‘Sickest survivor’ of COVID-19 leaves hospital after four months

Forty-nine-year-old Grant, who lives in Perthshire, is a consultant orthodontist and Clinical Director for Dundee Dental Hospital. After becoming unwell with COVID-19 at the end of March, Grant spent around a week in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at Ninewells Hospital.

Forty-nine-year-old Grant, who lives in Perthshire, is a consultant orthodontist and Clinical Director for Dundee Dental Hospital.  After becoming unwell with COVID-19 at the end of March, Grant spent around a week in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at Ninewells Hospital. 

Grant was moved to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for six weeks where he received ECMO treatment, a technique which provides cardiac and respiratory support to sustain blood oxygenation levels, like an artificial lung.

On his return to Ninewells, Grant’s condition steadily improved and, after almost three months of ICU treatment, he was moved into a respiratory ward in June. Grant had been the last remaining patient to be discharged from the ICU.

Whilst on the respiratory ward, Grant underwent daily rehabilitation, guided by staff from physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

Grant explains, “Today I am being discharged home after 128 days in Ninewells Hospital and Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. My family and I will be eternally grateful to the amazing healthcare teams for saving my life when my body went into multi-organ failure and for the remarkable rehabilitation journey to enable me to live a normal life again.

“When I fell ill at the end of March, I did not know that COVID-19 would leave me fighting for life over a period of 50 days on ECMO life support in Aberdeen and that I would lose 26kg in weight. I’m told that I am the ‘sickest survivor’ of COVID-19 in Tayside.

“The wonderful rehabilitation team at Ninewells started their work at the beginning of my journey and have worked with me tirelessly to help me to re-learn to talk, walk and to coordinate my arms and hands with an intensive personalised programme of therapy. Their enthusiasm is exceptional.

“It has been a privilege to be looked after by so many wonderful people and the care and compassion shown during my time in hospital has been nothing short of exceptional.

“Although our family is aware of many other families who have not been as fortunate as us, we are looking forward to a positive future by spending much-needed time together as well as returning to golf, skiing and motorcycling over the next year. We thank all the staff in NHS Grampian and NHS Tayside for everything they have done for us.”

Physiotherapy team leader for respiratory and critical care Sarah Matthews said, “The past four months have been incredibly challenging for all of us, especially Grant and his family. Two months ago he needed four staff to help him sit up, and he could only stay there for a few minutes. It is testament to Grant’s drive and determination that he has pushed himself through extremely challenging rehab sessions in order to get to this point today. 

“There have been hundreds of people involved in Grant’s care and I am incredibly proud of the way that all of the staff, both in Ninewells and Aberdeen, have pulled together with the goal to get Grant home and back to living his life.”

Grant will now continue his rehabilitation at home. Over the next few weeks the critical care physiotherapy and occupational therapy teams will support his transition back into the community, passing over his management to the community therapy services.

An essential part of recovery is ensuring rehabilitation programmes are centred around each individual’s needs. The community therapy team will focus on reducing joint pain and stiffness, improving muscle strength, stamina and endurance, as well as improving Grant’s balance and co-ordination further. 

In line with Grant’s needs, the occupational therapy team have an extensive programme prepared, focusing on intricate hand function. This is essential for helping Grant to return to work.

Ongoing follow up from both the intensive care recovery service as well as the respiratory COVID follow up service will ensure Grant’s recovery is maintained.

Chief Executive of NHS Tayside, Grant Archibald, said “Everyone here at NHS Tayside is delighted to see Grant leave Ninewells Hospital and get back to his family.

“We look forward to hearing more about his progress as our team continues his rehabilitation at home. We wish him all the best.”

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