“I was healthy with no underlying conditions and a strong woman – now I know what COVID-19 can do to you and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
Mother-of-two Jo Udeze remembers struggling to breathe, as though she was being suffocated, before she was intubated at Walsall Manor Hospital’s Critical Care Unit after contracting COVID-19 last summer.
She was 30 weeks pregnant at the time with her second son and he had to be delivered by caesarean so that she could have the life-saving treatment she desperately needed. It was a month before the 39-year-old was able to hold baby Isaiah who was cared for in the hospital’s Neonatal Unit after being born on 13 August last year, almost two months before his due date of 19 October.
Jo, a teacher, had been “extremely careful” to avoid the virus.
“I did everything we were asked to do, I was scared of getting it yet it still found me,” she said.
Jo had been asked about having her vaccine but had decided to wait until her baby was born.
“Now I know what I know and I have come out the other side of COVID-19 I would advise pregnant women to make sure they have their vaccinations,” she said. “As soon as I was out of hospital and able to have mine I did so.
“COVID isn’t over and it is the most frightening thing I have ever been through. I can remember struggling for breath and that is just so overwhelming. That panic and fear is horrible and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. And my baby was born weighing just 3 pounds just over a bag of sugar really.No one wants that for their baby.
“When I came out of my induced coma I couldn’t work out what had happened to my baby and as a result of COVID I developed clots on my lung. Everything was just so strange and scary.”
Jo is still continuing to recover at her Walsall home with eldest son Elijah, two, and her husband, and is grateful for the support she is receiving through Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust’s Critical Care rehabilitation team.
“Before all this I was a strong woman and the kind of person who didn’t think I needed any help. But the forum that the team runs has been so important to me. The psychological side of things does have a real effect. To be able to speak to others who have been through the critical care experience and know exactly what you mean when you talk about memory loss or feeling so very tired still is important to me. I was always very tech savvy but it takes me longer to grasp things now and I do struggle with my memory from time to time.
“My voice is gradually returning and I have taken up walking as part of my recovery. It is so good to know that the team is there for me if I want to ask anything or pop and see them in clinic because I’m worried about something. That ongoing support, the after care, means so much to me and all of the other patients. COVID-19 has definitely changed so many lives.”