A Northern Ireland man has told of the terrifying moment he feared he would die from Covid-19 – and of listening to the heartrending conversations medics were forced to have with those on the wards who were not going to survive.
Ian Major (71) also told of the £20 device that he believes could help to save the lives of some of those stricken with the virus by alerting them to the imminent danger they are in.
|Recovery: Ian Major (71) offered his ‘deepest
appreciation’ to medical staff at Craigavon Hospital
Warning that everyone needs to heed the official safety guidelines around the virus, the grandfather from Lurgan revealed how family members had to drive him to hospital as his condition worsened because no ambulances were available to take him there.
Mr Major says that he, his wife Susan and most other members of his family fell ill with symptoms of Covid on Boxing Day. All tested positive on January 2.
It spread across our bubble – my family and my married daughter family. My wife, myself, my daughter, son, married daughter and son-in-law. Only my two teenage grandsons escaped.
Most of the family had a mild form of the illness – “a slight cough, and/or a bit of fatigue, or runny nose, loss of smell, bad taste” – but Mr Major and his daughter Sarah were more badly affected.
I had an unrelenting headache and unrelenting nausea. And super-sensitivity of my face and head – even a sheet brushing against my face was jarringly painful. Lying down on the pillow was painful, but exhaustion demanded it - he wrote on Facebook in a post that gave an alarming insight into how his condition worsened. It’s hard to emphasise enough the depth of the nausea – I managed maybe a small carton of custard a day. Tea, coffee, milk tasted bad and I could not face them. Later on, even water was an effort.
Mr Major had hoped he would be able to fight off the illness at home, but after battling it for eight days he knew that he was perilously ill and quickly needed professional help.
By January 6 morning I realised that if I didn't get to hospital I was going to die. I was struggling to get enough oxygen from my breathing. No ambulances were available, so my daughter and wife brought me to Craigavon Area Hospital A&E. I did not notice, as I had not been looking in a mirror for a while, but Susan tells me my face was taking on a purple shade, and my lips blue. The doctors put me on IV fluid immediately and listed me for admission to a Covid ward when one became available. The nausea remained, but the headache went within an hour. Blessed relief! The consultant came to see me next day, when I was on the Covid ward. He had started me on heavy duty steroids, antibiotics and Remdesivir. Maybe something else too, but I can't remember. I had been on 1200mg Ibuprofen daily for my arthritis, and he said he just hates to hear any Covid patient being on anti-inflamatories. So I stopped them. Now that I'm home, I can review my needs with my GP.
Mr Major, a former Baptist missionary who worked with paramilitaries on both sides of the divide in prisons here, said that he “started treatment on 10ltrs of oxygen. That gradually reduced to 6, 4, 3, 2 and zero by the day before my release.”
One of the most vexatious moments of his fortnight-long hospital stay came when he was able to hear doctors telling a fellow patient they would not survive.
A task that the Dr will have had to make many times. And either the Dr or a senior nurse will have to phone the family to break this news. The Lord give the staff mental strength to cope, and reassure them they have done all they can to help.
This was a compassionate doctor telling his patient he was going to die today, possibly within hours. The need to have his wishes about his family implemented immediately was there.
Mr Major, whose family had all taken great care not to contract Covid, had this warning for those who still refuse to heed the warnings about the dangers of Covid-19.
Let me emphasise this, for any who think the dangers from Covid-19 are exaggerated. The mortality figures are in the context of having everyone who needs hospitalisation for Covid-19 getting it. But what if so many are so quickly infected that the hospitals are overrun? When you ring for an ambulance or even get driven to the A&E, they can't admit you or treat you?
I am certain that had I not got oxygen and IV fluids on that Wednesday morning, I would have lay on my couch as the my oxygen levels steadily dropped – until my heart stopped with the struggle. That applies to everyone who had to be admitted to hospital for their Covid infection. No oxygen treatment available – they die.
He also strongly urged people to invest in an oximeter as “a practical protective measure you can take against Covid damage”.
a little device you put on your finger to measure your oxygen levels. We got one for around £20. The great benefit of using this device is that you don't have to depend on how well you feel. It tells what your levels actually are. I was aware of how ill I was due to falling oxygen levels – but others have experienced a feeling of wellbeing, even as their oxygen levels fell dangerously low.
Mr Major says that his last two chest x-rays had revealed evidence of some Covid pneumonia remaining, but happily there was no increase. As a result his doctor allowed him to return home last Wednesday. “I was delighted to be going home to my wife and daughter,” he said.
[The doctor] told me it will take a few months to recover. And that it is important neither to overdo it, or do too little. The danger of Covid clots remains, so gentle exercise that keeps up blood circulation, and steadily improve lung function. Had my first stroll just now, about 50 metres. Lovely to breathe the fresh air and feel the circulation working!
Interestingly, although his daughter Sarah tested negative three times for Covid, she was admitted to Craigavon Hospital with a suspected Covid clot on her leg.
Scanning showed no clot, but small clusters of small clots in her lungs. Despite testing negative for Covid, they treated her with the same drugs as me. And she was released home last Monday – still testing negative. They suspect a Covid-caused inflammation in her leg, that was so light that it left only the effects, with no Covid remaining.
As he began to recover and watched hospital staff at work, Mr Major said their professionalism and spirit in the face of gruelling working conditions was striking.
He offered his:
deepest appreciation to all the staff – the nurses and doctors, catering and cleaning staff, physios, etc. They are working short-staffed and are over-worked, all day in fitted PPE that is warm even on the colder days and hot the rest of the time. Fatigue would normally tend to short tempers and disputes, but not one did I see in my fortnight among them. Working diligence 100%. And the care on top of that. Remarkable.
Emphasising how his Christian faith also provided crucial support as he battled the disease, he added: “I give thanks to our heavenly Father for His provision through them, and pray for them that they and their families will be protected from infection.
Quite a number have caught it and are recovered, but the dangers to their families means extra levels of precautions when they go home from shift. Psalm107:1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
⏭Ian Major grew up a heathen Protestant, was converted at 17, and lives out his Evangelical faith as a Baptist.