A father of three who was seriously ill with coronavirus has spoken of his gratitude to the NHS teams who continue to care for him, one year after he was discharged from hospital.
Chikezie ‘Chik’ Knox-Macaulay, 50, spent two weeks in hospital, first at Hinchingbrooke in Huntingdon and then Royal Papworth in Cambridge, including five nights in critical care as he fought COVID-19 in April 2020.
He was discharged from Royal Papworth Hospital on 19 April 2020. Twelve months later, he’s still battling the long-term effects of the disease – known as long COVID – but says receiving the vaccine and ongoing support from the NHS is helping him to improve each week.
“Leaving hospital after having COVID-19 last April was obviously a great moment, but it doesn’t mean you are cured,” Chik reflected. “It’s actually only the start of the journey for a lot of people on a long, difficult road to recovery.
Chik spent two weeks in hospital with COVID-19
“I was very scared I’d die. I’m a fit person, an ex-rugby league player who worked demanding 12 hour shifts on my feet, and ultimately that may have been my saving grace, plus the extraordinary efforts of the staff who cared for me with every ounce of energy they had.
“I’m so grateful to be alive and be one of the survivors, especially when a close family member – Dr Alfa Saadu - died just before I went to hospital, but it has been a tough year dealing with long COVID.”
Chik – who leaves in Great Cambourne in Cambridgeshire - has regularly been back to Royal Papworth Hospital as part of the hospital’s follow-up clinics, where patients who were hospitalised with COVID-19 undergo scans, exercise tests and blood tests as well as having an appointment with a consultant to monitor their ongoing recovery from the disease.
He has also signed-up to NHS research studies including the PHOSP-COVID study, a consortium of leading researchers and clinicians from across the UK who are working together to understand and improve long-term health outcomes for patients who have been in hospital with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.
Understanding the long-term impact of COVID-19
Dr Roger Hall, Medical Director at Royal Papworth Hospital, said: “As COVID-19 is a new disease, it will take some time to fully understand the long-term impacts it has on physical and mental health.
“Clinical trials like PHOSP-COVID and follow-up clinics like the one we hold at Royal Papworth Hospital will be vital to developing new treatments and helping patients get the care they need.”
Chik hopes that by sharing his story he might be able to help other people who find themselves in a similar position to himself, by raising awareness of the ongoing symptoms associated with long COVID.
One year on and although he says he’s only back to ‘50%’ of the fitness he was at before contracting the virus, Chik says both the vaccine and the ongoing support he is receiving is helping him to make positive steps forward on the road to recovery.
Chik has attended several COVID-19 follow-up clinics at Royal Papworth Hospital
“I still get physically exhausted very quickly at basic tasks and am not back to work. Having the regular follow-up clinics at Royal Papworth Hospital is reassuring because I know I am being well looked after and my long-term health is in good hands.
“It’s actually been tougher for me mentally. I have gone through periods of initial anxiety when I was discharged, leading into depression during the second wave, but I’m now getting better in that regard. The support I’ve received from Cambridgeshire and Peteroborough NHS Foundation Trust for my mental health has been like gold dust in my convalescence.
“I’ve had the vaccine and honestly, since having that I’ve noticed such a change in my mindset and anxiety levels. I would urge everyone to get the vaccine to protect themselves and others from serious illness.
“I’m immensely grateful to the NHS for saving my life and can never thank them enough for allowing me to be spend precious time with my daughters.”
Chik on his first day back home with his youngest daughter