Case study: Giving back through research after surviving COVID-19 — Nicholas’ story
Patient story: Nicholas
Nicholas, from Wembley in London, has been working for a private ambulance service for over twenty years — transporting patients across the city. But last year he caught COVID-19 and became a patient himself.
"I was admitted to hospital around the first of April. So you can imagine I thought it was just an April Fool's Day thing", Nicholas recalled.
"I was watching the doctors and nurses trying to figure out how best to treat people and couldn’t believe what they had to go through."
"I was in for about four weeks and there were a couple of touch-and-go moments for me. But I had an amazing team of nurses and doctors.
"After a couple of weeks I was getting better and becoming more aware of my surroundings. I was watching the doctors and nurses trying to figure out how best to treat people and couldn’t believe what they had to go through."
While recovering, Nicholas heard about an opportunity to volunteer in a research trial and quickly agreed to take part. He signed-up to the Post-Hospitalisation COVID-19 study (PHOSP-COVID) at St Mary’s Hospital, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
"They had worked so hard to get me to where I was, I thought, 'I’ve got to give something back.'"
The trial, supported locally by the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) North West London, is exploring the long-lasting impact of the virus.
"They had worked so hard to get me to where I was, I thought, 'I’ve got to give something back'", he said.
"The past year I’ve done about four visits. I’ve done lots of blood tests and breathing exercises — things like that. I’ve also completed online surveys, asking about lifestyle and things."
Nicholas has been very happy to help out as much as he can, after receiving excellent care in hospital. "Don’t forget the doctors and nurses are strangers looking after us. And then they have the fear of going home to their families. But then they come back the next day. It makes you very appreciative.
"As far as I’m concerned they said they’re going to do the best they can for me and my family to get me out of that hospital and that’s what they did", he said.
"The nicest thing is the conversations you can have."
Volunteering in the trial has brought many advantages to Nicholas.
"The nicest thing is the conversations you can have. Sometimes I used to think to myself that I didn't want to say something about certain things because I would feel stupid.
"But I was talking to one of the researchers about flashbacks that I was having and she was suggesting that I should talk to a counsellor. When you speak to the team on this research you gain confidence."
Volunteering also helped Nicholas feel more on-top-of his general health. "I like to call it a cheeky check-up", he said. "Because at the end of the day, waiting to see a doctor can take ages usually. But by taking part in this trial they can find things out about you — like with blood pressure and things.
"A couple of times they’ve found some anomalies and they’ve reported it and sent me my complete history of everything and all my results."
"I talk a lot about the research to people because it’s so important."
So would Nicholas suggest taking part in research to others? "Honestly, I would push anyone to take part in research", he said. "You’ve got nothing to lose, but you’re gaining every time.
"I talk a lot about the research to people because it’s so important. We need to keep going with the research."