tea
Stuart Sayer is now recovering at home

Published on 17 April 2020

An undertaker and volunteer coastguard has thanked the NHS teams who nursed him back to health after he was diagnosed with coronavirus.

Stuart Sayer, 62, first started feeling unwell while on a skiing holiday in Austria in March, and ended up spending two weeks in intensive care at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.

Now back home in Dymchurch with wife Sue, he is sharing his story to highlight the ‘fantastic’ hospital staff and to reassure others that it is possible to recover from COVID-19.

Mr Sayer, who was also cared for in Oxford Ward, said: “When I first started feeling ill, coronavirus didn’t enter my head.

“I thought I was just tired after the skiing holiday, but as the week went on I became more and more breathless until my wife needed to call an ambulance.

“They arrived, all kitted out, and it turned out my oxygen saturation was at 80 per cent so they put me on oxygen and whisked me off to hospital.”

After a few days in Oxford ward, Mr Sayer was transferred to intensive care where he needed to be put on a ventilator to help him breathe. He was put in an induced coma to allow his body to recover – but not before face-timing his wife to wish her a happy 41st wedding anniversary. They would have been celebrating while he was in intensive care.

Initially, tests for COVID-19 were inconclusive but then came back as positive for the disease.

Mr Sayer said: “I was out of it by that point but it was obviously very worrying for my wife.

“I couldn’t have any visitors but she called several times a day and the staff always spoke to her and reassured her.

“They even put the phone to my ear while I was in a coma so she could tell me she loved me.”

After more than a week in a coma, Mr Sayer was able to be woken up and started physiotherapy treatment to help him recover.

He still needed oxygen support, and regular bouts on a special machine to keep his airway open to help with his breathing. This continued when he was transferred back to Oxford ward.

Mr Sayer said: “I started to come on in leaps and bounds, first walking to the loo then walking around the bed.

“I came home on 6 April and I’ve continued to improve. When I first came home I had a job to get out of the car and walk to the house using a walking frame.

“Now I’m walking around the garden, adding an extra lap every day, and I barely need to use a stick.

“I can see the progress I’m making and I can’t thank the hospital staff and the whole NHS enough. From the paramedics to the physios, they were all as good as gold and they couldn’t do enough for me.

“They were rushing around but they all knew exactly what they were doing and they were fantastic.”

Mr Sayer, who lost more than a stone and a half while in hospital, has no underlying health conditions and has no idea why he was the only one from his 17-strong skiing group to contract the virus.

He said: “When I woke up and they told me it was COVID-19, I felt okay and I could breathe, and I was alive – I was just thankful for that.

“I did get very emotional at times, which isn’t like me, and my doctor said it was a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“When I think of the thousands of people who have died from this, and that I survived – it’s hard.

“I am relatively fit and I think that helped, and I never developed a cough, just the breathlessness and a temperature.

“I can’t say thank you enough to the staff for all they did. My wife took them 60 cakes as a token but we owe them so much. They couldn’t have been better.”