COVID sufferer who was so ill he had to learn how to talk again finally leaves hospital

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Andrew Watts, centre, leaves hospital after 300 days on 21 October. (Queen Elizabeth Hospital)
Andrew Watts, centre, leaves hospital after 300 days on 21 October. (Queen Elizabeth Hospital)

A father-of-two who spent 300 days in hospital after contracting coronavirus has learned to walk and talk again – and celebrated by leaving A&E on his own two feet.

Andrew Watts, 40, from Bexley, south-east London, was in hospital for 10 months after suffering pneumonia caused by COVID-19.

Doctors at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich said he was “one of the sickest COVID patients we’ve ever seen”.

He was finally able to walk out of hospital after eight months in intensive care and two months on a ward, much to the delight of his wife Hayley and sons Jack, six, and Joshua, three.

Watch: What is long COVID?

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At one point, he was put in an induced coma for five weeks and his lung collapsed, leading doctors to tell his family they were considering turning off his ventilator.

Because Watts was on a ventilator in an intensive care unit (ICU) for so long, he had to learn how to walk and talk again.

When his family visited, he could initially only communicate with the by pointing a stick at letters on a board.

Watts, a black cab driver, fell ill a week before Christmas last year.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woolwich, where Ronnie Biggs was taken after suffering a stroke and is staying for further tests.   (Photo by Andrew Parsons - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Andrew Watts was treated at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in London for 10 months. (PA)

“I wasn’t eating and I was losing weight, but I thought it was just the anxiety getting to me,” he told MyLondon.

"When I was admitted to hospital with COVID I initially responded well to treatment, but then my oxygen levels started to drop and I was taken for a CT scan. That was when I was told that I had a pneumothorax, which is a split on the lung.

“I was on my own as this was the height of COVID, with no visitors allowed, so it was a lot to take in.

"By this point I was crying my eyes out, on the phone to my sister Hannah and my wife Hayley, but I didn’t want to tell my mum or my dad. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them.”

After recovering from a second lung collapse, his condition began to improve and he was able to come off the ventilator in June this year.

Watts was diagnosed with lymph cancer in October 2019 but had successful chemotherapy, and was in remission a few months before he fell ill last Christmas. He spent most of last year shielding during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, south-east London, where Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs was undergoing further medical tests after spending a night in the hospital after being admitted.   * The 71-year-old was being treated as an NHS patient and had been given a single bay at the hospital. Biggs had been held in custody at Belmarsh Prison, south east London, after ending his self-imposed exile in Brazil.  Biggs flew back to Britain last month after 35 years on the run and was immediately arrested. He made a brief appearance at West London Magistrates Court before being taken to prison to continue the 30-year sentence he was given for his part in the 1963 robbery of a Glasgow to London mail train.   (Photo by Andrew Parsons - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, south-east London, where Andrew Watts spent 300 days. (PA)

“I kept thinking, ‘Why me?’,” he said. “It was very hard to stay positive. 

“But I remembered how when I was going through my chemotherapy I was told to look forward, set myself little goals and when I’d achieved them set myself another one. So that’s what I did.”

Read more: Cambridge hospital warns it’s 'ceasing to function' amid COVID spike

Hospital staff including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and speech and language therapists, who all got to know Watts during his stay, turned out to say goodbye and watch him leave Ward 23 on 21 October.

“The care has been fantastic,” said Watts. “But my journey is nowhere near finished yet. 

“Going home is one major goal, but then that just starts another road in my recovery. I started walking just four weeks ago, and my next goal is to walk to my son’s school and back by Christmas.”

Dr Dan Harding, consultant in intensive care medicine, said: “We are all really proud and pleased that Andrew has finally been able to go home after 10 months in hospital.

“He was one of the sickest COVID patients we’ve seen, so to see him walking out of the hospital with his family was a very happy and emotional day for me and all the other staff involved in his care.”

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