As many of you will already know, the Fryer family are huge Coasters fans, having supported the football club for several years. AFC Fylde have played a huge part in their lives, with Dan Fryer being part of the AFC Fylde Academy system, while Mum, Charlotte, is a volunteer for our chosen charity, Dogs For Good. Sadly, the Fryer family have endured a challenging start to 2021, with Dad, Steve, spending the last 41 days fighting for his life after contracting Covid-19.
Here is the heart-wrenching story written by Charlotte, who urges her fellow Coasters to stay safe. Please get behind the Fryer family, as Steve continues his battle in the hospital.
Who knew 2021 was going to start like this for us. We certainly didn’t see what was coming. We’d been watching the news as we all have, seeing what goes on, on the front line of the Covid Battle, seeing the vaccine rolling out, seeing the stats going up and to some extent if it hasn’t affected you directly, thinking it’s not real. Trust me, it is real.
41 days ago, I finally got Steve to seek medical help for what he thought was just a bad cold, but I felt was something more serious. Within 15 mins of calling the GP, we were both sat in the car in the car park of the local health centre. Little did any of us realise what was about to unfold.
I stayed in the car (as instructed) waiting for him to come out, possibly with a prescription for some antibiotics. How wrong could I have been? The alarm bells started ringing when an ambulance pulled up in the car park opposite me. The nurse practitioner came to me and said: “don’t panic (understatement of the year) but we are sending Steve to the hospital to get him checked out as his Oxygen levels are a little lower than they should be. I’m afraid you can’t see him, you can’t go in the ambulance with him, or wait with him at A&E due to Covid restrictions”.
I watched in disbelief, as he was pushed out of the health centre and into the ambulance and then started to panic as the ambulance remained in the car park for 40 mins. The GP came out to explain to me that they were stabilising him and putting lines into him, giving him some oxygen and it was nothing to worry about.
The ambulance set off for the hospital, no blue lights so maybe I was over-reacting and it was literally just to get him checked out. Dan (our son) had the foresight to put his Dad’s mobile in his pocket – because kids think like that don’t they. Smart move from the 17-year-old! Steve actually rang us at 9.30 pm from A&E to say he had been down for a chest x-ray, been on the ECG machine, had a Covid test done and was waiting to see the doctor. He said he would ring when he needed us to come and fetch him.
6.30 am the phone rang, and he’s in ICU. None of us were expecting that being the outcome.
I won’t bore you all with the details of the past 41 days, suffice to say, Steve is still hanging on in there, with the help of a ventilator, a kidney filter and a pacemaker. The first two weeks, he was able to sit up in a chair and eat his meals and drink his brews but when he wasn’t eating or drinking, he was totally reliant on a CPAP oxygen mask running at anything from 35%-95%, 24hrs a day. One of the downsides for him was that by being able to sit up, he could look around the makeshift ICU and see 18 other patients, all fighting for their lives. Not an ideal experience for anyone let alone to someone like Steve who has never been in hospital before until now.
Things weren’t getting better over those 14 days. I can only liken the whole experience of riding the biggest rollercoaster in the world, that is travelling through a horror movie. I’ve never liked theme parks and roller coasters and I’m not a movie fan, certainly not horror movies. Every one of the two phones calls to the hospital each day, come with more twists and turns, highs and lows and scary moments. It’s like living in an episode of Casualty with 24 hours in A&E thrown in for good measure whilst watching a box set of Horror Movies you have never seen before.
The toughest day so far had to be when I had to ring Steve and tell him how poorly he was and that he really should think about going on the ventilator to give him any chance of coming through this. The next toughest call was to ring the kids and tell them to call Steve before he was put into the induced coma. At this stage, we were told he had a one in three chance of surviving.
The 15 doctors we have had looking after Steve (they change every 4 days and so far, we haven’t had the same one twice), have all said that Covid is a beast. Nobody really knows how things will play out as each patient is reacting differently. There are no rules. To some extent, the medics are learning as they go. They have also said, the process is long haul and nothing happens quickly. We have to be patient, hope and pray.
He’s been on the ventilator now for 21 days and we were told that he would be on it for a minimum of a month. Since he’s been on it, he’s developed Covid Pneumonia, Kidney Failure, an irregular heartbeat and a dangerously low heart rate resulting in him having a pacemaker fitted.
Every day is full of highs and lows – it can be a high of his oxygen dependency has improved but in the same conversation the low can be his kidneys have failed. I dread making the call in the morning for fear of what they will tell me has happened overnight. If we get a positive report in the morning, the pattern seems to be then we get doom and gloom from the doctors in the evening. We are on edge from 3 pm-8 pm waiting for the call from the doctor every day.
2 weeks ago, he had few stable days where not much change and to quote the doctor, ‘nothing bad had happened for a few days’. However, last night the doctor told me that they are moving him to the High Dependency Unit as he has picked up some infectious bug that requires him to be isolated from other patients. Whilst being stable is better than being up and down, they don’t want him to be ‘stuck’ at this stage for too long for fear of what long term damage it will cause.
The doctors think we are over the worse that Covid itself can do, but now need to assess what damage it has left behind (we already know his lungs have long term damage). He is also ultra-susceptible to infection which would be disastrous.
Last Tuesday they performed a tracheotomy and started to reduce the sedation to lift him out of the coma, but still, keep him on the ventilator. The doctor said he is at a crossroads and his body needs to decide which way to go. He also said he is in a precarious and fragile situation.
Some of you may already know, I have experienced two bouts of anxiety over the past 10 years but what it taught me, is to always try and find a positive in everything. This has never been more relevant than it is now. Even the doctor commented last night about how positive I am being. I have to be, for Dan, Jaimie and Stef (Steve’s other 2 older children) but mostly for Steve. We can’t visit him, we can’t hold his hand, we can’t talk to him so the least we can do is be positive for him and will him along the road to recovery.
Also, what many people don’t realise is the additional strains it is putting on the medical staff. They are having to work in makeshift units for starters. Patients can’t tell if is it a man or woman, or doctor, nurse, porter or cleaner approaching them as everyone is completely covered up in scrubs, PPE, masks and visors etc and looks the same. All they can see are their eyes but no smiles. Patients and staff are missing out on the interaction with relatives as they are not there to chat to them about what the patient likes or dislikes, what they are interested in, what sort of character they are etc.
What I have learnt from this so far is don’t build your hopes up too much but likewise don’t dwell on the bad stuff (easier said than done sometimes), sometimes being stable and not making progress is a good thing. Having Freya our Dogs For Good Puppy in Training in the house is priceless – she gives me a reason to get up each day, get dressed and get out for a walk, no matter how much I would rather lock myself away from the world. Having his and her jobs in a relationship isn’t a good idea either as when the other isn’t around, you are left asking yourself ‘how do I do this’, ‘where’s this’, ‘what’s the password for this’, ‘when is that due’.
It goes without saying, thank you so much for all your messages and gifts. Jim Bentley, Nick Chadwick, Philly and Whits recorded a video message for him which the nurses are now able to show him.
You have all been so kind in offering to help. What I would ask please, is for you and your families to stay safe, keep your distance, following the rules and don’t think you are immune from all this. It’s real and for some like us, it’s a nightmare. If you know anyone who has been tested positive for Covid and is male, please ask them to seriously consider being a plasma donor. Steve was fortunate enough to be given 2 plasma transfusions in the early stages. If any of you and your loved ones start to feel unwell, don’t put off seeking medical help. Early intervention has to be better than leaving the beast of a virus to do its worst.