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Rutland businessman fights back to health after being hospitalised with Covid-19 and taking part in medical trials at Leicester Glenfield Hospital

A businessman is fighting his way back to full health after being hospitalised with Covid-19 and taking part in medical trials.

Stephen Gannon is asthmatic with a history of chest infections, so he was naturally concerned when news of the virus broke 12 months ago.

He also had first-hand experience of how devastating a virus can be, having worked in Hong Kong at the time of the SARS outbreak.

Stephen Gannon, right, with his son Daniel
Stephen Gannon, right, with his son Daniel

He said: “I remember telling my partner that this could become a major world event.”

During the first eight months of the pandemic, Stephen worked hard on maintaining his fitness, believing that staying fit was the best thing he could do.

He’s a keen cyclist and enjoys walking, so made the most of the Rutland countryside, and even enjoyed a cycling trip to Germany at the end of the summer when restrictions were lifted.

But at the start of the second national lockdown in November, Stephen fell ill.

He tested positive and within 24 hours the whole family also contracted the virus.

Stephen, 61, said: “It’s remarkable how quickly it spread. I didn’t have bad symptoms - just a slight loss of taste.”

After five days, Stephen lost his appetite completely and the family began to worry.

On day eight they invested in an oxygen monitor because Stephen’s condition was deteriorating and on day 11 he was admitted to hospital.

He said: “I was on my side trying to breathe. I went to have a bath but the effort to get out of the bath and then walk to the bedroom was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

“If I’d left it another day, it would have been a very different outcome because I was spiralling downwards quickly.

“It was weird from my point of view though because I felt no emotion. I I knew I was ill but I wasn’t upset.”

When he was admitted to hospital, Stephen’s oxygen had dipped to 87 per cent - about 10 per cent below a healthy level.

Although Stephen remained calm, his family was scared.

Stephen said: “Without overdramatising the situation, my loved ones thought I might not be coming back.

“I could tell my son was absolutely terrified and Cathy had to leave the room when the ambulance arrived because she knew it wasn’t looking great for me.

“On the way to hospital I just chatted to the paramedic and asked all about his life.”

Daniel is particularly close to his dad as they run the family business, Car-Iconics in Ashwell, together.

He said: “We were extremely worried that we weren’t going to see him again. He’s had chest infections in the past, so the idea that covid was on his lungs was pretty terrifying.”

Whilst in hospital, Stephen was recruited into the Recovery-RS clinical trial. The treatment provides a mask which continuously pushes an oxygen-air mixture into the airways to support the patient’s breathing.

He was also assigned to receive blood plasma containing antibodies from someone who had recovered from Covid-19.

The trial went on to conclude that the plasma doesn’t make a significant difference in treating the virus.

Stephen, who lives in Manton, said: “I agreed to every study they offered. In my view, I’ve gone in and I’m in a serious situation, so why not?

“The team at Glenfield Hospital were super-human in their efforts, they really were amazing.

“Even though I was very ill, I could see how fantastic the work was that they were doing.”

He added: “I never had a down moment in the hospital. It was only afterwards when I realised how lucky I was to be home.”

Stephen was reunited with his family – fiancée Cathy, and children, Daniel and Leonie, 10 days after being admitted to hospital but faced a long recovery.

He said: “When you come out of hospital you’re not fixed. You’re on this journey. There were a number of times I woke in the night and could hardly feel my breath on my hand. It was really scary on nights like that.

“Thankfully, they seem to have passed.”

A daily breathing course is helping Stephen with his recovery and he often walks to work in Ashwell.

Last week he clocked up 60 miles, but is still waiting to get back on his bike.

He said: “I’m determined to be fitter than I was before covid.”

Stephen is now an advocate for clinical research and will take part in a national study to look at the long-term effects of Covid-19 on patients who were hospitalised with the disease.

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