‘I hope Boris recovers soon. Intensive care was my darkest moment’

Faiz Ilyas, 24, second year structural engineering student at University of Bradford, Labour parish councillor and part time taxi driver, tells of his ordeal in intensive care after contracting coronavirus:

“I was told I was the first patient from Bradford with coronavirus to be put into Intensive Care and to be honest it was my darkest moment. It was a really terrifying experience.

“For me it started one Sunday evening in mid-March when I came home with a really high temperature. I’ve had fevers before, obviously, but this one was different. 

“I told my family and we decided to self-isolate; me, my mum and dad and my sister. A few days later my mum and my sister had recovered, but me and my dad, who’s 53, still weren’t feeling well, so my mum called for an ambulance.

“I had a really high temperature and though I wasn’t breathless at that point, my dad was. He was taken into hospital, but came back three days later, after he started doing much better.

“By the next Sunday my mum could see I still wasn’t doing well at all so she again called for an ambulance and they took me into the Accident & Emergency department at Bradford Royal Infirmary. 

“From there I was moved onto the Coronavirus Positive Ward, where they tried to insert lots of wires into me to monitor my condition. They were really struggling to insert them – I think four different doctors tried – because my arteries had collapsed. That’s when they said they had to move me into the Intensive Care Unit.

“At the same time my temperature was sky rocketing to around 39/40C. The nurses kept putting cold wet towels on and giving me paracetamol in an attempt to bring it under control.

“But the worst moment came when they put me on a breathing machine to help with my breathlessness. It was a face mask which forced oxygen into my lungs. I was on there for 12 hours straight and it was really exhausting, because everytime I tried to breathe out naturally it was pushing oxygen back down into my lungs.

“That was an awful experience. Not having any family around me because of the restrictions on visiting people with coronavirus I felt really alone. If it hadn’t been for the nurses I don’t know how I would have got through it.

“They were the only comfort I had during those days. They would come into the unit and hold my hand and encourage me to keep going. I’d watch them putting on their protective equipment before coming into the unit. It would take them 15 to 20 minutes to do just that, every time. They were absolutely amazing.

“When they finally took me out of ICU after five days and put me back onto the coronavirus ward I was so happy. It was a real milestone for me and then to see my family again was just brilliant. After three days on the ward I went home again and I’ve been doing well since then. 

“I don’t have any underlying health conditions so it was surprising to me that I suffered as much as I did. One of the strangest things was that as well as the high temperature and breathlessness, it gave me this sensation not of losing my sense of smell, but of smelling burning oil in my mouth all the time.

“After what I went through I know how Boris Johnson and his family must be feeling. I hope he gets well soon. It’s a horrible, horrible thing.

“To people who are in ICUs around the country fighting this now, I’d say stay strong. There’s a lot more people recovering from this than there are dying from it, so stay positive.

“And I’d say the same to their families. Stay positive and hopefully it will work out. If you can send your loved ones a message or photo on their phones, because I know that really helped me to get messages from my family and to know they were praying for me.

“The NHS staff who looked after me were all so brilliant. I can’t thank them enough really and I want them all to stay safe. I really would urge everyone to stay at home, stay safe and follow the Government’s advice to beat this thing. It was really frightening and I’m so glad to be back home safe and well.”


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