'Thanks for saving my life' is heartfelt message to NHS from Burnley man who beat coronavirus after 12 days in hospital intensive care
A Burnley man, who spent 12 days fighting for his life in an intensive care unit after he was diagnosed with Covid 19, has thanked dedicated NHS staff for saving his life.
Gerard Horrocks is now back at his home and on the long road to recovery after spending 25 days in total in the Royal Blackburn Hospital after falling ill with coronavirus.
Describing it as 'the scariest experience of my life' Gerard said today: "The minute I got into that ambulance I wondered if I was going to become just another statistic.
"It was very scary but I have to say I cannot fault the NHS for what they did for me, they were absolutely brilliant.
"It was the closest I have come to death and it makes you put things into perspective and realise that all the petty squabbles and trivial things we worry about are not important."
Gerard's ordeal began two weeks after he began to self isolate at his home after experiencing symptoms of coronavirus that appeared to get worse.
Concerned at his high temperature Gerard's wife, Lesley and daughter Laura rang for an ambulance.
He said: "I didn't want them to but they both insisted and it is a good job they did."
After being taken to A and E at RBH initially Gerard was admitted to the hospital and within hours found himself in ICU where he was placed on constant oxygen using a special hood that he had to wear 24 hours a day.
He said: "It was quite surreal but I knew that as soon as I was in that intensive care unit this was serious.
"Everything felt out of my control and my life was literally in the hands of those nurses and doctors caring for me."
Doctors even told Gerard that if the hood treatment didn't work he would have to be put in an induced coma and placed on a ventilator.
Gerard said: "To hear those words was very frightening, as you can imagine, but the doctors were very open and honest about what they needed to do."
Unable to have visitors or even properly see the staff who were caring for him due to their personal protective equipment, Gerard, who is a well known singer and entertainer, sang all his favourite songs in his head to keep himself positive.
"It was the only thing I could do to keep my mind focused and remain positive and upbeat,' he said.
"I kept thinking to myself 'you will get through this you will be ok' because I didn't experience any pain, but then I remembered where I was and realised I was totally reliant on the people caring for me."
Gerard, who, at the age of 60 has never before spent a night in hospital, had to be given food and drink through a specially made gap in the hood, but if his oxygen levels started to drop staff had to stop.
Gerard described the experience of fighting for his breath as 'like drowning' saying: "You take breathing for granted, it's like blinking or walking so as soon as you can't do it you are acutely aware of it.
"You begin to panic and you are told to try and take slow, deep breaths but you physically can't.
"It's a horrible feeling."
Monitored constantly, Gerard, who doesn't have any underlying health conditions, was given a range of antibiotics but he was also aware that the hospital is dealing with a virus they know very little about.
He said: "There is no cure for it and no rhyme and reason as to who gets it but the average victim is male and aged 58."
Gerard was taken off the hood treatment after 12 days and given an oxygen mask for several days to keep his levels topped up. It was only when medics were certain he could breath without the mask that they removed it and he was allowed to go home.
He said: "After so long with the oxygen I wondered how I would cope without it, like I had come to rely on it and suddenly it's taken away."
Doctors have warned Gerard that the recovery process will be slow and he admits that even the smallest exertion leaves him breathless.
He said: "Just walking into the kitchen or having a shower is exhausting so I have to take my time with everything."
Lesley, who is 58, is taking care of Gerard and the couple, who used to sing as a duo called Pure Coincidence across the North West, have hardly spent a night apart in the many years they have been together.
They are now looking forward to celebrating their 27th wedding anniversary next month.
They hope that by then they can share the occasion with their family including the three children theyhave between them, three grandchildren and Gerard's parents as he has not been able to see any of them.
Gerard said: "It was so difficult not being able to see Lesley and only have phone contact with her with once the oxygen hood was rermoved."
While Gerard was in hospital Lesley was inundated with messages of support and concern including many from Heather Grange care home in Burnley where Gerard has worked for several years as activities co-ordinator.
"It kept us going and Lesley played a blinder because she was replying to everyone with messages and phone calls constantly,'' he said.
Gerard said the experience of being cared for in hospital has made him see the 'other side' of the care sector and really appreciate what they do, saying: "They had to do literally everything for me and, as I am a fit and independent person, it was very difficult for me.
"It's made me realise how there are some wonderful people who are willing to do so much to help others.
"It may be a cliche but that saying about being kind in life really is true."