An insight written by Carol Wallace
THE STORY OF CAMPELL’S FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19
Campbell has lived with a double-sided donor lung for seven years. In the meantime, he is doing well again: His story is told by his wife Carol, who was at his side all the time: First, the good news: Campbell won his fight with COVID-19! “What a scary and worrying time the past three weeks have been” – It started on a Tuesday evening with a slightly runny nose and slightly elevated temperature. His oxygen level was excellent, and his breathing volume healthy, so we weren’t too worried. On Wednesday morning, he felt sick and had an elevated temperature of 38.7 ° C but no cough. So he did his usual cold treatment, Lemsip (UK cold remedy) and brandy while I was looking online for COVID-19 symptoms, the information indicated as very high temperature and a persistent cough. Because we had been shielded for eight days and the signs were not right, we thought it couldn’t be.
On Wednesday evening, he felt worse, trembled, was very weak, and needed help going upstairs. During the night, his temperature rose to 40.3 ° C, so he took acetaminophen, which relieved his pain and lowered his temperature.
Thursday morning, he seemed a little better. He got up, ate a little, and drank a lot. His temperature was still a little high, but no cough. Campbell’s tidal volume was still good. He was tired and took a nap after taking Lemsips. His temperature fluctuated constantly but remained below 38.2 ° C.
Friday he was frail and lethargic. He was sweating profusely during the night, and his temperature rose to 42 ° C, he was sweaty and shivering.
Saturday morning we decided to call emergency number 111 … after 2 hours we were told it was probably seasonal flu because he didn’t have a cough. When his oxygen level dropped around noon, we were anxious… and his temperature didn’t want to drop. After a long conversation, we decided to go to the hospital. We arrived at our local hospital around 1:00 pm, but he was not allowed to enter the hospital, had to stay outside in the biting wind for 40 minutes until a doctor came to him. He was finally taken to the CoVid 19 area through a back door, blood was drawn, and an X-ray of the chest was taken. Five hours later, they told us that his infection levels were high, and his kidney function was low. But his chest X-ray showed no results, and he could go home.
We were reassured .. it wasn’t CoVid-19 .. even though they didn’t do a test because it wasn’t considered necessary.
On Sunday, he was a little better, and he could eat a little and drink a bit more .. but he was fragile and tired. He spent most of the day in bed. The next three days were pretty similar, and thank goodness we had friends who got more paracetamol.
Thursday he lost a lot of weight, and his temperature climbed up to 40 ° C and higher. He was drenched in sweat and had no energy, but still no cough. But then the temperature dropped to 35 ° C! … he became short of breath, and his breathing volume dropped suddenly. So I called the transplant centre, who asked me to increase his steroids, start with his emergency antibiotic, and call emergency number 111, which we did.
After 6 minutes someone answered the phone, and 5 minutes later, the ambulance with paramedics in the most beautiful protective clothing was at the door. Its temperature was measured to be 37.9 ° C, and its oxygen saturation was 97% – this thing seems to come in waves, completely unpredictable hour after hour!
After a thorough check and a few phone calls, it was then decided to leave him at home since he still had no cough. It was safer for him to stay away from hospitals as long as he agreed – of course, he was!
He was excellent on Friday, and the temperature was only briefly increased once at night. The medication adjustment seemed to be working, and he was optimistic about the worst.
Saturday he seemed to be getting better and even had a little appetite again. On Sunday he was initially up and dressed, but then had to go back to bed. He was tired yet, and his temperature swayed up and down, he was still weak, but a little brisker.
Monday was not that good, and he even had trouble drinking or getting up from bed to go to the toilet! He was now breathless again, and he was worried, which does not look like him at all.
He was VERY bad on Tuesday, and it reminded me of what it was like before his transplant. He could hardly speak, did not eat, he fantasized and was at times very confused, his temperature was again up to 42.1 ° C. So I said I would call our family doctor in the morning even if he didn’t want to!
I also spoke to a friend who is a nurse, and she kept asking about his urine volume and fluid intake. She also asked if there were more bruises and if he didn’t recover within 24 hours, we should call 999! She also had a few “strict” words with him.
On Wednesday morning, he was too weak to measure his tidal volume, his temperature was everywhere, and his oxygen level had dropped to 91%. But still no cough!
So I called our fantastic family doctor. He was worried about sepsis or kidney failure. After a few phone calls, he decided that the best place for him was Wythenshawe Hospital. Campbell preferred to go there rather than to our local hospital because he trusted the doctors there and didn’t like them! (Our local hospital was unable to offer intensive care if needed.)
We were warned that he would have to go through the emergency room and COVID-19 protocol, and I would not be allowed to go in with him or visit him. So I packed a bag with everything I thought he might need because I wouldn’t be allowed to visit him and bring him something! Thank God, there are cell phones!
We drove to Wythenshawe, the streets were empty, which was strange to see, especially during rush hour: the hospital parking lot was vacant: but there was a tent with donated goods for National Health Service workers, which was beautiful to see!
I called the number we were supposed to call and had to stay in the car. After a few minutes, a nurse with protective clothing came to the car and offered Campbell a wheelchair, but Campbell, as he is, said he would go if it weren’t so far the nurse carried his bag for him as he couldn’t do it.
I want to be honest, and I cried on the way home. I knew he was worried and scared. And I couldn’t be with him.
A few hours later, the chest X-ray showed COVID-19 damage. He was given oxygen and intravenous antibiotics, the transplant team adapted anti-rejection drugs, and he was in a separate room. A COVID-19 test was done, but since it was day 18 after the first symptoms appeared, the result was negative. But all the signs, including the X-rays, showed that he had it.
Two days of infusions and he was much better, and he wanted to eat and drink, then he was allowed to go home. He is still a little weak, but gets stronger and cheekier every day! His breathing volume slowly improved daily, and breathlessness decreased. Time will tell whether his lungs are damaged in the long term.
The transplant team looked after him closely every week by phone, and they were great. We are so happy to have such fantastic dedicated, great people working within the NHS and that applies to EVERYONE – the front desk, the office staff, the doctors, the nurses, the X-ray, the cleaners, the porters, the kitchen staff … the WHOLE NHS FAMILY!
We appreciate your work and thank you very much!”
Campbell & Carol
First published in the EUROPEAN HEART AND LUNG TRANSPLANT FEDERATION News Letter