A woman allowed to see her husband to say goodbye when told he had “almost zero chance” of surviving coronavirus, said he could shortly be home after more than 11 weeks in intensive care, much of it on a ventilator.
Sue Martin, 49, from Cardiff, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that her husband, Mal, 58, had survived against all the odds, but the family was now preparing for the unknown ahead.
Mal, the chairman of a recruitment firm, was admitted to hospital on 29 March. In an interview in April, Sue, a civil servant, told of the emotional moment she and their children Hana, 16, and William, 14, all wearing personal protective equipment, were given 10 minutes to say their goodbyes.
He is now expected to be discharged within days, but the physical toll of the virus could mean that he will lose some fingers, and he may require long-term dialysis.
Doctors were “just completely astounded” at his determination and focus, she said. “Everybody in the hospital has been saying to him they did not expect him to survive. We were told he was slipping away, that he was as close to death as anybody they had seen that had then managed to survive.”
She and the children had discussed his potential funeral. “To think we were at that stage, and it was almost so hopeless, and to now talk about him coming home, well we just can’t believe it. We’re just so incredibly grateful,” she said.
Unable to see him in person, they initially saw him through FaceTime, but stopped because it was too depressing “to see him just lying there, lifeless, and obviously unresponsive”.
When he eventually came out of his coma, “it was a one-way conversation”.
“He was so weak, all he could do was blink, or perhaps raise an eyebrow, or nod. He couldn’t even move his arms, or hands, or legs, in the beginning. He had so much muscle wastage from being on a ventilator for so long.”
After a while, with a voice setting fitted to his tracheotomy, he was able to respond. “The day we were able to hear his voice was just incredible,” she said.
“Every time we see him now, it is more like him, he is just a very thinner, weaker version of himself. He’s just now realising how close he came, and what we went through as well, which is quite difficult I think for him to process.”
Several fingers and his thumbs are “all shrivelled up” as result of medication given to keep him alive. “It’s a small price to pay if he requires some amputations of fingers and thumbs,” she said. He might always suffer from breathlessness, and could require dialysis long term. She has been told his hallucinations may last for years.
“So we will continue to take each day as it comes. Him actually being here physically with us will make a massive difference. And we will just do whatever we need to do to get him to the best place we can get him to.
“But we will all be very different. But hopefully there will be some positives to come from it and we will just continue to be as positive as possible and support him in the best way we can.”