Rod Stewart helped me find my voice after coronavirus coma

Stephen Robinson with his wife Sarah and daughters Beki and Gabbi
Stephen Robinson with his wife Sarah and daughters Beki and Gabbi

Published on 27 May 2020

A grandad who lost the power of speech while being treated for COVID-19 recovered it with a little help from Rod Stewart.

Stephen Robinson was in an induced coma at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford for 16 days and could not speak or swallow when he came round. 

A keen amateur musician, he practised singing techniques he had learned during lessons before he was ill and re-discovered his voice – revealing it to wife Sarah in an emotional video call.

She said: “When I saw a call from Kelly, the nurse on ITU, at 8am I thought it would be bad news. 

“But she just said listen to this, and passed it to Steve, and he started singing the Rod Stewart song with the first line ‘I can tell by your eyes that you’ve probably been crying forever’.

“It was the first time he had made any sound since coming around from his coma, and it was such a special moment.” 

Stephen, who turned 62 the day after he was admitted to the hospital, spent three weeks in intensive care and a further week on a ward before he was discharged home to his worried family in Ashford.

He developed a secondary infection while in hospital and at one point his temperature reached 44 degrees. 

He said: “It has been a tough time. I still get fatigued, but I can walk around now and go upstairs, and I’ve been out for a short walk.

“I just can’t believe I’m here. I consider myself very lucky to be here and talking to everyone. 

“When I first woke up I was mouthing the words but no sound was coming out. But I practised what I had been taught and that morning I put my hand on my stomach to feel my diaphragm and just went for it.”

The grandad of one, and father to Beki and Gabbi, first developed a high temperature at the end of March, which lasted for more than a week. Sarah, a physiotherapist, sought doctors’ advice after his oxygen level dropped to 88 per cent. 

She said: “I had an oximeter because I used it on some of my patients and I was doing regular checks on his temperature and oxygen levels.

“When I saw they were at 88 per cent I thought it was broken so I used it on myself – but it was definitely working. 

“When I dropped him at the hospital, I knew that might be the last time I saw him and it was a really low moment for us both.”

Super-fit Stephen, a keen jogger who also walked around eight miles a week, lost 12kg while in hospital and had to learn how to walk again. 

But he is now on the mend under Sarah’s watchful eye and with support from staff at East Kent Hospitals.

He said: “The medical staff, especially Kelly the nurse, were pivotal to my recovery. I call her my guardian angel. 

“They saved my life. Words cannot express how grateful my family and I are for the care I received on ITU.

“The staff were so brave, caring, skilled and empathetic. They were incredibly patient and considerate to my wife and daughters who phoned the unit three or more times a day to check on my progress. 

“The staff would often use video calls to bring my family closer to me as they weren’t allowed to visit.

“They would put the phone to my ear whenever my family called, and they played me the sound of my granddaughter laughing while I was in a coma. 

“I remember dreams about my family being with me and looking after me and I think that’s because I could hear their voices.”

Stephen still suffers from a cough but no longer needs any medication, although medics have warned him it could take up to 12 months to recover fully from the virus. 

He said: “The hospital have set up a support group via Zoom and that has been fantastic.

“We do exercises but we can also talk to others who have been in the same situation, and find out that they are going through the same things. 

“I am so thankful to everyone for everything they have done.”