Banknock Covid-19 survivor urges everyone to follow the rules to stay safe

A pensioner who was one of the district’s first Covid-19 patients tells how six months later he is still suffering the after effects of the virus and urges people to take all the precautions possible.

By Jill Buchanan
Thursday, 24th September 2020, 12:30 pm

We are no longer to meet other households in their homes; pubs and restaurants have a 10pm curfew and the message remains that people should work from home if they can.

Making her statement, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also encouraged people to follow the FACTS guidelines: Face coverings in enclosed places; Avoid crowded places: Clean your hands and surfaces regularly; Two-metre distancing; Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.

She stressed the importance of keeping children and young people in education, restarting NHS treatment for all conditions and supporting the economy.

Ernie and Winnie Firh

However, one Falkirk area family know better than most the importance of following the latest guidelines.

At the end of March and one week after lockdown came into place Ernie Firth was admitted to Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert.

The 72-year-old had taken ill over the weekend and, as his condition deteriorated, concerned wife Winnie (67) dialled 999.

Paramedics were quickly at the couple’s Banknock home and after some tests on Ernie’s oxygen levels decided he needed to be admitted straight away.

Restrictions meant Winnie was unable to go with him in the ambulance or even visit during the next two weeks when she and the couple’s three sons, Craig, Colin and Martin, could only track his condition by phoning the nursing staff in Ward A31.

Tests revealed that he did in fact have Covid-19 and, although he was never in the intensive care unit, his family feared for the outcome.

Thankfully he returned home on April 9 and the first thing the grandfather of eight did was join Winnie at their front door to take part in the weekly Clap for Carers.

Although he was home, the retired electrician quickly discovered he had still not recovered.

And over five months later that is still the case.

Winnie said: “He’s getting there but he’s still not 100 per cent.He’s done a lot of walking and managed to get back to the bowling but it’s been a long road.”

Ernie himself admitted that he is surprised how much coronavirus has impacted on his health.

“I’m a lot better now,” he said, “but it’s taken much longer than I thought. Sometimes I still slur my speech when I’m tired.

“It’s a dreadful illness but I’m one of the lucky ones. People really need to follow the rules to keep everyone safe.”

The couple agreed that after six months people are finding the restrictions hard but they realise how important it is to follow 
them.

Ernie added: “People might think that it will never happen to them but they need to realise it can.

“Look at Kate Garraway’s husband. He was a healthy man and now he is lying in hospital for months. It’s tragic.”

Winnie said the couple were recently in Stirling and a woman was going about the shopping centre telling people they were stupid for wearing masks and it was all fake.

She added: “I wanted to say to her that I hoped it never came to her door as then she would know the importance of taking precautions. People can be very arrogant.

“However, we’re very cautious as we know the dangers that Covid-19 can bring to families.”