Wales' first coronavirus patient tells his story of recovery and hope

The first person in Wales to contract Covid-19 has opened up about his story to show there is hope that people can recover from the virus.

Mark Hosking became Wales' first confirmed case of coronavirus when many still saw it as a far-off threat.

He would go on to spent 17 days in hospital, hundreds of miles away from his family, including four days on a ventilator in an induced coma.

On the evening of February 27 Mark received a call from Public HealthWales at the home he shares with his wife and two teenage children inMumbles, Swansea.

The person on the other end of the line asked 53-year-old Mark to"please sit down".

The day before medics in full PPE had been to the house to test markfor coronavirus and the results had come back positive, making him thefirst person in Wales to be told they were carrying the contagiousvirus that was sweeping across the globe.

"We'd been skiing in Lombardy, Italy, in half term and when I got backthere was no indication I had anything. We had a great holiday withsome friends from Preston.

"On Saturday (February 22) in the afternoon I started feelingpeculiar. It was like aching that came on really quickly and rapidlygot worse and worse.

"We were having dinner with some friends up the road and I had toexcuse myself and went home to bed. I felt dreadful," he said.

Mark felt a little better the following morning but saw a report onthe news about Lombardy being a hotspot for coronavirus so he calledNHS 111.

"I did a lengthy 20-minute discussion and questionnaire with them butthey assessed me as having a holiday flu and advised me to takeparacetamol and left it at that.

"I felt worse and worse over Monday and Tuesday and there started tobe a lot more on the news about Lombardy. I was feeling so bad Icalled Public Health Wales [on February 25] and that was when theyadvised us to take the kids out of school and start self-isolating."

Two days later Mark became Wales' first confirmed coronavirus patient.

Mark spent a week in ICU, including four days on a ventilator an in an induced coma.

After testing positive Mark was advised that ambulances would bearriving to take him to a specialist ward at the Royal Free Hospitalin London.

Contact tracing began for everyone who had been in contactwith Mark since he returned from Italy and they were advised toisolate for 14 days.

"They sent three ambulances – I was put into the second witha nurse in full PPE.

"I had no idea what was going on or what to expect. I was feelingpoorly but wasn't really bad at all. The journey to London took aboutfour hours and I got admitted just before midnight.

"I didn't know how long I'd be there. The way the disease worked wastotally unknown I wasn't really thinking of myself but my family musthave been wondering what was going on."

Mark spent 17 days in isolation at the Royal Free Hospital, includingfour days in an induced coma on a ventilator as the diseaseprogressed.

"I was in an isolation room on my own with locked doors and one windowlooking out. I never saw outside of that room. People were coming inwith full PPE on. I was in that room for five days before they took meto the intensive care unit (ICU).

"I was being monitored for oxygen levels and breathing capability. Ihad fevers but didn't feel they were terrible. The problem was theywere spiking and that was of the most concern.

"There was a decline in my ability to breathe and sustaining oxygen levels.

"One thing I remember is having chest X-rays and being told to take adeep breath. Holding it became more and more difficult to do and Icouldn't hold it for even a second eventually."

Mark was taken to the ICU where he spent seven days, including thefour on a ventilator an in an induced coma.

"My wife, Gemma, called the consultant at one point and asked: 'Howill is Mark?'. She was told I was the sickest person on the ward.

"Being put on the ventilator was the scariest bit. When you'reconscious you at least have some control and can give consent andunderstand what's going on.

"I just didn't want to be put out and on the ventilator."

When Mark woke up from the induced coma he wasn't fully conscious butdoes remember seeing his brother, who works in London, on the otherside of the protective window of his isolation room.

"I couldn't talk because I had the tube in still so the only way wecould communicate was with writing. I couldn't see properly so a nursehad to tell me what he was writing.

"I had to concentrate, I just couldn't write, but I worked out if Iwrote joining all the letters up so I didn't take the pen off thepaper that worked."

As Mark started his recovery he said it became obvious that the RoyalFree was becoming busier with Covid-19 patients. He said it was a"traumatic time but also a relief" to be well enough to go home.

"I wanted to get out of there. I got the overriding sense that Ididn't want to take up any more of their resources. I can only applaudthe medical professionals – they had such a positive attitude andalways wanted the best for me," he added.

After 17 days Mark was discharged from the Royal Free Hospital andmade his journey back home.

While Mark was in hospital his daughter also contracted a mild case ofcoronavirus so the family's isolation period was extended evenfurther.

Although Mark is back at work as a sales director part-time he stillfeels the effects of the virus weeks after being discharged.

"I was told it would take months not weeks to recover. My expectationswere set really well. It's time you need – individuals need to begiven time to come to terms with what they've been through.

"Most symptoms have gone but you have to build up against the fatiguebecause your body has been ravaged so much.

"When I came back it was very weird. The thing for me was I'd lost alot of weight and muscle so I really had to build up my strength.

"Just doing anything was hard work for a long time."

Mark is also seeing a therapist to come to terms with the mentaleffects of his experience.

His family have started a tradition of playing music for theirneighbours on Thursday nights to show their appreciation for thehealthcare system that saved Mark's life.

He watches the latest about the virus on the news and thinks a"cautious approach" is the right way forward.

"A more cautious approach is the best one right now – there areconcerns about the economy but I'm alarmed at the numbers of deaths inthe UK still, it's not insignificant numbers," he said.

Mark is pragmatic about being the first coronavirus patient in Walesand wanted to share his story to show that there is hope and thatpeople can recover from the virus.

"Being the first, rather than some arbitrary number, does interestpeople but it could have been anybody.

"I was lucky in a way with it being so early in the pandemic at leastI was taken to a place where there was the expertise.

"I feel very lucky and privileged to be able to come home to myfamily," Mark said.