Mark Fisher is chair of UNISON’s Neath Port Talbot branch and a member of the union’s national executive council. In March, he was admitted to hospital after testing positive for COVID-19.
“I had been feeling unwell for approximately 10 days before I became very ill,” he explains. “I had dry cough, dry eyes, headache, loss of taste and smell and difficulties with breathing.
“I fought it at home, which in hindsight was not a good decision,” continues Mark. “After sleeping on the settee, I couldn’t lift my head off the pillow or keep water down, plus I had a high temperature.
“I gave in, listened to my concerned wife and rang 111 and also my GP, who advised me to call the paramedics.”
The paramedics – who he describes as “fantastic” – arrived and, having checked him out, advised him to go into hospital.
He recalls being concerned about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) the paramedics had (“only a small plastic cover and small mask”) and adds, “One was concerned about me coughing on him and asked if I could try not to.”
Noting that he’s “so grateful for those fantastic paramedics,” Mark says that the experience increased his concerns about the lack of PPE for front-line workers who were putting themselves and their families at risk to treat people in his situation.
Once admitted to Swansea’s Morriston Hospital, tests for COVID-19 included a chest X-ray, which revealed infection.
“I was treated with oxygen, fluids, antibiotics etc, and stayed on the temporary COVID-19 ward for 36 hours,” Mark says. He was later moved to another ward, where treatment continued, with one-to-one nursing.
Well on the road to recovery
After “a few scary days”, the treatment made him better. Mark has high praise for that treatment, by doctors and all the staff, who had their hands full caring for very sick patients.
Mark says that, while he could easily see problems for the paramedics, on the ward there were good levels of PPE.
Staff were incredibly busy, however, and as a “frightened” patient, without visitors, he notes that it was not only hard getting information to his family, but also getting information about what his own diagnosis meant.
But after five days in hospital he was discharged, to continue his recovery at home, with full antibiotics to fight the virus. “After two weeks self-isolation, I am well on the road to recovery and feel 100% better.”
Mark says that he has to pay thanks to “all who treated me in hospital – also at home. The fantastic NHS potentially saved my life.”
He has also been able to contribute to the fight against COVID-19, by agreeing for medical staff to try new drugs on him while in hospital and as he continues his recovery at home.
And if there’s a lesson to pass on from his experience?
“Seek help straight away. I could have avoided a hospital admission if I had sought treatment sooner.
“Please please, please. If you have any concerns, ring 111 or seek advice.”