'Fit and well' dad who nearly died from coronavirus applauded out of South Yorkshire hospital
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James Dickson spent the last two weeks of March ‘hovering between life and death’ on a ventilator, according to staff, as NHS workers did their best to bring his oxygen saturation levels up and stabilise him.
One of the doctors treating James has now revealed he was at one time assessed as having 50/50 odds of surviving his battle with the virus that was ravaging his body, after being admitted to hospital on March 17.
“James was struggling to breathe the first time I met him,” recalled Dr Steve Lobaz, consultant in anaesthetics and intensive care medicine, who said James would likely have died had he not gone to hospital when he did.
“He was the same age as me, and had two kids like me.
“Prior to his diagnosis with Covid-19, he was fit and well.
“I was struck by the thought that it could just as easily be me lying there.”
Staff initially tried to help James to breathe easier using a device called a CPAP non-invasive hood, but it soon became clear that the treatment was failing.
Lobaz said: “We were faced with the fact that James had quite a high chance of dying, around 50/50 due to the severity of his disease, and that was a really hard and upsetting thing for James to deal with, as well as for the staff treating him.”
On March 19, doctors took the decision to sedate James and put him on mechanical ventilation.
Dr Lobaz added: “Being isolated from his wife during this time was really hard for James.
“So much of our communication as doctors, when breaking bad news, is non-verbal.
“It’s so different over the phone, and when speaking to James wife, who couldn’t be there due to being in isolation herself, it was heartbreaking.
“Emotionally it hit me hard, and I know it’s a conversation that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
“I was worried she wouldn’t get to see James again, despite our best efforts.
“I managed to get them on FaceTime together before James was ventilated, to ensure they got the chance to speak.
“I told James that he was deteriorating and we needed to put him to sleep and on a ventilator.
“He looked at me, and we held hands, and both agreed that he could do this, and had no other options.
“James last words to me, before he went on the ventilator, were ‘let’s do this.’
“He was so scared, but so determined to fight with all his being.”
For the next several days, the dad-of-two hovered between life and death.
Finally, he needed a tracheostomy to help him be fully woken up and weaned from the ventilator.
The big day for James, and all those who had seen him through his hardest days, came on April 14, when he was finally well enough to be taken off the ventilator.
Dr Lobaz, who revealed James has never even seen him without his face-mask on, said: “That was a fantastic moment for us all.
“James was so excited to finally be free of the ventilator.
“Every day, the ICU team of doctors, nurses, physios, dieticians and pharmacists worked tirelessly to help his lungs and body recover, and seeing James walk off the unit to go home, as our staff applauded in full PPE, was such a big morale booster.
“As a team we have had many dark days with this crisis, and a number of our patients haven’t made it, despite our best efforts.
“During the time that James was with us, our ICU expanded from seven beds to 50, the number of Covid-19 patients increased rapidly, and staff put their own fears aside to remain professional and provide the very best care for some of the sickest and highest volume of patients seen by our ICU.
“I’m so proud of them all, and getting to see James recover and go home means so much to everyone.”
“We wish James and his family the very best with his ongoing recovery.”
A statement from James said he ‘has nothing but praise for the “amazing” care he received from the teams at Barnsley Hospital. He only wishes he had been able to hug everyone before he left, and because of all the PPE the staff have to wear, he wasn’t able to get to know the faces of the people looking after him.’