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Paramedic who caught coronavirus just three days after starting thanks NHS staff after recovery

PUBLISHED: 09:25 20 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:48 20 April 2020

NHS staff are in the front line of the fight against coronavirus. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

NHS staff are in the front line of the fight against coronavirus. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

The Press Association

Firstly, I’d like to say that this is not about me. It’s about all the wonderful NHS staff that contributed to my care and recovery.

East of England Ambulace Service Trust paramedic Graham Hillman is now recovering after being treated in two hospitals for coronavirus. Photo: Graham HillmanEast of England Ambulace Service Trust paramedic Graham Hillman is now recovering after being treated in two hospitals for coronavirus. Photo: Graham Hillman

Two to three days after qualifying as a paramedic, I dealt with a sudden death at a home, which was possibly coronavirus related. We took sensible precautions, wearing appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment).

Unfortunately, despite precautions, it is inevitable some of us will catch it and I don’t think we could have done much else at the time.

A few days later I started to feel a little flu-like and ended up with a high temperature so reluctantly had to stay off work and self-isolate.

After self-medicating with paracetamol at home it went into my chest. My breathing became difficult and eventually I had to go to A&E at Hinchingbrooke, Huntingdon.

That’s where the amazing care started. A&E staff must work in full gowns, masks and visors for all of their shift. It is really uncomfortable, but they don’t complain.

After four hours of treatment and a chest X-ray, it was decided I needed to be admitted to the Intensive Treatment Unit (ITU). It is a scary thing to be told as clearly you’re pretty unwell to be moved into there.

I’m now in what will be my ‘room’ for the next 72 hours here. Exactly what you expect to see on TV - a myriad of machines, pipes and cables, all of which I would be connected to and so cannot now leave my bed for anything.

It is scary enough when you know what it all does, more so if you don’t, but all explained with great care by staff still having to work in oppressive, hot and uncomfortable PPE without complaint for 13hrs + per shift.

The staff always delivered their care with huge professionalism and good spirit even though some of them are working outside of their normal areas to support the effort.

Despite the great care at Hinchingbrooke ITU, it was decided that I should be transferred to the new Royal Papworth Hospital at Cambridge for specialist treatment. They woke me at midnight to take me and I did wonder if it would be a one-way ticket. I was tired and concerned, seriously wondering if I might ever get to go home.

I was taken to Papworth ITU, here I spent the next 48 hours with similar superb care from more permanently gowned, masked & visored nurses and doctors.

Eventually, I started to improve and was ‘stepped down’ to a normal ward. The medical care was superb and food service was great. I was so pleased to be off all the monitoring machines.

Finally, after seven days I was allowed home. I was not 100%, but so much better and knowing that I was one of the lucky ones.

I know that many people including hard working NHS colleagues have died from this virus. I have ambulance colleagues still in hospital that I hope more than anything else will survive this.

I am under no illusion - I owe my life to the dedication of all colleagues at Hinchingbrooke and Papworth that are working so hard to fight this virus. The nurses, doctors, HCA’s porters, cleaners, radiologists, administrators, catering & housekeeping, lab staff, ambulance colleagues and anyone I may have overlooked.

I cannot thank my NHS colleagues enough for what they’re doing right now and always do for us. I hope you might join me in doing the same and do your bit to help reduce the spread of this virus by staying at home.


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