A Hackney father is thanking staff at St Thomas’ Hospital for the life-saving care he received after contracting COVID-19.
Metin Gakir, 32, was rushed to intensive care on Christmas Day 2021 and is now recovering after a year of hard work and rehabilitation – spending this Christmas with his daughter for the first time.
Metin, who has two children and two stepchildren, contracted COVID-19 in November 2021. He quickly became short of breath and even walking around the house left him gasping for air.
Metin said: “My condition just kept getting worse and worse. Eventually my partner Kim phoned for an ambulance and I was taken to my local hospital.”
It was found that Metin had COVID pneumonitis, the severe lung inflammation caused by COVID-19 infection. As his condition continued to worsen in hospital, it was decided Metin needed specialist treatment at St Thomas’ Hospital.
On Christmas Day he was taken by ambulance to receive extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment, the highest level of life-support that temporarily replaces the work of the lungs.
Metin spent more than a month receiving ECMO treatment while his damaged lungs repaired.
Though Metin can’t remember much of his time on intensive care, his partner Kim has helped to fill in some of the gaps based on updates she was given by the nursing team.
Metin said: “Kim had a really good relationship with the nurses. They were as caring for my partner and my kids as they were for me. It means so much to me to know that while I wasn’t there, the nurses were there to see how she was doing, how she was coping and how my kids were coping.
“Even though so much was happening to me, it was also happening to my family. I was asleep for most of my time there so I didn’t even know what was happening, but my family did and they were living it every day, while trying to get on with their day to day lives.
"Having the nurses and the rest of the team looking out for my family and their mental health, while caring for me, ticks every box you could need as a patient.”
In addition to COVID pneumonitis, Metin was found to have a blood clot which had caused a condition called ischaemic foot. This is when a lack of blood flows down the leg to the foot. Though an operation to remove the blood clot was successful, lack of blood caused the tissue in his toes to die. Metin has currently lost two toes on one of his feet and is due to lose the last three. Without the operation, Metin could have lost his leg.
He said: “There’s nothing that I can fault about my time at St Thomas’. All the doctors, all the nurses were incredible. As far as I’m concerned, they saved my leg and they saved my life.”
Being on life-support for over a month had taken a huge toll on Metin’s body. He said: “Until it was explained to me, I had no idea what I’d been through. Once I was awake, I was asking Kim to take me home but once I began physio I realised I couldn’t even hold my own body weight up to sit on the side of the bed, let alone walk.”
After being discharged from St Thomas’, Metin spent six weeks in his local hospital before being able to go home. Once back with his family, Metin continued his long journey of rehabilitation, which included building up his lung capacity so he was no longer oxygen-dependent and relearning how to walk.
Through sheer determination and hard work, as well as support from his care team and his loving family, Metin is on the road to recovery.
Metin said: “When I came home, all I could do is take one step with a walking aid before I had to sit down and became reliant on a wheelchair. But I’ve come a long way since that stage.
“In the first few months back home, physically and mentally I found it hard to get out and about, but now Kim can’t get me to stay in the house!”
Though there’s still further work to be done, Metin’s family spurs him on to continue with his physiotherapy, even when it feels tough.
He said: “I want to get back to being able to take my son, Harvey-Lee, to school like I used to. His school is a couple of buses away from where I live and it’s still a bit much for me, but I’m determined to keep going.”
Metin has just spent Christmas with his whole family, including 20 month old daughter. He said: “This was Dilara’s first Christmas with me. She was only nine months old when I went into hospital so I didn’t get to spend it with her.
“Seeing Dilara face light up seeing all her gifts was so magical. With everything that has happened to us all in the last year, having the whole family together on Christmas was extra special.”
Katie Susser, critical care recovery nurse lead at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “Metin has faced unimaginable challenges this year after his ICU admission, and it is amazing to see the progress he has made in the past 12 months, through sheer determination, and unrelenting support from his family. We are so proud of Metin for the hard work he has put into his recovery this far.
“We work to support people with their recovery from time on ICU, which can affect people in a number of profound and significant ways. We are so pleased that this year Metin celebrated the festive period at home with his family, and we will continue to support our patients through their recovery journeys, no matter how long this takes. We hope that 2023 brings more positive moments in Metin’s recovery."