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Covid ICU survivor: ‘I have come out the other end’

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By Fiona Walker
BBC Scotland health correspondent

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image captionTam McCue, 64, took ill with Covid-19 despite never having a day off sick from his work in 30 years.

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.css-14iz86j-BoldText{font-weight:bold;}Covid survivor Tam McCue is one of the lucky ones

I first met him when he was just out of intensive care in the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley where he had been on a ventilator for nearly two weeks.

At one point .css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link{color:#3F3F42;}.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited{color:#696969;}.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited{font-weight:bolder;border-bottom:1px solid #BABABA;-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:focus,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:focus{border-bottom-color:currentcolor;border-bottom-width:2px;color:#B80000;}@supports (text-underline-offset:0.25em){.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited{border-bottom:none;-webkit-text-decoration:underline #BABABA;text-decoration:underline #BABABA;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-skip-ink:none;text-decoration-skip-ink:none;text-underline-offset:0.25em;}.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:focus,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:focus{-webkit-text-decoration-color:currentcolor;text-decoration-color:currentcolor;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:2px;text-decoration-thickness:2px;color:#B80000;}}Mr McCue, who could barely speak, didn’t think he would live. His wife was even worrying about who could attend his funeral.

Fast forward five months and Mr McCue, of Barrhead, East Renfrewshire, is back from the brink.

Mr McCue, 64, told BBC Scotland: “I just want to move forward. I don’t want to go back and say ‘Look at me. I’ve beat this. I’ve kicked its back end’.

“I haven’t. I have came out the other end, definitely. Might be a long way to go.”

The food distribution driver finished his shift on Friday 24 April and, in his own words, “went down like a bag of washing” on the Sunday.

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He became desperately ill but, thankfully, it only went as far as his lungs.

Tam in hospital
image captionMr McCue spoke to BBC Scotland in May while he was a patient at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.

With coronavirus some patients have have suffered multiple organ failure which also affected their heart, kidneys, brain and gut.

Mr McCue describes his recovery as a “rollercoaster”.

He added: “It’s a slow process. You think you can do things then the tiredness and fatigue sets in.”

Mr McCue believes his active lifestyle has helped him to pull through but admits the potential long term damage to his body plays on his mind.

A simple task, such as taking out the bins, highlights how far he has come but he is taking nothing for granted.

He said: “It lies in the back of your mind. As years go on, how are you going to be? Is it going to get you again? It does play on you. It definitely does.

As part of his recovery Mr McCue is attending the Ins:pire clinic online.

It is normally a face-to-face rehabilitation clinic which involves multiple specialties, including pharmacists, physiotherapists and psychologists.

Mr McCue is one of the first Covid survivors to take part in the five-week programme, which started earlier this month.

ICU Consultant Dr Lisa Gemmell
image captionICU Consultant Dr Lisa Gemmell said ICU patients may take between six months and a year to improve.

Lisa Gemmell, an ICU consultant at the Royal Alexandra, described Mr Mccue as an “A-star patient”.

She said: “We don’t expect them to be feeling their full self until to between six months and a year after intensive care discharge and sometimes they might not ever get back to their previous level of function.”

At the peak of the pandemic the Paisley hospital was more than double its usual capacity for intensive care patients.

It is now back to a single ICU but is ready to scale up with 24 hours notice, should there be a second surge of cases.

Dr Gemmell added: “Seeing these patients, like Tam, lifts our spirits and we desperately need that.

“It is refreshing to see, particularly for the difficult months that could lie ahead of us.”

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