Ipoh-born nurse glad to be alive after 43 days in a coma

From Britain: Khor with his close friend Linda Leake, a former surgical nurse at the Southend Hospital.
PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

PETALING JAYA - An Ipoh-born nurse in Britain who made a "miraculous" recovery from Covid-19, has shared that he was in a coma for 43 days at one point.

Felix Khor, 68, was admitted to the Southend Hospital at the height of the lockdown in the United Kingdom and spent 43 days on a ventilator in the intensive care unit of the public hospital where he had worked for more than 15 years.

He was previously the hospital resuscitation officer but he voluntarily came out of retirement and returned to the hospital's emergency department to help other frontliners in their battle against the Covid-19.

"On the last day of March, I was working at the emergency department. There were a lot of people on that day.

"Suddenly, I felt very cold. So, I asked one of my colleagues to check my temperature and it was 38.4°C, which was quite high.

"He advised me to go home and self-isolate," he recounted in a phone interview.

Khor said he took paracetamol every six hours but his body temperature kept going up.

"The next day I had a consultant doctor do a check on me, including my heart rate. It was all right. However, the X-ray showed some changes in my lungs.

"The consultant doctor said that I could have contracted Covid-19, which at that point was a new disease, " he said, adding that he was told to go home and rest and take some medicine.

"On April 1, I felt very ill. I was rushed to the emergency department in an ambulance.

"By the time I reach the emergency room, I become drowsy and unconscious. They put me on a ventilator and I was in a coma for 43 days," he said.

When he woke up eventually, he felt slightly confused.

"And when I got gradually better, they sent me to the respiratory unit," he said.

Khor recounted that at one point, he could not even move an inch of his body as he was placed on ventilators.

"It is known that if somebody is put on a ventilator, they could lose about 40 per cent of their weight or muscle. I couldn't even move my hands and often experienced shortness of breath, " he said.

Khor struggled to speak more than two words at a time and would pause before he spoke to others.

"I needed two people to hold me so I could sit up. It was very frightening, frustrating and sad for me, " said Khor.

He admitted that he was feeling suicidal but it was not long before he managed to talk to a psychiatrist.

"I spent an hour talking to her and she told me I was thinking negatively. The psychiatrist said that although you can't move, you are recovering well.

"You need to always look at the positive side. Many others who are on ventilators did not survive or have less than 15 per cent chance of survival, " he said, recalling the conversation he had with the psychiatrist.

After that, Khor was determined to overcome all the challenges and to persevere to recover from his condition.

"I had to go through several physiotherapy sessions, where at first I had to learn how to move with two people holding me, then walk with two walking sticks, and later on without any stick, " he said.

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He voiced his appreciation to those who had helped him.

"I'm incredibly grateful to all of the hospital staff who have helped keep, and for the huge love and support from colleagues and friends," he said.

News of his recovery was reported in the British media, including BBC, which pointed out that "up to 200 NHS (National Health Service) staff lined the hospital's main corridor to clap for him as he was wheeled out of intensive care". Khor was discharged from the hospital on June 1 and is now able to walk.

"I do struggle to walk up the stairs as my legs are still weak, but going down the stairs is fine.

"My friend installed some hand rails in the toilet to help me when I took my baths.

"I would like to get better soon but I understand that it will take some time to fully recover. Some people say it might take a year but it was a miracle that I am able to do it fast," said Khor.

A bachelor who came to the United Kingdom in 1973, Khor said he had been making annual trips to Malaysia to visit relatives.

For now, he intends to get back to gardening.

"I know half of my plants will be dead, but I'll start again, I love gardening. This year has just been my missing summer, but like me, my garden will flourish once again," he told BBC earlier.

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