When Sadie Fountain, 48, was taken to hospital with coronavirus symptoms in April, husband Liam was suddenly left at home, self-isolating on his own and unable to speak with his wife.
Here he shares his diary that he recorded during Sadie’s time in hospital, where she spent more than two weeks unconscious while receiving endotracheal ventilation.
Thursday 26 March
Sadie isn’t very well today. We’ve just phoned NHS 111 (as per advice at the time) and they have informed us that Sadie is likely to have COVID-19. I’ve phoned work to let them know that I’ll be self-isolating for 14 days. I work at Anglian Water as a customer services representative. My boss was completely understanding which has really helped.
Sunday 29 March
We just want to make certain about Sadie having coronavirus, because although she has got a cough and a very changeable temperature from hot to cold, her lungs don’t seem to be affected and she isn’t struggling with breathlessness. She also keeps having hallucinations.
The doctor has just called back and confirmed that Sadie is very likely to have COVID-19. Her appetite is also massively reduced and she isn’t able to eat much.
Sadie and Liam Fountain pictured in December 2018
Thursday 2 April - day
Now the breathlessness has kicked in. Sadie really is struggling to breathe and we’re seriously concerned. We’re going to call 111 and seek their advice.
The NHS 111 service has just told us that Sadie needs to be admitted to hospital. We’re extremely worried. They say an ambulance will be with us in 30 minutes. We live in Ramsey near Peterborough so they will take her to our nearest hospital which is Hinchingbrooke.
The ambulance arrived in 10 minutes. I have to stay at home and wave her off with the paramedics.
Thursday 2 April – night
I’ve just had a call from staff at Hinchingbrooke. They have told me that they need to transfer Sadie to Royal Papworth Hospital straight away. My mind is now torn in two; this is obviously very serious but at least she is being sent to a specialist respiratory hospital. I’m indebted to the staff at Hinchingbrooke for quickly recognising the severity of Sadie’s condition and taking quick action.
Friday 3 April
I just received my first call from the family liaison team at Royal Papworth. They will call me every day and provide me with updates about Sadie, her condition and her progress. If I have any questions that I want to ask they will answer these too, and if they don’t know the answer they will find out the information and get back to me. It’s tough not being able to see Sadie but this call has really helped.
These are very worrying times
Sunday 5 April
Today Sadie was put on a ventilator. This is an invasive ventilator with a tube inserted into her trachea, which means I’m not going to be able to speak to her because she is going to be unconscious. These are very worrying times but I’ve had my daily phone call again and everything has been explained in wonderful detail, so I feel fully informed of Sadie’s treatment. It’s now 10 days since we first noticed that Sadie had COVID-19 symptoms and three days that I’ve been on my own at home.
Tuesday 7 April
It is tough not being able to see or talk to Sadie. My manager at work has been great. He is phoning me each day to check how I am and I have a large, supportive family, too, which helps.
Thursday 9 April
Today marks the end of my 14-day isolation period so, after discussion with my manager, I went back to work. Unfortunately, having got to work I just didn’t feel up to it, but work have told me to take as long as I need off, on full pay. I can’t explain how much of a relief that is and how much that means to me.
Sunday 12 April
Sadie has had a tracheostomy today, which is where an incision is created at the front of the neck so a tube can be inserted into her windpipe to help her breathe. That will then be connected to the ventilator. I’ve been told that this is a standard procedure after being on a ventilator for about a week to 10 days.
Today is my 50th birthday
Thursday 16 April
Today is my 50th birthday. We were supposed to be heading to our caravan on the coast and having a meal with the family but instead I am at home on my own. Sadie is still intubated. That’s been 11 days now. She is stable but needs to remain intubated for a little while yet. Progress is slow which is to be expected with this virus, it really has taken a lot out of her.
I’ve done a birthday fundraiser on Facebook in lieu of having a celebration and there have been a good number of donations so far. I’m raising money for Royal Papworth Hospital Charity.
Saturday 18 April
The fundraiser for Royal Papworth Hospital Charity for my birthday now stands at £1,231 which is amazing – I’m blown away by the support.
Sunday 19 April
Today marks two weeks since Sadie was intubated on a ventilator and unable to speak. We’ve set up a Facebook group where family and friends can leave messages for Sadie so that when she is able to she can catch up with what everyone has been doing. I can’t wait to be able to show them all to her.
Tuesday 21 April
Wonderful news today! After 16 days intubated, Sadie has had the ventilator removed, which marks a huge moment in her progress. We are hoping that she will be able to go to a recovery ward in a couple of days before being discharged.
Liam and Sadie on a video call when Sadie was on a COVID-19 recovery ward
Monday 27 April
Sadie was supposed to be coming home today but they have discovered a small blood clot on one of her lungs. They are going to keep her in and monitor her closely over the next 24 hours.
Tuesday 28 April
It has been nearly five weeks since we first called 111 and nearly four weeks since Sadie was taken to Hinchingbrooke. Today she came home!
We cannot thank all the staff who looked after Sadie enough. From critical care to the ward, everyone involved in her care have been amazing. There have been a lot of tears but they always talked to Sadie and the family liaison team always kept me updated at home. The critical care team came up to see Sadie on the ward just before discharge and couldn’t believe how much progress she had made.
It was an amazing moment bringing her home. There are times when you wonder ‘will she come out alive’ so it is just beyond words to now have her back home with me.
We have our 25th wedding anniversary in November
Thursday 28 May
It has now been a month since Sadie has been home. She still has loss of memory during the time she had COVID-19 and she still struggles with things that she used to find easy prior to getting the virus. For example, she gets out of breath easily and she has been warned she will possibly suffer with post-traumatic distress syndrome. Recovery and progress is slow but steady, we just have to take one day at a time.
Long-term we have plenty to look forward to: seeing our two daughters again; seeing our five grandchildren again, including one who was born just a couple of weeks before Sadie went into hospital; and then we have our 25th wedding anniversary in November, which this year will be an extra special day to celebrate considering the past couple of months.