More than six months after coronavirus left April Martin’s life hanging in the balance she is still suffering the lingering effects of the illness.
She knows more than most the vital importance of following both Government rules and medical advice on safeguarding against the disease.
Coronavirus took her from good health to the brink of tragedy, with doctors warning her family that her lungs were in such poor condition they would not attempt to resuscitate her in hospital, should that have proved necessary.
Thankfully, she survived the ordeal, but her story reveals the devastating effects the illness can have on previously healthy patients and illustrates why it is now as vital as ever for the public to follow rigorously the lockdown rules and follow medical advice on social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing.
April, wife of county councillor and Harrogate Borough Council Mayor Stuart Martin, is a former nurse, so has medical experience. She was surprised at how quickly she deteriorated.
By the time her GP advised her to call an ambulance, she was unable to walk a few yards across her bedroom and paramedics “blue-lighted me in” to hospital, she said.
“It didn’t dawn on me how ill I was. I really did not want to go into hospital as I understand the pressures that the staff were under.”
Relatives were told her condition was critical.
“They told me if my heart stopped they would not resuscitate me, because my lungs were too bad. It was a very dark time.”
The wider family was also affected, with Stuart unable to either accompany his wife to hospital or visit their daughters for comfort, because April’s illness came in the first lockdown.
April hadn’t expected to see intensive care staff working in protective gowns, masks and other protective equipment, but even with her health failing she recognised the positive attitude they maintained. It brought home the seriousness of Covid-19.
Coronavirus creates extreme symptoms which strip away patients’ dignity, as April found, and she was also visited by the hospital chaplain, an experience she said “really helped” her before she was well enough to be moved to another ward, where she spent a further two weeks.
Since then she has returned home to continue her recovery, but the process has been slow.
“I still get short of breath. I have to go to bed sometimes in the afternoon. It has really taken its toll,” she said.
Although she walks for exercise, she finds it exhausting and normal family activities which would have been taken for granted only 12 months ago – like grandchildren visiting – are off the agenda for the moment.
Within the story of the Martins’ ordeal is a message of hope, however.
Despite sharing the same house, when April’s condition was diagnosed Stuart maintained a rigorous sanitisation regime and self-isolated from other family members and slept in the spare room.
That meant he, as far as they know, avoided becoming infected himself, reflecting the wisdom of the guidance the public are still being told to follow.
“I think initially people were very, very careful,” she said, although as time went on she believes people became more complacent.
“I hope by Boris putting us all back in lockdown, it may help make people realise the severity of the illness.”
Stuart said: “During the early stages of April’s illness it was incredibly frustrating as there was nothing I could do to help her with the horrendous hacking cough she developed. When April was taken into hospital it was a very dark time, realising it could be the last time I saw my wife.
“Thanks to the skills of the health professionals, we were one of the lucky families. The very same evening that April was taken in, 460 other families lost their loved ones.
“We will get through this pandemic, we all have a responsibility to follow the guidelines and protect each other.”