'I couldn't be more grateful to the whole team'

David Smith, coronavirus patient who has taken part in a thank-you video to mark the NHS's birthday and Thank You Day. He is pictured wearing a shirt, jacket and tie, in a garden environment.

Published on 2 July 2021

A musician and teacher who spent six weeks in hospital with Covid-19 has thanked NHS staff for their care.

David Smith, who is Director of Music at Sir Roger Manwood’s School in Sandwich, features in a thank-you video created to thank East Kent Hospitals staff and mark the NHS’s birthday. This year the celebrations again include Thank You Day on Sunday, 4 July, and the national Big Tea on Monday, 5 July.

Mr Smith, from Margate, fell ill with the virus just before Christmas and was admitted to the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital on New Year’s Day.

He spent three weeks in intensive care and said it was the care of the dedicated nursing staff that helped pull him through.

He said: “The biggest impression was how kind people were, and the fact that I didn’t feel like a patient, I felt like a person.

“There was care, and time to listen when you need to talk. It’s a very lonely place to be when you’re lying there.

“The staff were just unbelievable.”

Mr Smith recalled one nurse, whose words of encouragement stuck with him and helped him focus on his recovery.

He said: “I was being weaned off the ventilator, which was a terrifying time, and I was very scared.

“I knew some of the other patients had died, and she said they hadn’t managed to get through it but I had.

“She told me what I did now would determine how good my recovery would be, and to be brave. And the difference that one conversation made was incredible.”

Mr Smith lost five stones in weight while he was in hospital, and had to relearn to walk again. He praised the physiotherapy team for their encouragement and motivation.

He said: “The first time they tried to get me to stand up was awful. I’ve never been so dizzy in my life, trying to stand up with no leg muscles and the pain in your chest.

“It was a horrible experience and afterwards I was in the lowest place I’d been for the whole of my illness. At that point, I wished I’d died.

“But their patience was just unbelievable. They persevered and the third time they brought a very tall walking frame which supported my chest and I managed to walk quite a few steps and I remember just bursting into tears.

“I knew then there was a chance that my life would go back to normal. And that was the turning point for me.

“The patience and the honesty of the physios meant everything to me – and here I am now, back at work, walking. I don’t even remember not being able to walk now, and it’s not been that long. It's incredible.”

His last week in hospital was spent in Harvey Ward at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, where physiotherapy staff took him in a wheelchair to the hospital’s chapel and encouraged him to play the piano.

Mr Smith, who has played keyboard for a host of West End shows, said: “The lead physio sat me at the piano and asked me to play things for her.

“Emotionally, that was an incredible time after everything I had been through. It was a real turning point.

“I feel so blessed now that I have been able to get back to my life. I actually feel more healthy as a person than I did before Covid and that has to be the work the doctors and nurses have done.

“I couldn’t be more grateful to the whole team.”

The thank-you video also features Jim Beverton, who spent 147 days in hospital with Covid-19, and Donald Williamson, who was given a 30 per cent chance of dying from the virus.