Coronavirus: Sir Tom Jones prompts man to recall TB isolation

By Stephen Fairclough
BBC News

  • Published
Michael TwaiteImage source, Michael Twaite
Image caption,
Michael Twaite spent 15 months in isolation with TB in his early 20s

Seeing Sir Tom Jones describe two years of isolation at his childhood home brought back memories for Michael Twaite.

Speaking at the Together at Home concert for front-line workers on Sunday, Sir Tom said he was isolated for two years at his home in Pontypridd as a result of tuberculosis (TB).

For Mr Twaite, from Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent, it was an experience he shared.

Mr Twaite, 70, who is currently isolating with his wife due to coronavirus, contracted TB as a 23-year-old.

"I was a skeleton," he said. "I was six-and-a-half stone. I was given two weeks to live. Another two weeks and I would have died."

Although he was initially diagnosed with bad flu, further investigation found Mr Twaite had an aggressive form of miliary TB, which attacked most organs in his body.

This was followed by 15 months of treatment, including three months on an isolation ward at Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny, where he saw very few people other than medical staff.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Sir Tom Jones spent two years in isolation at his childhood home in Pontypridd

Following his stay in Nevill Hall Hospital, Mr Twaite was transferred to Bronllys Hospital in Powys, which is now etched in his memory.

"Wow, that was an experience," he said.

"My room was basically a booth, with a bed and a small dressing table. I was in there most of the day.

"There were around 20 other residents who I sometimes saw around meal times. Some of the older patients were institutionalised, they were never going to leave."

'Grim times'

Mr Twaite said he spent more than six months at the facility and received very few visitors.

"It was like a military barracks. It was boring, I didn't like it, I couldn't settle. I don't remember any radio or TV," he said.

"They were grim times, I couldn't wait to get from there. I would sometimes go for walks in the countryside.

"I may have been outside too often. I regressed and became more ill and had to go back to Neville Hall Hospital for another 10 weeks.

"When I was released from there, I was allowed home and spent months and months at home."

Sir Tom briefly described his experiences of isolation during Sunday's concert, standing in front of a painting of his childhood home in Laura Street, Pontypridd.

He said: "I was isolated there for two years with TB in that house. I thought that was bad then, but the National Health Service helped me then like they're helping all of us now".

Mr Twaite said his experience of being isolated has led to concerns about the mental health of people who are being forced to isolate alone, after his health suffered as he returned to society.

He said: "When I came out I suffered claustrophobia. I couldn't enter a crowded room. I had nausea, panic attacks, I had to leave.

"It took me a long time to get over it."