A bricklayer whose family was told twice that has was about to die from Covid-19 has come home after 95 days in hospital.
Keith Watson was wheeled out of hospital to applause, after more than three months inside. He is believed to be the longest sufferer of the deadly disease after Steve White was released last week following a 92 day battle.
Mr Watson, 52, fell into a coma, was on a ventilator and spent 41 days in intensive care during his long fight against Covid-19.
Keith Watson spent 23 days in a coma and a total of 41 days in intensive care while being treated for Covid-19. The 52-year-old bricklayer was released from hospital after 95 days
Mr Watson’s son George bought the Newcastle United fan the club’s replica shirt which he wore while being discharged from hospital
Mr Watson’s family were told he was close to death twice after his lungs and kidneys stopped working
Mr Watson, from Kent was greeted by his family after returning home following his marathon hospital stay
His family were warned that the end was near when his lungs and the kidneys stopped working.
However, Mr Watson pulled through, and is now back at home with his wife Sarah, also 52, and three children.
He was greeted by more than 100 friends and neighbours clapping and cheering outside their home in Herne Bay, Kent.
‘I can’t believe I’m still alive, that’s the hardest part to understand. I think about the people who didn’t make it – there’s been quite a few.’
‘I was quite overwhelmed driving down my road. It was the first time I could cuddle my 17-year-old daughter in 96 days.
‘It was the first time I could kiss my wife – it was fantastic.’
Some of the nurses who treated Mr Watson posed for a photograph with him as he was discharged from hospital
Mr Watson went into the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital, in Margate, on March 20 – three days before Boris Johnson brought in the lockdown.
The football fan – who suffers from asthma – said he had felt breathless but wasn’t suffering from a cough or fever, which were the two main symptoms at the time.
However his blood oxygen level was very low, so he was rushed to hospital and immediately taken onto a specialist ward.
Mr Watson says his last memory is of a ‘scene like Doctor Who’ – with people clad in personal protective equipment – and he was put in a coma.
He was on a ventilator for more than a month and spent 41 days in intensive care. Two thirds of Covid-19 patients who have been put on a ventilator in Britain have died.
‘I still can’t believe that I went into hospital on a Friday night, woke up six weeks later and the whole country has changed,’ Keith said.
When he arrived at ICU 3,269 people in the UK had got Covid-19 and 144 people had died.
By the time Mr Watson left hospital, more than 306,000 people had tested positive and almost 43,000 had died.
Over the course of that time the football fanatic had been on an astonishing journey.
Wife Sarah, and their children Madeleine, 25, George, 23, and Gabrielle, 17, were unable to visit his bedside due to the pandemic.
He suffered lung failure but managed to pull through before the virus attacked his kidneys.
It had caused his blood to clot, so at first they were unable put him on a dialysis machine.
Doctors warned Mrs Watson twice that it was unlikely that her husband was going to survive. ‘It did dent out positivity when we were told he was going to die,’ son George said.
‘But we decided to keep up the mantra that it isn’t over until it’s over.
‘At some points it felt like we were already grieving for him but we decided not to do that until he’s actually gone, and he proved us right.
‘It wasn’t until he was out of intensive care that we were confident he would come home.’
George said not being able to see his dad while he was suffering was ‘the hardest thing in the world’.
Mr Watson, pictured with his family before his illness, said is has to relearn how to walk following his marathon hospital stay
More than 100 friends and neighbours clapped Mr Watson when he arrived home yesterday
Mr Watson was completely paralysed when he came around from his coma, only able to move his tongue.
‘The most difficult thing was having to reorientate your life without your dad,’ he said. ‘In normal circumstances we would have been at his bedside every day, but we couldn’t.
‘There was no one there for him when he woke, which was heartbreaking.’
When Mr Watson came to he was almost completely paralysed apart from his tongue.
The virus had ravaged his body from head to toe, and left him without any muscle mass.
He had to learn to do everything again.
Mr Watson said: ‘One of the hardest things is losing your independence.
‘You think you can do things like roll over and sit up, but nurses had to teach me how to do everything all over again.
‘It was so hard, and very humbling.’
Eventually, after more than two months, Mr Watson was moved to Kent and Canterbury Hospital to undergo therapy to help him walk again.
‘The NHS staff are absolutely amazing,’ he said. ‘They were worked off their feet. We need to give them pay rises after this, they deserve every penny.
‘I think we should have gone into lockdown earlier, I think it could have saved lives.’
Fortunately at the hospital in Canterbury he had a window by his bed, so his family would come and wave to him from outside.
And the 95 days Mr Watson spent in hospital due to Covid-19 appears to be a record.
Steve White, 56, from Herefordshire, and Donna Morgan, from West Sussex, both spent 92 days inside.
George said when he returned home ‘it was very overwhelming’.
Friends had hung posters up, and emotional videos show people clapping and cheering.
Despite likely being off work for a year, Keith has already started walking independently.
The football fan chose to wear the Newcastle United top George had given him to leave the hospital.
The pair are dedicated supporters, and travel across the country to see their beloved club.
George even got the nurse to whisper in his ear – when he was in a coma – that the Saudi Arabian investment fund were in talks to buy the club.
‘We hoped it might get through and give him some extra motivation,’ George joked.
‘He had to wake up, he couldn’t miss it.’