A father-of-two who spent 300 days in hospital after contracting coronavirus has learned to walk and talk again – and celebrated by leaving A&E on his own two feet.
Andrew Watts, 40, from Bexley, south-east London, was in hospital for 10 months after suffering pneumonia caused by COVID-19.
Doctors at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich said he was “one of the sickest COVID patients we’ve ever seen”.
He was finally able to walk out of hospital after eight months in intensive care and two months on a ward, much to the delight of his wife Hayley and sons Jack, six, and Joshua, three.
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At one point, he was put in an induced coma for five weeks and his lung collapsed, leading doctors to tell his family they were considering turning off his ventilator.
Because Watts was on a ventilator in an intensive care unit (ICU) for so long, he had to learn how to walk and talk again.
When his family visited, he could initially only communicate with the by pointing a stick at letters on a board.
Watts, a black cab driver, fell ill a week before Christmas last year.
“I wasn’t eating and I was losing weight, but I thought it was just the anxiety getting to me,” he told MyLondon.
"When I was admitted to hospital with COVID I initially responded well to treatment, but then my oxygen levels started to drop and I was taken for a CT scan. That was when I was told that I had a pneumothorax, which is a split on the lung.
“I was on my own as this was the height of COVID, with no visitors allowed, so it was a lot to take in.
"By this point I was crying my eyes out, on the phone to my sister Hannah and my wife Hayley, but I didn’t want to tell my mum or my dad. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them.”
After recovering from a second lung collapse, his condition began to improve and he was able to come off the ventilator in June this year.
Watts was diagnosed with lymph cancer in October 2019 but had successful chemotherapy, and was in remission a few months before he fell ill last Christmas. He spent most of last year shielding during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I kept thinking, ‘Why me?’,” he said. “It was very hard to stay positive.
“But I remembered how when I was going through my chemotherapy I was told to look forward, set myself little goals and when I’d achieved them set myself another one. So that’s what I did.”
Hospital staff including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and speech and language therapists, who all got to know Watts during his stay, turned out to say goodbye and watch him leave Ward 23 on 21 October.
“The care has been fantastic,” said Watts. “But my journey is nowhere near finished yet.
“Going home is one major goal, but then that just starts another road in my recovery. I started walking just four weeks ago, and my next goal is to walk to my son’s school and back by Christmas.”
Dr Dan Harding, consultant in intensive care medicine, said: “We are all really proud and pleased that Andrew has finally been able to go home after 10 months in hospital.
“He was one of the sickest COVID patients we’ve seen, so to see him walking out of the hospital with his family was a very happy and emotional day for me and all the other staff involved in his care.”
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