'My six-week battle with coronavirus is over thanks to NHS staff'

A grandad who spent six weeks battling Covid-19 walked out of hospital to a round of applause from staff who cared for him. Peter Billyeald, 66, spent three weeks in intensive care on a ventilator while his wife Julie isolated alone at home. Fort truck technician and grandad-of-six Peter - whose real name is Brian - was first admitted to the Royal Derby Hospital on March 26 after falling ill.

Determined Peter, of Holbrook, insisted he walked out of the hospital instead of using a wheelchair after a total of 43 days since he was admitted. He said: "When I got back on the wards after being on a ventilator I didn't even realise I had been in intensive care. "I wouldn't have got through it without the fantastic staff.

That's why I walked off that ward, to show that it can be done and I came out in one piece.

The couple are now back at home together while Peter recovers from Covid-19

"From the cleaners to the physios, the doctors and the nurses, they are all tremendous. They sat with me through the night, they laughed with me and cared for me. They're worth their weight in gold."

Peter was discharged on May 7 with a guard of honour and a round of applause. He said he is now "getting stronger by the day" and is being cared for at home by wife Julie. Julie, a Morrison's worker, said she and Peter have never been apart for so long in their whole married life.

She said: "I came home from work one Thursday and it was like Pete was drunk, he was slurring his words. "He's had a heart attack before so I rang 999. He was on the wardsfor two days on full oxygen before they put him on a ventilator.

It was horrendous. "It never crossed my mind that it was coronavirus at first as we have no idea where he could've picked it up from, but he tested positive."

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She said she was left "absolutely distraught" as her husband was unable to communicate with her for the next three weeks. She was also unable to see her two sons Craig, 41, and Simon, 39, due to the lockdown.

Julie, 59, added: "I found strength from somewhere, I don't know where. "You just think the worst, it was a horrible feeling. But ICU were absolutely amazing and they updated me every day on how he was doing.

They were like friends, they supported me so much. "Usually they don't leave patients on a ventilator for over three weeks but every time they tried to take him off it, his heart rate went up."

'My six-week battle with coronavirus is over thanks to NHS staff'

She said doctors told her the safest way to remove him from the ventilator was to give him a tracheotomy so they could control his breathing. Julie told staff to "to what you need to do to keep my husband alive".

After he left ICU, he was cared for on a respiratory ward, and Julie was allowed to visit him for the first time wearing full PPE. She said: "It was amazing to finally see him after five weeks, it was a feeling I can't really describe. "After that day he picked up a lot and started walking around the ward.

The staff sent me videos and I sat on my own crying and watching them at home. "Having him home is absolutely brilliant." * At Derbyshire Live, we're proud to be part of the NHS Heroes campaign, which has launched to make sure all the amazing people of this wonderful organisation know exactly how much they mean to the nation.

We're asking you to show them love by helping us create a living map of gratitude from every corner of Britain. By dropping a heart on the map, you're saying you appreciate the efforts undertaken daily in the NHS. To pledge your support, just:

  • Go to www.thanksamillionnhs.co.uk
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