It is nearly a year since Franco Palo was cheered out Northwick Park Hospital by colleagues after a life and death struggle with Covid-19.
The father of three had first fallen ill a week after self-isolating as a precautionary measure.
Initially, he had been treated for pneumonia before being rushed to the accident and emergency department where he worked several days later with a high fever and shortness of breath.
The father of three spent nine weeks in hospital but fulfilled an earlier promise to his family that ‘he would be back’ before being put on a ventilator.
Some of his family and friends haven’t been so lucky.
He has lost a brother, an aunt and several friends to the virus and is currently in daily contact with his family in the Philippines where is father is ill.
“Things are bad over there at the moment. There are no hospital beds so my family secured some oxygen cylinders and is looking after him at home. He has been responding well and I ring twice a day to check on his progress.”
Franco’s own recovery has been frustratingly slow but says he is now rarely troubled by the nightmares that plagued him when he first went home.
“I would often shout, roll around in my sleep and wake in a cold sweat thinking I was still in intensive care. I had recurring dreams about having a tube inserted in my throat.”
Franco initially found he couldn’t even climb the stairs and made do with a makeshift bedroom downstairs for several months.
“I still have periodic bouts of breathlessness but things are slowly getting better. I just take it a day at a time but get fatigued easily. I want to come back to work but worry about having the strength to work a full shift. I want to contribute, not just make up the numbers.”
One source of motivation is reviewing the hundreds of text messages, cards and social media comments he received while in hospital including prayers from a group of Buddhist monks.
“It always lifts my spirits to see how much people care and I’m so grateful to all family, friends and work colleagues for their ongoing support. It means so much to me.”
“The pandemic has affected so many of our lives. I just count my blessings that I’m here. My hope is that I can go back to the Philippines one day to pay my respects to those who didn’t make it.”