Black Country Covid survivor relieved to see Christmas as recovery continues after intensive care fight

One of the first people in the UK to be struck down with coronavirus has spoken of his relief at being with his family for Christmas, adding: "I feel blessed."

Paul with his daughter Jo
Paul with his daughter Jo

Paul Snookes battled for his life for six weeks after contracting Covid-19 during the beginning of the pandemic in March.

The 59-year-old from Oldbury spent three weeks on a ventilator and was critically ill – both he and his his family thought he wouldn't survive.

But nine months later, the father-of-three is back enjoying life at home with his wife Jen and has even started a phased return back to work.

He has described how Covid "scarred" his year but said that it had made him realise that his family was "number one".

He said: "I'm so much better than I was. It's been nearly nine months now and I've only just returned back to work. We try not to dwell too much on the past, it's been a very dark time.

Paul Snookes (left, before contracting the virus) was applauded home after spending six weeks in hospital with coronavirus

"It's not just Covid alone, you have to battle the anxieties of it, the emotional side. I suffered extreme hallucinations after. Thankfully most of that is behind me."

After being diagnosed with a chest infection, Paul was rushed to hospital in March. He had pneumonia and was put on a ventilator in intensive care for 23 days.

He ended up getting double pneumonia, caused by the ventilator and then kidney failure brought on by coronavirus.

WATCH the moment Paul was applauded home:

His family were told to prepare for the fact that he wasn't going to live.

"Covid has scarred my life for 2020," said Paul. "I know people have died from it so I feel blessed that I have come through all of this.

"It's got to be a brighter year next year hasn't it – it can't be any worse. It's made me think about a lot of things. For me, my family has got to be number one. They are everything. I mean, they always have been but maybe before you let other things get in the way.

More Covid-19 coverage:

"I'm not saying I'm any less committed to work or anything like that but I put my family through an awful lot in 2020. The spotlight was on me and now I want it on them, I will make every effort to do that."

His wife of 39 years, Jen, also contracted Covid at the same time as her husband and was also seriously ill.

Paul said "She thankfully was not hospitalised but that's part of my guilt really as I did not know anything about that because of what happened to me.

"She's been fantastic to me. I would not have got through this without my wife.

"Covid has made us a bit paranoid about visitors now – but what I will say is whether you agree or disagree with what the Government is saying, just do what they say, follow the guidelines. We'll be having a very quiet Christmas.

"My daughter Louise lives with us, and my other daughter Jo and her husband live down the road so they'll only be six of us, all spaced out and very controlled. We only feel comfortable with that because we are 100 per cent confident they are safe.

"My son Chris will be in a bubble with his wife's parents."

Paul is much happier and healthier today

Doctors performed a tracheotomy on Paul which helped him to come around from the sedation when he was in hospital.

He was then moved onto a ward at Sandwell Hospital before being taken to City Hospital to recover.

He came home on May 7 and was greeted with a round of applause and cheers from neighbours and family who had come out to welcome him home.

But it still wasn't an easy road for Paul. He had lost three stone during his ordeal, 80 per cent of his muscle mass, as well as the feeling in his fingers and had to learn to walk, talk and swallow again. He had mobility problems and was walking on crutches for months.

Hallucinations

He also suffered with delirium, hallucinations and nightmares.

"One good thing, is that people who know me, because of my experience, they have taken Covid very seriously – like my barber or the milkman," he went on.

"They said they didn't know anyone who had been affected so bad, so they take it very seriously and carefully. So if I had any influence I'm pleased they take it more seriously.

"Another positive thing is I have spent every day seeing my elderly mother, who is 82. One of my worries was what I would do about mom in lockdown but I meet at her garden gate each day, we walk to Warley Woods and we have outdoor coffee at Happy Coffee Man. It's really improved mom's frame of mind and given her exercise too. So that's a big positive.

"I can't control what others do but as long as I can do what feels right. My emphasis for 2021 is family. We all have a fantastic sense of humour and now that the major scare of my health is out the way I'm the major butt of all the jokes.

"I'm feeling so much better – the fact I'm working again is another positive step, I always said getting back to work would be my final milestone and I got there.

"I'm a director of a freight forwarding company, so it's probably not the best time to return with Brexit!"

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