An NHS worker has made an incredible recovery thanks to care from his own colleagues, after a hundred-day battle with coronavirus left him fighting for his life.
Pani Kyriacou, a 54 year old NHS IT engineer from South Norwood, walked out of Croydon University Hospital on crutches on 13 July to cheers from dozens of the staff and colleagues who have cared for him since April.
His remarkable recovery follows a long ordeal, in which he was rushed to the Hospital’s critical care unit after falling ill at home more than three months ago.
Pani spent 40 days in intensive care and his condition stabilised, but he was paralysed with an unavoidable condition called ‘critical care neuropathy’ – which stunned his nerves and prevented him moving for weeks.
He was moved to Wandle 2, one of the Trust’s inpatient wards, where he spent a further 58 days in the care of physiotherapists, occupational therapists and nurses who worked tirelessly to help him regain his movement.
Talking about his experience, Pani said:
“I’m almost back to normal and it is great to go home, but I’ll miss the ward staff here at Croydon University Hospital – they’ve become like family. My IT team from the office here have been great too - coming and going to give support.
“I can’t remember anything of the first fifty days after catching the virus - it’s a complete blank, but I have some great memories from working with the therapists, who have being amazing at getting me back on my feet.
“I still have some challenges ahead as my right arm isn’t working properly yet, which they’re helping me with. I’m getting the best care and I know that’ll continue outside of the hospital too, thanks to the community teams in the borough.
“It’s shocking to think what coronavirus can do to you. I was really trapped inside my own body. I’m a fairly fit person and I thought that, if I ever got coronavirus, I’d probably be in bed for a few days. Not a few months!
“I really hope my experience encourages people to take the virus as seriously as possible and follow the guidance that’s being shared. Simple steps like washing your hands and keeping a safe distance from others can really make all the difference.”
His wife Lulu said:
“It looked very bad for Pani but he’s a fighter and I’m very proud of him for pulling through.
“He doesn’t remember much, but I’ll never forget seeing him with his tracheotomy in his neck and his feeding tube. To see him smiling again means the world.
“Once he left intensive care, the fantastic teams gave me hope. All the staff we came across at the hospital gave everything they had to help him.”
The ward leader of Wandle 2, Sister Cathy Anthonio, said:
“I was very worried about Pani’s health but my colleagues moved mountains to get him well again.
“I also want to praise Pani’s family, who were incredibly supportive. They transformed his room to make it more like home and – once we were able to allow visitors again – they came to see him often. All these things make a difference to someone who is recovering, helping to keep their spirits up!
“We’re seeing less patients with coronavirus in hospital at the moment, but that could change quickly, so I want to thank everyone in our community who has followed the guidance and encourage them to carry on doing so to help to protect each other from coronavirus.”
Elaine Clancy, the Chief Nurse for Croydon who is leading the Trust’s response to COVID-19, said:
“I’m delighted to work with all of the staff at Croydon Health Services who helped to get Pani well again. They truly show why the NHS is the pride of the nation. And I’d like to send all of our best wishes to Pani and his family for his continued recovery.”
Croydon University Hospital has so far treated and then returned home 900 patients who had coronavirus.
Photograph: The photograph above shows Pani and wife Lulu in his last hour before returning home. With them are staff nurse Nitindra Sookha and junior sister Anitha Prasanth – two of the hardworking staff who cared for Pani on Wandle 2 ward.
Video: You can watch Pani leaving Wandle 2 to return home by clicking here.