Coronavirus intensive care survivor who lost his wife to Covid-19: ‘No-one is 100% safe’
PUBLISHED: 17:27 30 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:27 30 August 2020
A man who lost his beloved wife of 44 years to Covid-19 before himself spending seven weeks in intensive care with the same illness has warned “no-one is 100% safe” from the virus.
John Watts’ wife Jeannette, known to friends and family as Ginny, tragically died at home on March 30 this year just hours after complaining that she was feeling unwell, with symptoms including fatigue and breathlessness.
Just five days later, the 67-year-old grandfather of Woodbridge Road, Rushmere St Andrew had himself contracted the virus - beginning what would be a 10-week ordeal in which doctors “didn’t know if I would pull through”.
Despite also contracting pneumonia, spending seven weeks in Ipswich Hospital’s intensive care unit and having two spells on a ventilator - one lasting 16 days - Mr Watts amazingly survived with incredible courage and determination.
He said that, at the time: “I promised my wife and my family that I was going to fight.”
He is also determined his wife’s influence will still live on, donating £600 raised at her funeral - along with an extra £50 donation himself - to the diabetic research team at Ipswich Hospital on Friday, September 4.
Mrs Watts, a diabetes sufferer, was part of the research programme at the Suffolk hospital - with the treatment she received helping to control her sugar levels better and her weight.
“I thought that I wanted to raise some money, however little, in her name because they helped her,” Mr Watts said.
However today, as the country continues to ease out of restrictions designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19, Mr Watts urged others to “stick to the rules” - adding: “They’re there for a reason.”
He believes his “trauma” of losing “the only love of my life” shows the inherent risks of not sticking to the restrictions around social distancing, face masks and large gatherings.
“No-one is 100% safe,” he said.
“We followed the rules from the start of lockdown and we still got it from somewhere.
“It is so easy to contract. You don’t realise how easy it is until you’ve got it.
“You might think it’s someone else’s problem but it’s everyone’s problem.”
Mr Watts said he and his wife, who was four days away from her 63rd birthday, “didn’t realise either of us had got it until the morning she died”.
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He rang the NHS’ free 111 number after she had complained of not feeling very well at around 8am on Monday, March 30, with symptoms including breathlessness and fatigue.
After she collapsed while still at home, Mr Watts dialled 999 - with family members given instructions on how to perform CPR until paramedics arrived.
She died later that morning, with Mr Watts saying his wife’s death was devastating for the whole family.
“She was the only love of my life,” said Mr Watts, who went his first date with his future wife on May 16 1972 before getting engaged on March 31 1973.
Their wedding took place at Holy Trinity Church, in Fore Hamlet, Ipswich on September 6 1975, before a honeymoon at Pontins in Pakefield, near Lowestoft.
“We’d been married 44 years, so we must’ve done something right,” he added.
Mr Watts described his wife as a “bubbly character” who enjoyed listening to the singer Jane McDonald, with the pair travelling to various places around the country to see her in concert.
Just days after the tragedy of Mrs Watts’ death, Mr Watts himself was rushed into hospital with coronavirus.
His memory of his time in hospital is patchy, for understandable reasons - but he says of his survival: “I put it down to being pig-headed and stubborn.”
As well as the promise he made to his late wife and his family, Mr Watts set himself goals during his time at hospital.
“I set myself a goal, which was to get out of intensive care,” he said.
“The other goal was to get home. That was what kept me going.
“Bit by bit, I improved every day.
“They said to take small steps to improve things. Just take a day at a time and you’ll get there - and I think I did.”
Mr Watts still appears to have some of the after effects of coronavirus.
He still gets quite breathless and feels a weakness in his arms and legs. He is currently in the process of undergoing further hospital tests to see whether the health effects will be permanent.
“It really sticks in my throat when I see large groups of people on the news completely ignoring social distancing,” he said.
“I know it’s hard and it’s not good for business - but what’s more important at the end of the day, if people end up dying?”
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