Bristol Covid survivor urges locals to take part in ground-breaking new study

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A man from Bristol who came close to dying from coronavirus is urging others to take part in a pioneering study which could help develop new treatments for the virus.

Paul Clements, 59, spent more than a month in a coma at Bristol Royal Infirmary at the start of the first lockdown last year.

Doctors told Paul's family he was unlikely to survive the ordeal but, despite multiple organ failure, he came out of the coma 33 days later.

"Now I've seen it firsthand. I've almost been that person that could have died and I enjoy life now," Paul said.

"The nurse was smiling all over her face and was quite excited. I couldn't understand why. She said, 'You're in ITU. You've been here for 33 days, completely unconscious and not responding'."

When the 59-year-old left the BRI, he said he was "horrified" after finding out more than 20,000 people in the UK had died with Covid-19.

"I was one of the first in," he said. "I was told I was one of the longest staying patients. It was new even for the doctors."

When Paul left hospital, thousands of people had died with the virus. Credit: Family photo

Now a "ground-breaking" study which could help shape future treatments for the virus is recruiting participants in Bristol, and sufferers like Paul are asking as many people as possible to come forward.

Eligible participants - people who contracted coronavirus but did not need hospital treatment - will be asked to donate a blood sample at a temporary site in the city.

It is hoped the results could help experts determine why some people who had the virus fell extremely ill while others experienced few or no symptoms at all.

To do this they will analyse blood donations from both groups of people to see if their genes played a role in their experience of the virus.

More than 8,000 volunteers have taken part in the study to date, but it is now the turn of people in Bristol to play their part.

There are currently no patients with coronavirus being treated in BRI's intensive care unit.

Principal Investigator for the study in Bristol, Jeremy Bewley, is hoping for a good turnout.

"Over the past 12 months we've been caring for thousands of patients who have been severely affected by Covid-19, yet some people who have had the virus experience milder symptoms, or none at all," said Mr Bewley, Consultant in Intensive Care at UHBW.

People of African and Asian heritage are particularly needed for the study, as symptoms of the virus appeared to differ significantly across different demographics.

Primrose Granville, a Bristol journalist and campaigner, lost several people to the virus and described its impact on African and Asian communities as "disastrous".

She is pleading with more people in Bristol to give a blood sample, in the hope it will change things in future.

"If we don't get involved in research, we will have the same thing play over and over again," she told ITV West Country.

"We often say there is nothing there for us, we're not being provided for. Well that is true, but we have to be the change we want to see. If we want to see a change in the way we're treated medically, because there is a lot of inequality, we have to participate in things that will bring this change."

As well as people of African and Asian heritage in Bristol, more men are needed for the study.

A pop-up blood donation centre will open for one day on Saturday 5 June, at which participants will need to provide one blood sample.

When? Saturday 5 June

Where? Leonardo Hotel Bristol Glassfields, 3 Temple Way BS2 0GS

You need to register via the website and book a time slot before visiting. You can also request an appointment at home with a nurse.

The study is open to anyone who tested positive for Covid-19 but experienced mild or no symptoms and didn't require hospital treatment.

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