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'I'm going back to my family': Leading police officer thanks NHS lifesavers after coronavirus care

"You've saved my life."

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Chief Superintendent Phil Dolby is back recovering at home, left, as right, he breaks down as he thanks staff for saving his life

This is the tearful thanks paid by a leading West Midlands Police officer to his NHS heroes after battling back against coronavirus.

Chief Superintendent Phil Dolby broke down as he thanked staff for 'saving his life' after almost a month in hospital.

And his wife has spoken of how the family will be "forever grateful" to the doctors and nurses for returning him home to them.

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Ch Supt Dolby was taken to Worcestershire Royal Hospital on March 29 after showing symptoms of coronavirus.

Days later, he was placed on a ventilator in intensive care as he was unable to breathe for himself and the oxygen levels in his blood had plummeted.

He spent around a fortnight in intensive care, most of the time heavily sedated – as doctors and nurses kept him alive while his body fought back against the virus.

But on Tuesday he was able to ring the hospital ward bell in front of delighted NHS staff as he was discharged to continue his recovery back home with his loved ones.

WATCH moment Phil Dolby thanks staff

Emotions ran high as he told staff at the hospital: "I just want to say to you all that you have not just cared for me. You feel the passion behind what you are doing, it's brilliant.

"You've saved my life and I'm going back to my family."

"That's a gift I'll never stop thanking you for," he added to a chorus of cheers and shouts of 'you're welcome' from nurses and doctors.

Now 45-year-old Mr Dolby has returned home to his wife, Mary, and their three children.

Speaking after their ordeal, Mrs Dolby admitted there were times she expected a call from staff at the hospital confirming her worst fears.

With Government lockdown restrictions extended for another three weeks, she's now urging people across the West Midlands to stay at home – and warned her family's experience shows Covid-19 can strike down people of all ages.

She said: "Phil would certainly not fall into what’s deemed the ‘vulnerable’ category – he’s only 45 and a fit man.

Phil Dolby as he left hospital on Tuesday

"Our experience shows people of all ages can be susceptible to coronavirus so please adhere to the warnings.

“We can’t express enough our gratitude for the doctors and nurses at Worcester Royal.

"Without their care and medical expertise we wouldn’t be welcoming Phil back home. I can’t put into words how thankful we are.”

Mrs Dolby said not being able to comfort her husband of 25 years – and waiting anxiously by the phone for updates on his condition – was the worst part of her ordeal.

She said: "I wasn’t able to speak to or see Phil after he was taken by paramedics. That’s the worst thing.

"Normally if a loved one is ill you can be with them, hold their hand and comfort them – but coronavirus deprives you of that.

“That’s the hardest thing for family and friends of people suffering this dreadful virus, you can’t be there for them and you have no choice but to put all your faith in the NHS staff and pray. That’s what we did.

“It was hard to sleep at night and the days drag on so long. There is nothing to occupy your mind, no friends to speak to face-to-face or hug.

Phil Dolby pictured back in 2017 at a public meeting in Brierley Hill

“The hospital staff are so busy they can’t give regular updates on patients’ conditions – all their attention, rightly so, is going into treating people and trying to help them recover. When we did speak to staff they were always very calm, kind, compassionate and a reassuring voice.

“They did manage to set up a camera when he was in ICU so we could see Phil and his surroundings. It helped being able to visualise where he was.

"It was a video chat facility but it was a one-way conversation as by that stage he was sedated. But it helped just being able to speak to him and see him – it gave us some peace of mind.”

On April 8, the day before Mary's birthday, Phil came off a ventilator – but still needed additional oxygen supplies to support his breathing.

Mrs Dolby said: "He missed my birthday in intensive care but gave me the best present I could have wished for when he started breathing for himself.

“It’s amazing he’s back home with us but he still has a long road to recovery. He just needs to rest and build up is strength which was drained from weeks in bed."

The greeting waiting for Phil back home

She added: "He’s alive and back with us. There were times we feared there would be no homecoming for Phil.

"The doctors and nurses have saved his life – and we will be forever grateful.”

Chief Supt Dolby has been on the force for more than two decades and served as a Detective Chief Inspector based in Dudley for two years until 2016, when he became temporary superintendent.

He was appointed Head of Criminal Justice Services in February this year.