Coronavirus: Northwick Park nurse who spent 18 days in intensive care tells how he could hear everyone

Covid survivor, nurse Abin George spent 18 days in intensive care. Picture: LNWH

Covid survivor, nurse Abin George spent 18 days in intensive care. Picture: LNWH - Credit: Archant

A Northwick Park nurse is “feeling ok” as he returns to work after spending weeks in intensive care with coronavirus.

Abin George, a busy clinical site practitioner at the Watford Road hospital, had “continuous nightmares” while sedated in intensive care with his visitors all becoming part of his terrifying dreams.

The 34-year-old dad spent 41 days in hospital - from April 3 to May 15 - fearful he may never walk again while also struggling to feed himself.

But in September, he walked his son to nursery and came back to work two 12-hour shifts a week.

“I wouldn’t say I was completely back to normal. Like when we are running all over the place it drains my stamina a little bit but I’m getting there, I’m ready to start working three shifts,” Abin said.

At full health and at the peak of the Covid-19 crisis in April, Abin believes he caught the virus while helping a patient with dementia.

“I got a call from a ward to put a needle in the wing as there was an elderly woman with dementia. I went there and at one point the lady coughed on me but I was wearing a surgical mask and thought I’d be fine. Turns out I wasn’t fine,” Abin said.

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At first he had no symptoms, but the following day Abin began to suffer with signs of a cold so booked into a Holiday Inn to keep his wife Pritty Jose and child Aithan safe, and his temperature remaining “under control” for a few days.

However, his condition worsened and, after being admitted to Northwick Park, was transferred to Harefield Hospital during the height of the pandemic where he spent 18 days on a ventilator in intensive care.

Abin said: “I still remember being trapped in these nightmarish dreams which involved being chased by bad men and my family being threatened and kidnapped.

“I was so disorientated that when I woke up I thought it was just another dream. I didn’t know where I was or what had happened to me. It took a long time for me to believe anyone but the staff were fantastic.”

Family members regularly spoke to an unconscious Abin via video link, and he remembers hearing the voice of his brother urging him not to give up and keep fighting.

“I was completely sedated at a comatose stage but I could hear my brother encouraging me to fight, saying ‘you’ve got to fight for your son’.

“I could clearly hear people asking permission to touch me and explaining what was happening to me. It was unreal, I never thought you could hear anything.”

One of his sweetest moments on regaining consciousness and being able to breathe unassisted was taking his first sip of a fizzy drink.

Abin said: “I don’t really drink them but had a real craving for orange Fanta. My God, that first sip! It was sheer bliss after tepid water and saline.

“I never felt anything like it before and threw up straight away.”

He had lost more than three stone while struck with the virus and was so changed when he recovered that Aithan didn’t recognise him.

He subsequently sent out for a pair of clippers and got nursing staff to help trim his hair and beard.

“I didn’t want my son to think I was disabled, I was so tearful. I’m like a superhero for him and I didn’t want him to see me as a dependant person.”

Abin was discharged on May 15, to the cheers and claps of fellow nurses.

When he got home, family and friends were there to greet him outside with flowers and placards.

“We were in lockdown time, it was so kind,” he added.

He spent the next few months relearning how to hold a knife and fork, exercising to build strength and resistance in his legs and using a frame to walk.

“My son was starting nursery in September, would I be able to walk with him without my frame?”

He received a massive welcome when he returned to work, saying it took him 30 minutes to walk from the entrance to his office as colleagues stopped to welcome him.

Well-meaning colleagues have a chair waiting for him if they know he’s coming from another area of the hospital to assist them because he can still get “a little breathless”.

“My colleagues have been amazing, very supportive,” he said.

He urged the public to keep up with regular social distancing and to wear masks as “it helps a lot”.

“Don’t lose hope, if I’d lost hope I would not have come back to normal so fast,” Abin said.

“Hope is what keeps you fighting. It has been a long journey but I’m glad I’m back as I couldn’t help much during the first wave.”