A man believed to be one of the UK’s longest-suffering Covid patients, who is marking a full year in hospital, has urged people to be cautious as lockdown restrictions ease.
Jason Kelk, 49, from Leeds, West Yorkshire, was rushed into hospital on 31 March last year and believes he will “never fully recover” from the disease as he remains in intensive care.
As a type II diabetic with mild asthma, the virus destroyed Kelk’s lungs and kidneys and left him with such severe stomach issues he has to be fed intravenously.
For the last two weeks, he has remained off the ventilator completely and is now having dialysis three times a week instead of being hooked up to a 24/7 kidney filter.
Now, as restrictions ease and the nation takes its first tentative steps out of lockdown, Kelk is urging people to take care.
“Most people won’t end up bed-ridden for a year with regular dialysis and breathing through a pipe but it can happen," he says.
“I’m never going to fully recover from this, don’t let yourself get caught up in the same boat.”
Kelk's warning comes as up to six people or two households were allowed to meet outside from Monday (29 March).
His wife Sue, 63, said seeing so many people taking advantage of the good weather and mingling outside was a worry.
“I think people assume because we have the vaccination rolling out and rates have dropped, that everything is fine," she says.
“But how much of the low rates has to do with the vaccination and how much of it is because people haven’t been mixing for months?
“It could also be the natural flow of the virus and it could rear its ugly head again down the line.
“I think if everyone sticks to the rules as they are it won’t have much effect.
“But it’s when the weather is nice and lots of people meet up outside and people don’t take precautions, that will cause problems.
“I think there’s a lot of young people who haven’t had their vaccinations yet and they’re the people who will most likely want to go out and have fun.”
Kelk first fell ill in March 2020. Having struggled with a continuous cough, his wife called 111 on Saturday, 28 March when he became breathless.
He was given antibiotics but his condition continued to worsen so an ambulance was called on Tuesday, 31 March.
Kelk was rushed into St James’s Hospital the day after Kate Garraway’s husband Derek Draper, who doctors believe is the longest-suffering Covid patient.
Three days later, on 3 April, Kelk was moved to an intensive care unit (ICU) where he has remained ever since.
Watch: Tear-jerking video reveals the special friendship between long COVID patient and his nurse.
While Kelk, who works in IT at a local primary school, is now showing signs of recovery, he has lost more than six stone.
“A lot of the time has been spent worrying about the future and when, or perhaps more if, I could go home," he explains.
“I think the lowest point for me was in the earlier days when I didn’t know much of what was going on or indeed what had happened."
"I've lost hope on a few occasions, mainly because even now the destination I’m working towards seems so far away.
“Right now I feel pretty good, there’s still a lot of work needed to get me home but, when visiting restarts after lockdown, Sue and my family can come in to visit."
Read more: Scientists get grasp on long COVID's cause
But Kelk says it hasn't all been dark moments and describes the nurses looking after him as "wonderful".
“What’s kept me going is the thought of getting home to my wife Sue," he continues.
“My family is what has kept me fighting. It would have been a very different year without them there.”
Once he gets home, Kelk says he’s simply looking forward to some normality.
“I’m looking to go home, sit on our sofa and eat take away fish and chips with Sue while we watch telly. Something normal like that,” he says.
Sue, a former nurse, added: “He’s full of self-doubt - even now. He doubts he can do things and I say to him: ‘Jason, look at what you have achieved’.
“He has been through so much and it’s been a real struggle for him for a lot of that time.
“He’s proved everybody wrong. They said he might never get off the ventilator - and he’s off the ventilator. He might never get off the kidney filter - and he’s off that.
"I just think he’s amazing".
Additional reporting SWNS.