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Family thanks Medway Maritime Hospital for Covid-19 treatment for dad Stephen Browne

The family of a patient clapped and cheered off a hospital ward following a month-long battle with coronavirus had initially been told to "prepare for the worst".

Stephen Browne was the first person admitted to Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham with Covid-19 when he arrived on Wednesday, March 11.

Stephen Browne gives the thumbs-up Picture: Medway NHS Foundation Trust
Stephen Browne gives the thumbs-up Picture: Medway NHS Foundation Trust

During his four-week fight with the deadly virus he was placed on a ventilator and lost 60% of his muscle mass.

But there were happy scenes over the weekend as the 56-year-old was discharged to a rehabilitation centre, with staff coming out into the corridors to cheer him.

His family have now thanked everyone at the hospital for the care and treatment given to Mr Browne throughout the emotional journey.

But his daughter, Claire Gryspeerdt, speaking on behalf of his family, says they are still on a "rollercoaster ride".

She tells how her dad had been at business meetings in London and in Kent before he fell ill - his initial symptoms included going off his food and feeling lethargic.

This developed into a stomach bug, but after the transport consultant's condition worsened, and he spent most of an evening asleep, his family called a doctor.

Scroll down for video of Mr Browne leaving Medway Maritime Hospital

Back row Caroline and Stephen Browne, middle row: Kirsty Farrow, Claire Gryspeerdt and Matt Gryspeerdt. Front: Peter Farrow
Back row Caroline and Stephen Browne, middle row: Kirsty Farrow, Claire Gryspeerdt and Matt Gryspeerdt. Front: Peter Farrow

His GP immediately alerted the hospital and Mr Browne was rushed in, by ambulance.

Mrs Gryspeerdt, a teacher from Kettering, said: "He had to be isolated for 24 hours while tests were done. On the Friday, they said he'd been swabbed and my mum, Caroline, and sister, Kirsty, were able to see him. He was on oxygen.

"I travelled down on the Saturday and was told he was breathless but coping OK, and the suspicion was he had pneumonia.

"I was 10 minutes away when I was told 'Dad's deteriorated' and he was in intensive care (ICU) and needed to be unconscious, or 'asleep' on a ventilator. He also needed a temporary tracheotomy [insertion in the windpipe]. He'd tested positive for coronavirus."

Mrs Gryspeerdt could only see her father in full PPE gear, before her dad was isolated. She managed to say hello to him and could only spend five minutes there.

Mr Browne spent two weeks sedated and on a ventilator and needed a concentration of 100% oxygen.

She added: "At the end of the first week we got a call from ICU saying they were doing everything they could, but we needed to prepare for the worst.

"None of us have been able to see him - we have only been allowed 20-second phone calls to ICU for an update."

But by the end of the second week Mr Browne, who runs a company called Fleet Solutions, was able to come off the sedation and he has begun the slow process of recovery.

Despite leaving Medway hospital, he is now at the Sittingbourne Memorial Hospital, where he will have rehabilitation for two weeks.

He has lost 60% of his muscle mass and will need to learn how to walk again.

His family are still not allowed to see him, but his daughter simply described his recovery so far as a "miracle".

Mrs Gryspeerdt said: "Since he was admitted, so much has changed. It must have been scary for him waking up to see nurses in full PPE gear - they must have looked like aliens.

"The staff there keep a diary for patients on ventilation so they know what has happened day-by-day."

The Browne family added: "Thank you to the NHS for everything they have done for him. The staff were truly incredible and their support was such a comfort.

"He still has a long road of recovery. This is still a very emotional time on this journey for us."

Today, Mrs Gryspeerdt's husband Matt and her brother-in-law, Peter Farrow, will shave their hair off to raise money for Medway's ICU and so far more than £200 has been pledged. The family hope the funds will contribute towards any vital equipment or supplies.

Donations can be made via a gofundme page here

Mrs Gryspeerdt also called on everyone to respect the coronavirus lockdown, adding: "I would hate to see any family go through this anxiety and worry. Please do follow the guidance. If 90% of Britain is obeying, then we just need the final 10% to follow.

"When I get to see my dad again, it will have been seven weeks. It will be very emotional."

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