Banknock grandfather thanks NHS and community for care and support

A grateful Banknock family have thanked the NHS for helping their loved one fight back after the 72-year-old contracted coronavirus.

By Jill Buchanan
Thursday, 16th April 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th April 2020, 5:44 pm

They have also praised the Banknock community for all the support it has given over the last few weeks.

Ernie Firth  was rushed to Forth Valley Royal Hospital on Monday, March 30, after he developed breathing problems.

Frantic wife Winnie (67) had phoned her GP after her husband of almost 44 years became unwell over the weekend.

Sign up to our daily The Falkirk Herald Today newsletter

The couple were already self isolating as they had been on a short holiday in Benidorm – although doctors have said that it is unlikely that Ernie contracted coronavirus while there – and they didn’t want to take any risks with their family.

Winnie explained: “Ernie had been fine and then at the weekend he was complaining about being freezing cold. He wanted to go to bed and that set the alarm bells ringing as he is never ill.

“I gave him a hot water bottle, a hot drink and two paracetamol and he went to sleep.

“On the Sunday he seemed a bit better and got up, washed and dressed. But by the afternoon he was again complaining of being cold and his lips were turning blue.”

When the retired electrician was no better the next day, she called their GP’s surgery and asked to speak to a doctor.

“They phoned me back about 90 minutes later and I described his symptoms. They said that I was to contact the hub in Grangemouth but it might be a two hour wait before anyone got back to me.

“I did that but by this time the sound of his breathing was really scaring me.

“When I spoke to my son on the phone he said to call for an ambulance straight away.

“I dialled 999 and the operator was so lovely and helpful. While I was telling her Ernie’s symptoms she interrupted and asked ‘is that him in the background?’ as she heard him struggling to breathe.

“When I said yes, she said ‘help is on its way’.”

An ambulance was quickly outside their home in Ballinkier Avenue and the two paramedics wearing personal protection equipment (PPE) initially spoke to them from the street before coming into the house.

Winnie added: “They hooked him up to an oxygen machine which showed his levels were really low. While they were here the Grangemouth hub phoned me back and I let them speak to the paramedics, who were both amazing, and they said that they were taking him to hospital right away.”

Restrictions meant Winnie couldn’t accompany her husband and she, together with the couple’s three sons, Craig, Colin and Martin, had to rely on phoning the hospital to find out how he was and what treatment he was receiving.

He was eventually in Ward A31 at the Larbert hospital and it was two days after he was admitted that tests confirmed he was positive for COVID-19.

“Thankfully he never had to go to intensive care but it was very worrying, especially as we couldn’t see him for ourselves,” said Winnie.

I used to apologise when I phoned but the staff were wonderful and said it was quite all right.

“Although he had taken his mobile phone in with him he was struggling to use it as he was so weak.”

Around 7.30pm last Thursday the grandfather of eight was brought home by patient transport to his relieved wife.

And one of the first things he did was to join Winnie at the front door of their home at 8pm to take part in Clap for Carers to thank all the NHS staff and carers for what they do.

His wife added: “It was very emotional because when all they neighbours in the street saw Ernie they started clapping and cheering him.”

She said her husband hasn’t fully recovered but will hopefully gain more strength each day.

Winnie added that it would be a while yet until Ernie, who was captain of 1st Haggs Boys’ Brigade company for over 30 years and is the current president of the Falkirk & District Battalion, can resume all his usual activities.

“We are all just so glad that he has come through this and we will never be able to thank the NHS staff for all that they did to bring him home to 
“The people of Banknock have also been wonderful – complete strangers have been passing on messages of support and everyone has been so kind.

“We will never be able to repay them for their kindness.”