Buckinghamshire grandfather takes part in COVID-19 drugs trial
A Buckinghamshire grandfather who feared he would die from COVID-19 has taken part in research into the disease.
Neil Mead, 64, spent five weeks in intensive care at Aylesbury’s Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
He is among more than 160 people who took part in the Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy (RECOVERY) trial study into treatments for COVID-19 at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust’s Stoke Mandeville and Wycombe hospitals.
Findings from the study last week (16 June) led Prime Minister Boris Johnson to announce that a cheap and widely available steroid should be used to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients.
The study is part of a nationwide drive by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to research COVID-19 that has so far involved more than 112,000 participants, including more than 500 in Buckinghamshire.
The Ivinghoe resident, 64, believes he caught the virus while in London with partner Cathy Britton on 9 March. He fell ill soon after and self-isolated at home until he was taken to hospital on 26 March. Ms Britton had mild symptoms which lasted three days.
Mr Mead, a builder, said: “I’ve had regular coughs for a while, so any coughing I didn’t take any notice of, but then I felt the fatigue coming on where in the end I was struggling to get out of bed.
“If I was living on my own, I’d probably have stayed in bed and died. It was Cathy who rang an ambulance and the paramedics told me my blood was seriously low on oxygen.
“I was rushed to hospital straight away. I didn’t feel that I was really seriously ill and that’s the frightening thing.”
The grandfather-of-six tested positive for COVID-19 and was taken to the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) and put on ventilation.
Mr Mead, who also has lung condition emphysema, said: “I thought I was never going to speak to any of my kids again or my partner. I think those things make you fight more and to want to stay alive.
“A doctor then asked if I wanted to try an experimental treatment. I was afraid that I was close to passing and said ‘I’d do anything to try and make myself better’.”
Mr Mead was put on lopinavir-ritonavir, currently used to treat HIV, as part of the University of Oxford trial.
Hospitalised COVID-19 patients are given usual care and randomly allocated azithromycin, lopinavir-ritonavir or blood plasma transfusions - all previously used for other conditions - or no additional treatment. Some with inflammation are also given tocilizumab, an anti-inflammatory treatment.
It is hoped the drugs can treat symptoms and help patients recover faster. More can be added to the trial and researchers will make recommendations as soon as evidence is available.
The trial opened in March and concluded that commonly used steroid dexamethasone can improve survival, leading to it being approved for hospitalised COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen in the NHS.
It also reported that antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine has no benefit for hospitalised COVID-19 patients and was removed from the trial.
Mr Mead said: “After a few weeks, my lungs seemed to be improving and I pulled through. I see it as a new life given now and I look forward to every day.”
Mr Mead left hospital on 30 April. “I remember my partner picking me up and my spirits lifted just seeing all the spring green on the drive home through the countryside.
“It’s such an evil disease and I’m thankful to the hospital that I’m still alive because a lot of people have passed. I feel this research is so important because of what I’ve gone through and I hope it helps others in the future.”
More than 11,700 UK participants are involved in the trial, funded by the NIHR and UK Research and Innovation.
Dr Raha West, an anaesthetist and Principal Investigator for the trial at the trust, said: “We are working hard at recruiting to the RECOVERY trial in Buckinghamshire, which is helping us understand what treatments can benefit COVID-19 patients.
“We are extremely proud that we have already been able to contribute to the significant findings for this trial with dexamethasone.”
The NIHR has nationally prioritised 48 COVID-19 studies. Find out more at www.nihr.ac.uk/covid-studies.