Covid in Scotland: Nurse who 'nearly died' gets back to work

  • By Giancarlo Rinaldi
  • South Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Image source, PAul Rainer

Image caption,

Guy Heath has been working at Castle Craig for 17 years

In March last year Guy Heath caught Covid and ended up in intensive care for several weeks.

The 75-year-old from Lanarkshire "nearly died" - but says he was "determined" to stay alive.

Slowly but surely he has got back to fitness, and has now returned to work at the Castle Craig rehab clinic near West Linton in the Scottish Borders.

While others his age are enjoying their retirement, he has no intention of giving up any time soon.

Mr Heath, who lives near Carnwath, between Lanark and Biggar, said he had started feeling ill last March while working at the hospital.

"I had a bit of a temperature, so I went home," he said.

"Then three or four days later I was taken into hospital with a very serious attack of Covid."

Image caption,

The nurse spent several weeks in intensive care after contracting Covid

His experience in the University Hospital Wishaw was captured by a BBC team allowed to film at the time.

"I was in for about eight or nine weeks altogether - about four or five weeks in intensive care," he said.

"The quality of care from the nurses was fantastic and the doctors were really good, they really paid attention."

Although he praised the quality of his care, Mr Heath said it was still a "hellish overall experience" which he would not want to repeat.

"I get really annoyed when I hear people saying it is just a rumour and all the rest of it," he said.

"I did very nearly die, I just had this thought in my head the whole time - I am not going to die.

"I was just determined I wasn't going to die, basically."

Image source, PAul Rainer

Image caption,

Mr Heath said he would "get bored" without his work at the hospital

He was discharged in the summer and, almost straight away, began his efforts to get back to nursing.

"I always had intended to get back to work, it was just a matter of building up some strength," he said.

"I started walking - I have got dogs - I walked the dogs but at first I couldn't manage 100 yards.

"Then I gradually built it up and built it up until I am doing about 4k a day these days."

Mr Heath said his employers were pleased to have him back and had offered "encouragement all the way".

Image source, Dr G Putelyte

Image caption,

The nurse works three days a week at the clinic in the Borders

He works three days a week at what he described as one of the top addictions hospitals in the country.

"It is a very rewarding branch of nursing, we actually see people getting better and see people improving, so it is extremely satisfying."

Mr Heath said Covid had not altered the way he deals with patients.

"The actual treatment of the patients has not changed, but how much we are involved has changed because we don't have the same numbers we would normally have."

Strict quarantine measures have also had to be introduced for anyone coming to the clinic.

Image source, Tiberiu Tamas

Image caption,

Castle Craig's co-founder described Mr Heath as "incredibly generous" in his patient care

Having worked so hard to get back to work, Mr Heath said he had no plans to stop.

"I don't see any point in retiring," he said.

"What else would I do?

"I retired in 2000. I was back in 2003 because I need to be occupied. It's just one of my needs I suppose."

Castle Craig's co-founder, Dr Margaret McCann, said Mr Heath had always "gone the extra mile" for his patients.

"He's warm-hearted, unassuming, modest, and incredibly generous in his commitment to patient care.

"He has always been one of those people to step forward to assist the nursing team in a difficult situation and in his spare time has even volunteered to entertain patients with singing and guitar-playing in the evenings."

She said they were "deeply worried" when he went into hospital and it was a "huge relief" when he started to improve.

"We're so grateful that he's able to continue his work as a nurse, helping others, and to the people who helped save his life," she added.