Father who survived COVID-19 thanks 'angels' at Guy's and St Thomas'

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Chris Kuzelewski and his family

A father-of-two who spent a month in a coma after contracting coronavirus has thanked staff at Guy’s and St Thomas’ for saving his life.

Chris Kuzelewski was admitted to his local hospital in April after developing a high temperature and difficulty breathing.

He was transferred to St Thomas’ Hospital a week later for specialist treatment in the intensive care unit.

The 41-year-old spent four weeks in a coma and 19 days on an ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) machine, which continuously takes blood from the body, adds oxygen, removes carbon dioxide and then returns it to the body.

The treatment temporarily replaces the work of the lungs or heart in patients with severe lung or heart failure, similar to dialysis for kidney failure, allowing their organs to heal.

Chris, from Thamesmead in south east London, said: “There are no words to describe what everyone did for me. They have saved my life and given me a second chance.

“They are national heroes and when my life was on the edge they were the angels who kept me alive – I cannot thank them enough.”

This was the first time that Chris had ever needed hospital treatment.

He said: “I had never been this sick before and rang my family to say goodbye because I felt like I was going to die. When I woke up at St Thomas’ the doctors and nurses explained that my condition was really poor and unstable which is why I was put in a coma.

“The first thing that went through my head was how lucky I was to still be alive. The care I received was outstanding and I saw so much hard work and team work – it’s something I’ll never forget.”

After 52 days in hospital and having to learn to swallow, stand and walk again, Chris was able to go home on 27 May and is continuing to recover with his wife, Joanna, and children, David and Sophie, by his side.

Chris, who works as a project manager for construction company Ernest Park, said: “My kids didn’t recognise me at first because I’d lost so much weight. I think it’s been more traumatic for my family because they didn’t know if I’d survive, whereas I was in the coma so didn’t know what was going on. My wife was so grateful for the constant flow of communication from the hospital staff who kept in touch every step of the way.”

He added: “I was cared for by around 100 people at St Thomas’ across different departments – from doctors and nurses, to physiotherapists and even a dentist. I’ve made unbelievable progress over the last eight weeks but I’m still being really looked after by them. I receive phone calls from the doctors and dietitians and I’ll need physiotherapy for some time. I hope that by sharing my story other people will understand the consequences of what it’s like to get coronavirus, and will take it seriously.”

Dr Nicholas Barrett, a consultant in critical care medicine at Guy's and St Thomas', said: “Chris was with us for a month and over that time had care from a large team of intensive care physicians, specialist nurses, specialist perfusionists, physiotherapists and dieticians.

“Like so many of the patients who require ECMO, Chris and others with severe COVID-19 were desperately ill and unlikely to survive without the benefit of this therapy in Guy’s and St Thomas’ ICU, one of only five centres in England able to provide this treatment. We are delighted that Chris has survived and is now back home with his family.”

Last updated: March 2022

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