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First patient tested for COVID-19 at Arrowe Park returns home after 7 weeks

A father-of-two who was Wirral University Teaching Hospital’s first ever COVID-19 patient battled for his life in intensive care and has now returned home after seven weeks.

Gerard Small, 53, and his wife Lynn, who live in Prenton, have thanked all the teams at Arrowe Park Hospital for nursing him back to health.

He was admitted to Arrowe Park Hospital on 14th March after becoming unwell with COVID-19 symptoms.

Gerrard was the hospital’s first patient to test positive for COVID-19 and spent four weeks in intensive care where he had to be fully sedated and placed on a ventilator.

His wife Lynn said: “We last saw Gerard on the 16th March and were then unable to see him until the 13th April when the nurse video called us to show his progress. He was unable to talk but did manage to wave his hand to us.”

“It was a nightmare. On top of that we had to self-isolate. Our days were structured around three phone calls to the hospital. Due to the severity of Gerard’s condition we didn’t think he was going to make it.

“Our two sons were Jack and George, were saying we needed to remain hopeful, but I had thoughts going through my head and started thinking how he wouldn’t even be able to have a funeral. I was looking at his clothes that I’d washed and thinking will he ever wear them again.”

Thankfully, Gerard fought the odds and his condition started to improve. When he left intensive care the hospital staff lined up and clapped.

He said: “At the time I wasn’t really aware that I’d had COVID-19.

“I got the shock of my life when I came out and everybody was lined up .It was an amazing feeling. Everyone was so made up saying I had beaten it and I was the first one to do it in the hospital. I knew then I was on the road to recovery.”

While in intensive care, a nurse placed a knitted crocheted heart on Gerard’s pillow and one was posted out to Lynn, as a way of helping them to feel connected with each other.

Gerard said: “The idea was that when I came home the hearts would be reunited and they are now together on our mantelpiece.”

He spent further weeks on Ward 32 receiving physiotherapy where he had to regain his ability to walk with the support of physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

On his final day, he was presented with a cake with seven candles for each week he had been in hospital. He also received a guard of honour by hospital staff, from the ward through to the hospital entrance, as he managed to walk outside to greet his family for the first time in seven weeks. His neighbours also had banners up and cheered him when he got home.

Gerard said: “I was determined to  recover and tried my hardest to show everyone that I was worth saving.

“All the staff were just fantastic. They saved my life. The level of care I got from the moment I entered the hospital was fantastic. Arrowe Park is a wonderful hospital and I can’t thank them enough.”

Hazel Richards, Chief Nurse, at Wirral University Teaching Hospital said: “We are very proud of all our staff who worked together to get Gerard well enough to go back to his family and resume his life again. Helping people get better is what motivates us day in day out and seeing the impact on patients and families spurs us on even more.”

Avid Everton FC fan Gerard also received messages of support from Blues’ legends Ian Snodin, Kevin Ratcliffe as well as Peter Reid and boxer Tony Bellew during his recovery. He said: “I’ve had so many messages. Everyone was rooting for me.”

Everton Club Ambassador Ian Snodin, said: "It's great to hear this really good news,

“Alongside fellow Ambassadors Graeme Sharp and Graham Stuart, we have all made numerous phone calls and sent messages of support to fans who have been having a difficult time.

“I spoke to Gerard a couple of weeks ago and he told me how he'd been struggling, so I am delighted that he's come through it all and he's on the mend."

Gerard is now looking forward to his 30th wedding anniversary in August and to enjoying life.

He added: “I’m just thankful that I’m here; I’ve learned not to take things for granted and to enjoy every moment.”