Andrew Wilkinson will celebrate Christmas 2020 with the greatest gift of all – his life.
Earlier this year, the electrical engineer, from Whitehaven, was seriously ill and put into an induced coma after contracting Coronavirus.
He spent two weeks being treated for the virus – which has claimed thousands of lives nationally – in two of North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust’s hospitals in Whitehaven and Carlisle.
He said: “I wake up every day now thankful for what I’ve got. I don’t really take anything for granted after what I went through. I am grateful just to be here.”
Andrew, 37, took ill at home, one Friday in early April. He was taken to West Cumberland Hospital and transferred to ITU. His temperature had risen and his oxygen levels were falling.
Andrew spent six nights in an induced coma on a ventilator. It was a scary time for his family. He was woken by medics and still classed as critical, but as the days went by he got stronger and more stable.
He said: “I get tired now. When I wake up I am tired and I still get breathless but I am back at work.”
Since Andrew returned to work he has also had a promotion and now runs an electrical department which supplies mains electric to hospitals, shopping centres and housing estates.
He said: “When I first returned to work I felt like my head didn’t work properly. It took me a while to remember how to do things.
“Every day I wake up and think I am so lucky to be here.
“I was recently shopping in Whitehaven and I saw one of the medics who put me to sleep when I went into the coma. He remembered my name and everything and was so happy to see me up and about. He told me his wife was expecting a baby and I rushed into the nearest shop to buy some flowers for him to give to his wife from me. I am so grateful for what he and all the other medical staff did for me. I even got in touch with some of the nurses on social media to thank them for what they did for me.”
News that the vaccine is currently been rolled out has pleased Andrew.
He said: “I would definitely have it. It means a return to some kind of normality which is what we all need.”
Andrew and his wife Nicola have made some donations this Christmas to staff at both hospitals. They have dropped off sweet treats and vouchers for the staff.
“I can’t thank everyone enough,” he said.
“I will be spending Christmas with my wife and I hope to see my brothers and my mum and dad too.”
Lisa Skillen, Sister on ITU at the West Cumberland Hospital, said: "We are all delighted to hear that Andrew continues to make a good recovery and has returned to work.
“We are very proud of the work we do as a team and hearing from people like Andrew means a lot.
“We would like to thank him for his kind words and generosity and wish Andrew and his family a very merry Christmas."
Mark Holliday, Consultant Anaethaetist at NCIC, said: “During the last year the Intensive Care team and staff from other areas of the hospital have worked incredibly hard in often difficult circumstances to care for some of the sickest patients in the hospital.
A story like Andrew's makes us all feel that there is some light and happiness to take from these difficult times.
“We all wish Andrew well in the future and hope that with the vaccination programme there will be fewer people who need to go through the experience that he did.”
Mark Cannan, Advanced Critical Care Practitioner in the Intensive Care Unit at WCH, said: "I was on duty and remember the day Andrew was admitted to intensive care. It was early on in the pandemic when all we were seeing on the news the worldwide devastation this disease was causing. Andrew's oxygen levels were really low and the only thing we could do was to put Andrew into an induced coma, onto a ventilator and immediately flip Andrew on to his front in an attempt to improve the oxygen levels.
"It was after a few days that we began to see Andrew improve clinically, before he was transferred to Carlisle intensive care. I can remember seeing Andrew's video of him leaving ITU, and watching it with a smile.
"It really is fantastic to hear of Andrew doing so well now, and wish him and his wife Nicola a very Merry Christmas."