Yorkshire father hospitalised with Covid-19 he caught from a petrol pump

A young Wakefield father who was shielding with his immunocompromised partner is thought to have contracted Covid-19 from a petrol pump he touched.

Neil McCluskey and Katie Cheeseman had been due to marry this summer - but instead were both hospitalised with Covid-19

Katie Cheeseman, 35, said her fiance Neil McCluskey and their 18-month-old son George have barely their house since February as she suffers from severe asthma and works as a nurse.

Yet the couple, who had planned to marry at Grantley Hall near Ripon this summer, both ended up in hospital after testing positive for Covid-19, and NHS contact tracers believe Neil picked up the virus while filling up his car.

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They had only been outside to collect food and essential supplies and had not met up with relatives or friends for five months.

However, Neil had to attend a meeting with his employer shortly before shielding was due to end as he needed to discuss working arrangements.

While out, he stopped at a petrol station to fill up his car and also bought a packet of crisps from the shop, which he ate immediately. He had used the fuel pump without washing his hands, but did use sanitising gel.

Neil, who served in the armed forces and runs five miles every day, was initially the worse-affected of the two, despite being the less clinically vulnerable. Katie has previously developed sepsis after she contracted the flu virus while pregnant with George.

"Although I am a nurse I have been shielding since February," said Katie.

"I received an NHS letter advising that I shield due to the severity of my asthma and the fact I have been under the care of immunology. I had previously contracted flu whilst pregnant, leading to sepsis, so I knew I reacted badly to flu already.

"I cleaned all my shopping - I get it all delivered, I kept my son off from nursery. We knew how serious this could be."

But despite their caution, on the evening of July 30, Katie suffered a severe asthma attack.

The following day, Neil discovered that he had lost his sense of taste and smell, a key symptom of the disease, and the couple applied for Covid-19 tests.

"I thought it was very unlikely he had the virus. Despite the symptoms, he had shielded with me.

"Saturday came, which was supposed to be our wedding day and marked the end of shielding.

"I was so relieved that I could finally at least take my son to the park, but as we were waiting for a test I felt it would be irresponsible to go out that day.

"The test results came in and unfortunately both results were positive. We were terrified."

The couple's initial concerns were for Katie, whose respiratory conditions left her at particular risk, but it was Neil whose health deteriorated first, leaving him struggling to breathe.

On Sunday, just hours after their positive test results, Neil coughed up a large blood clot into the bathroom sink.

"I called 999 and the paramedics were here within 10 minutes. They came in full suits with helmets, they looked like space suits."

Neil was taken to hospital for treatment, but asked to be discharged because he was worried about Katie, whose condition was worsening, having to care for George alone. As Katie's parents are both over 70, they could not risk inviting them over to help with childcare.

"It was terrifying and exhausting. The fatigue was horrendous, even showering was a struggle.

"George was wanting us to play with him and we were both laid on the sofa and unable to even push two pieces of Lego together.

"Looking after him with Covid was so hard due to the extreme fatigue. Bathing him was difficult, and he’s very active.

"Seven days after my positive test I was getting worse and worse. I was unable to climb the stairs due to being so breathless, and I had terrible palpitations and chest pain.

"I was no longer able to swallow my medication and getting severe indigestion. I was also getting strange neurological symptoms such as a tremor.

"I called 111, and they sent an ambulance.

"It was terrifying, but the paramedic was kind, caring and empathetic.

"I felt in safe hands. You know as professionals we always say “we are just doing our job”, but having these people come to our home, risking their lives to save ours, was unbelievable.

"They couldn’t believe how we had managed at home. They were so empathetic.

"I was taken to the Covid part of the hospital and the paramedic stayed by my side right until the doctor arrived.

"The paramedic was very understanding that I had been shielding since February and that a trip to the hospital would be very daunting from me.

"I can’t thank them enough."

Katie remained in hospital for several days, before she was discharged with a further course of steroids.

Two weeks on from her diagnosis, she is still experiencing severe lung pain and breathlessness, as well as hand tremors and weaknesses.

After talking to NHS Track and Trace professionals, the family now believe that Neil picked up the virus from a petrol pump in late July.

Katie, a former Miss Wakefield beauty queen, is focusing on the future, and is looking forward to returning to work in the coming months. She is also hoping to eventually see her parents again when it is safe to do so.

"I’ve missed seeing my parents through all of this. They have been through so much. My parents monitored and controlled my asthma through my childhood. They felt completely helpless and not being there to be able to help us was terrible for them. My dad has sat with me many a time in A&E with my asthma and this time he couldn’t even pick me up. I am very close to my parents and they are a huge support for me."

She has now turned her attention to tackling the spread of false information online.

"I want to let people know that Covid doesn’t discriminate. Neil is the fittest person that people know. He is military, he runs marathons, he plays football, and yet he couldn’t breathe.

"This is real. I feel it's irresponsible for people to post on Facebook that the government 'can't control me'.

"If you don't like wearing a mask, you won't like wearing an oxygen mask or being on a ventilator.

"I became ill and didn't have one person who could look after my baby.

"Nurses are fighting this day by day. They don't need to hear people say this isn't real.

"Nobody likes this but it’s here and it’s real. This is the new normal and I feel everyone has a responsibility to play their part.

"To wash hands, to respect social distancing and to help others where we can.

"Covid has long term effects on your health, your employment, your family and your future.

"Please take this seriously."