Wally looks forward to birthday he thought he might never celebrate
Grandad Wally Charlton’s 57th birthday on Monday (20 April) will be one he never forgets and one, for a time, he thought he might never see…
But you can guarantee that, despite the current lockdown, his family and friends everywhere will be raising a glass to this NHS worker and have a huge reason to celebrate.
After battling COVID-19 symptoms at home in North Heaton for almost three weeks, Wally was blue-lighted into the Royal Victoria Infirmary on Good Friday struggling for breath and very unwell.
He was taken to intensive care where he spent the next day and a half on a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine to help him breathe more easily before being transferred onto a ward.
Six days later he has left the ward – to a standing ovation from the team caring for him – and is now self-isolating back at home with Debbie, his wife of 37 years.
He has kindly agreed to share his story and experiences with us.
Wally, who works as head of improvement and development at North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group, started to feel unwell towards the end of March and suspected his symptoms were COVID-related.
“I started to feel ill on the Friday but by Sunday I was totally wiped out – it hit me like nothing else has ever before,” he said.
“So I self-isolated for as long as I could with my absolute rock – my wife Debbie – but felt myself getting weaker and weaker. I then started to pick up again but by Good Friday we had to get an ambulance – it wasn’t a good Friday.”
The father-of-two was rushed to the RVI and into the care of staff wearing full personal protective equipment. He admits he has never been more frightened in his life.
“I had double pneumonia and was sailing a bit too close to the wind for a time,” he said.
“But the staff there were phenomenal. I felt like I had a football team behind me and not once did I feel alone – they never left my side, they were lovely. The support and care I received both in intensive care and on the ward was second to none – they were there for me.
“People need to recognise and realise what the staff in the hospitals are doing; the care they’re giving and the environment they’re working in with that PPE on every day – yet they still had a smile for you – sometimes a song for you – and they made you feel you were in safe hands.
”They were also ringing my wife to tell her how I was doing as she couldn’t be with me. They are just true professionals working flat with their own families and bairns at home.”
Almost a week later, Wally was well enough to be discharged home – where he promptly shaved off his ‘COVID’ beard – but he didn’t get to leave the ward quietly.
“When I was leaving they lined up and applauded me and I thought why are you doing that – you’ve just saved my life – all I wanted to do was give them a big hug,” he added.
“It’s going to be another four to eight weeks until I’ll fully better but I am on the mend. I’m just so overwhelmed emotionally – it was a three-week adventure I’d never want to go on again – but they were unbelievable people.
“You hear and read some tragic stories – I’m one of those who got better and I get to celebrate my birthday with my wife and family on Monday, Thank you.”
Page last updated: 5 May, 2020, 2:52pm