By Finley Harnett
A father-of-two who survived Covid-19 has today thanked his “remarkable” trainee medic son for saving his life after convincing doctors to act.
Kingsbury-based Bipin Parekh, 49, who manages the Mumbai Junction Indian restaurant on Watford Road, began to experience a worsening temperature and dry cough in March. He was assured by NHS 111 operators to recover at home — but son Devershi, 24, a fourth-year medicine student at Manchester University, convinced Mr Parekh’s GP to send out an ambulance after detecting a “crackling” noise in his father’s chest.
After 13 days at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, Mr Parekh is recovering at home after being clapped by NHS workers as he left his ward.
“Devershi saved my life,” Mr Parekh told Harrow Online. “While I was at home, my son listened to my chest and checked my blood pressure and temperature every few hours, night and day — he was selfless.
“Four days after the 111 call, Devershi noticed a crackling on the right-hand side of my chest. He knew from his studies that fluid had got into my lungs, that this was serious.
“At that point, he phoned my doctor’s surgery and told them in no uncertain terms: ‘We need an ambulance right now. He’s not well and he needs to be taken to hospital,’” Mr Parekh recounted.
After days spent in an isolated quarter of their house, away from the nine other family members they live with, Mr Parekh and his son received an ambulance later that day.
The restaurant manager tested positive for the virus, which has killed 277,645 at the time of writing, and was admitted to the north-west London hospital. Doctors later told Mr Parekh he would have died if his son had not acted with such urgency.
Devershi said the family, including mother Mina, 48, and brother Keyur, 21, waited nervously for updates on his father’s condition.
The trainee doctor, who has completed placements at the Royal Preston hospital, said: “I didn’t know if I would see Dad again. “There was one point where doctors told us that the next 24 hours were important for his progress. It got very serious.
“All we could do was drop off food for him outside the ward — wearing gloves of course — but I don’t think he could eat more than two bites, he was in such a bad way.” Meanwhile, Mr Parekh, who suffers from Type 2 Diabetes, underwent an extraordinary ordeal.
He and others would scream uncontrollably in the night due to chest pain, Mr Parekh said. He saw bodies being wheeled out of the ward and had hallucinations of family members.
Yet on April 4, Mr Parekh had weaned off ventilation support to such an extent that doctors could discharge him. “The Northwick Park Hospital staff are the best in the world,” Mr Parekh said, “the best hospital ever. They were like angels sent from heaven. I cannot praise them enough, they were second to none.”
He’s already planning to offer a meal on the house to the NHS nurses and doctors who treated him at Mumbai Junction, which is owned by Mina and sister-in-law Mayuri, 46.
And what of his heroic son, Devershi? “I’ve always loved my son, that hasn’t changed,” Mr Parekh said. “But what he did was remarkable. The respect I have for him now, the admiration I have for what he did — he’s fantastic. He brings tears to my eyes when I see him.”
Despite struggling with breathlessness today, Mr Parekh is slowly on the mend. Doctors have told him it could be eight to nine months before he makes a full recovery. But Devershi is keeping a close eye on him before his studies in Manchester resume.
“I don’t deserve more credit than the people at the hospital,” he said. “I played a crucial part in getting him admitted, sure, but they’re the ones who took care of him.
“As a trainee doctor, what we’ve been through has taught me to appreciate the suffering that patients and their families go through.
“When I was in hospital during my placement, maybe I didn’t have the empathy for patients that I should have — I had never seen someone close to me suffer before. But after this, I will never forget the importance of being empathetic as a doctor.”
As the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed 269 more reported deaths today, and following reports of people flouting the lockdown rules to enjoy the bank holiday sunshine, the pair urged the public to follow the government guidelines.
Anyone can catch the virus, young or old, Mr Parekh explained, and even for survivors, the path to recovery is a long and difficult one.
It can still take Mr Parekh up to an hour to go to the bathroom and back.
But despite all the suffering Mr Parekh and his family have been through, has his battle with Covid-19 changed his outlook on life for the better? “It has already,” Mr Parekh said. “Money doesn’t matter to me at all now. Just happiness. Going on expensive holidays, getting flashy cars — it’s all a load of rubbish.
“Being happy, having a meal with the family, having a laugh — that’s all you need in life.”
(Featured image: Bipin Parekh and son Devershi at home in Kingsbury on May 10 2020 (Credit: Parekh family)