But now retired painter and decorator Derek, 65, has thanked the medics who saved his life by donating to Bradford Hospitals’ Charity.
After surviving to tell the tale, the man from Horton Bank Top has also written a moving piece called Around the Wards in 80 Days: A Covid survivor’s story.
“The unwavering devotion of care and treatment from you all throughout my journey has far exceeded the expected call of duty and I am, and will always be forever, in your debt for all the blood, sweat, tears and care you give to all of your patients, not just myself,” he says.
Derek was first admitted to Bradford Royal Infirmary in late 2020 with a severe headache and breathing difficulties.
While he was initially cared for on the Covid-19 ward, his condition deteriorated and he was moved to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where he was put on a ventilator and into an induced coma. In December, Derek developed sepsis – the point at which Sue was told to expect the worst.
Renal consultant Dr Mansoor Ali explains that Derek was initially admitted with symptoms suggestive of Covid pneumonitis. He rapidly deteriorated, requiring intubation and ventilation and a transfer to the ICU within days of his admission. During his inpatient stay, he developed acute kidney injury when his kidneys stopped functioning, requiring filtration (kidney replacement treatment) at the ICU and then dialysis dependency for several weeks following his step down to the renal ward.
He was discharged after 80 days, spent both at Bradford Royal Infirmary and Airedale Hospital, but has developed chronic kidney disease.
Derek says he is receiving “fantastic after care from the NHS” in both the Long Covid clinic and by the renal team at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
“I still have symptoms of Long Covid and experience many different feelings and emotions, but I am on the whole very happy and glad to be alive,” says Derek.
“I am sincerely grateful to each and every person who has been involved in all of my care and treatment, whether directly or indirectly, frontline or background support, both past, present and future, because without you all, the outcome of this story could have been very different.”
Derek says that writing down his experiences had helped him make sense of some of his memories and made him realise how fortunate he is to be alive. “I hope it will be a morale boost for NHS staff, because I saw first-hand what they put into caring for people and I 100 per cent appreciate it,” he said. “I also hope it helps other people. If it encourages just one person to get vaccinated against this virus then I will be happy.”
Sue, a retired HR manager, says that both of them were fearful of catching Covid after Derek’s experience, but they are now enjoying their retirement together and taking walks in the sea air by their holiday home in Hornsea.
“I lived through 80 days and nights of anxiety, worry and stress,” says Sue. “Visits were limited, but the staff at Bradford Royal Infirmary were fantastic and always kept me informed every day.
“When they told me they didn’t think he would make it, I sat on my own at home and prayed. I’m not a religious person, but I prayed. I was the happiest woman on earth when he started to show signs of recovery.”
When the couple received an unexpected tax windfall, they agreed they wanted £1,000 to go to Bradford Hospitals’ Charity – split between the ICU and renal department – and £1,000 to Airedale Hospital.
“I would like the money to go on the little extras which make a big difference,” says Derek. “For example, they gave me a pedal machine when I started my rehabilitation, but I could only use it for a limited time because other patients needed it. Items such as this, which are not paid for routinely by the NHS and are funded by the NHS charity, make a real difference.”
Dr Ali says: “The road to recovery was slow yet tumultuous, but was only possible due to sheer determination from within to get better.
“The support and the supervision of his wife Sue – I would call her the rock, the pillar, the force that kept Mr Walsh going – and the wonderful staff both at BRI and Airedale General Hospital, who did everything possible, carried out every investigation available, and provided every treatment option thinkable to keep Mr Walsh alive.
“I am so glad to have been part of his care both during his prolonged inpatient stay and now following him up in my kidney clinic since February 2020.
“I look forward to seeing him every six to eight weeks in my clinic. My happiness knew no bounds when I first saw him walk to the clinic with a stick in March 2021 and I can’t describe my feelings when I see him come to the clinic all dressed up and looking so good and better in himself in March 2022 – exactly a year since his discharge.
“This story is truly remarkable and it goes on to tell you that Covid is there, Covid is real, Covid exists and Covid affects people and causes life changing complications, but thanks to the NHS, its resilient staff and its management, we have been able to provide an excellent treatment to our patients and see them recover from it.”
Derek’s piece can be read at https://bradfordhospitalscharity.org/