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Case study: COVID-19 patient giving back through research after intensive care staff saved his life

Patient story: Robert Pearce

Robert Pearce, a 69-year-old businessman from London, hadn’t visited a hospital in years. But then he caught COVID-19.

“It was the first time I'd seen inside a hospital since I was something like 27, when I had a knee injury from playing football”, he said.

“In fact they couldn't even find me on the NHS system. It had been so long I'd disappeared. So part of getting sick was having to re-register.”

"I'll volunteer for every bit of research going to try and help."

The virus led to Robert receiving treatment in intensive care. “I was very well looked after”, he said. “And because of that, I'll volunteer for every bit of research going to try and help.”

“There's a lot of research taking place into the long-term effects of COVID-19. And I suppose because I had it quite badly, I’m clinically of interest.”

After recovering from the virus he signed-up to take part in the Post-Hospitalisation COVID-19 study (PHOSP-COVID) at Hammersmith Hospital, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

The trial, supported locally by the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) North West London, is exploring the long-lasting impact of the virus.

"I was thrilled to get lots of reassurance..."

“The truth is I'm a bit frightened of medical procedures and things. But after this experience, I thought 'time to change your attitude a bit and be helpful'. I mean, for example, I absolutely hate having blood taken. But I've managed to do it a few times for this trial”, Robert said.

“I’ve also done lots of physical tests - strength tests, walking tests, breathing tests, any test you could imagine.

“I got to see a whole load of test results. So I was thrilled to get lots of reassurance, which was very nice, about my current state of health after being ill.

“So it was certainly very worthwhile from my point-of-view, but hopefully also worthwhile from a research point-of-view.”

"The researchers are incredibly grateful for the participation. And that's incredibly nice, it makes it a very pleasant experience."

Robert’s appreciation for the team of healthcare professionals that looked after him has led to a keen desire to give back. He’s put himself forward as a volunteer in other trials too.

“I was very, very unwell, I mean, these guys saved my life”, he said. “If they want me to do anything else — take more blood or do more scans — that'll be fine. I'll do it if it helps the research.

“The researchers are incredibly grateful for the participation. And that's incredibly nice, it makes it a very pleasant experience. The fact that you have to give it a bit of blood is kind of neither here nor there, it turns out.”

Robert’s experience has also made him a strong advocate for the NHS. “Anyone who’ll listen to me, I'll say how fantastic the NHS is. In fact, I wrote my entire experience down for my friends and family so they would know what I've been through and how incredible the NHS has been.”

Robert is feeling positive about the future after recovering from the virus. And he’s now received a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I feel very fortunate that I'm well. And maybe in a few months this will all just be a distant memory.”