Norwich man defied odds to survive coronavirus and become celebrity on other side of world
PUBLISHED: 09:56 03 May 2020 | UPDATED: 08:42 04 May 2020
It was a dream holiday which turned into a nightmare and one which resulted in a Norwich man eventually becoming a “celebrity” on the other side of the world
“Mr Brian” was the first man to have survived coronavirus in Kerala, India, and he now recovering at his home in the city with his wife Jane.
Following his battle against the virus in India he was interviewed on television and by the national and local newspapers and agencies. His appearances on YouTube have been watched by around 200,000 people and the story was reported in the Washington Post.
“I am getting better but still breathless and tired,” said Brian Lockwood, 57, who is full of praise for the care and attention he received while fighting for his life in beautiful Kerala.
At one time his wife Jane, who works for Aviva, was in a tiny room at a hospital, not knowing she was next door to her husband, on a ventilator.
She said: “There was some graffiti on the wall and a picture of Black Beauty by Anna Sewell of Old Catton. I thought that was a good omen. It turned out it was.”
Jane grew up in the area and it reminded her of Norwich and Norfolk and all their family and friends so far away while she was desperately worried about her husband literally fighting for his life.
“I remember crying and they told me to stop crying and start praying. They were also praying for him. I can’t thank the doctors and nurses enough,” she said.
When Brian finally emerged from the hospital in Kerala having fought and overcome the virus the TV crews and the journalists were waiting for him and he became a local celebrity.
He became known as “Mr Brian” the man from Norwich in the UK who had caught the virus sweeping the world claiming tens of thousands of lives - and survived.
Both he and Jane can’t thank enough the people of Kerala who took them to their hearts at such a difficult time.
It was last summer when Jane and Brian booked up their Kerala tour with Mercury Holidays. “It was somewhere we had always wanted to visit. We left on March 6. At the time we thought we would be okay,” said Jane.
They changed flights at Dubai and believe that Brian may have picked up the virus there.
After they arrived and joined the tour party on the trip, Brian was soon starting to feel unwell. It soon became obvious the virus sweeping across India and in Kerala places were closing down
Brian developed a fever at a remote hotel in the mountains and was told he had to go to a bigger hospital, a five-hour drive away down the mountains, to be tested.
“One problem was that the taxi driver who had come to collect us kept falling asleep. We were banging on the glass to wake him up and then the tour rep, who was following us, got in the front seat and kept him awake by hitting him,” said Jane.
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They got to the hospital and then had to make the long journey back to the hotel where they stayed in their room for three days and then told the test was negative.
“That was brilliant news,” said Jane, “but by then everything in Kerala was shutting up. The holiday was coming to an end so we went to the airport and were in the queue waiting to board our plane home when Brian heard people talking about him,” added Jane.
They were so near and yet so far.
Everyone started to move away from them. Brian was told he had in fact tested positive for coronavirus and they were whisked away to hospital where he was taken up in the lift to a room where he would be isolated and treated.
“This was a terrible time, I didn’t know what was going on,” said Jane, who was next door while Brian was fighting for breath and taken a number of drugs including anti-HIV ones to fight the virus.
Her tests were negative but for eight long days she stayed in a small room with a tiny window and that picture of Black Beauty to keep her company.
When she discovered he was in the next room she would keep her door open. “I could see him with a mask on, all hooked up to the machine. The doctors told me he had it in both lungs and there were not sure of the outcome,” explained Jane.
She had tested negative and after eight days went to stay in a hotel - the only guest in the place. India was in lock-down and the tourists had gone, almost.
Jane was then moved to another hotel where she was allowed out of her room for an hour to have a walk about. She was on her own, feeling helpless and very worried.
But, after 15 days, Brian who works as a brick and blocks specialist with a builder’s merchants in Norwich, emerged from Emakulam Medical College, having beaten the virus, to meet the press and television companies waiting outside.
He was full of praise for the wonderful and life-saving support he had received at the hospital, from the doctors, the nurses, and everyone else who had helped him and Jane during their ordeal.
“I received world-class care in Kerala, such a beautiful country with wonderful people. Dr Jacob and Dr Fathahudeen’s team should be celebrated for the fantastic work they are doing,” said Brian,
His release was on April 1, the same day as the 90th birthday of his father-in-law John Fletcher of Norwich.
Being in Kerala for 40 days they eventually got to the airport where he was recognised and celebrated as “Mr Brian”, and finally made it home to the UK and Norwich.
“We were lucky to get on that last flight, there were problems, and are very grateful to two people from the consular who helped us,” said Jane.
Now recovering at home, they live in North Norwich, both Brian and Jane can look back on an extraordinary time.
“We would like to thank the medical team along with Mercury Holidays and Jayasree Travel who are their local agents. The Bolgatty Palace Hotel used for quarantine was through Kerala Tourism who picked up the bill for our stay,” said Jane.
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