W Bro Alastair Bates, Al to his friends, is the Secretary of Euphrates Lodge No 212, a member of Metropolitan Grand Stewards' Lodge No 9812, Inspectorate Scribe Ezra for Metropolitan Grand Chapter Inspector John Peters, as well as a Middlesex Mark Mason. Bro Al is a busy man, and not known to complain.
He is a generally fit and healthy 46 year old. However, a few days after testing positive for Covid-19 in December, he started suffering from extreme fatigue and a shortness of breath. When he coughed up blood on 21 December, it was time to call for help. At that time, the ambulance service and the whole of the NHS was overwhelmed and were unable to attend to everybody.
Bro Al and his family again tried to get help early the next morning, and were given some advice on treating the symptoms and getting some rest. They were reassured and wanted to remain optimistic. The coughing had started to subside after all, and Bro Al didn't want to be an unnecessary burden on the stretched NHS. However, with the symptoms returning in the afternoon, this time Bro Al's anxiety got the better of him. He decided to text his friend, W Bro Daniel Field, a fellow Metropolitan Grand Steward. Bro Daniel works for the NHS Local Health Authority in Thurrock.
The messages sounded severe enough for Bro Daniel to give him a call. As he listened to his friend’s voice, Bro Daniel realised the situation was quite serious and warranted an urgent home visit. As he arrived at the door, conscious of his responsibility towards his other patients, Bro Daniel handed the necessary equipment to Bro Al's wife at the front door. She went in and measured her husband’s oxygen saturation and took an accurate temperature reading.
The numbers were bad news. The level of oxygen was expected to be around 80% but it had dropped to below 60%. There was no time to lose, Bro Al had to go to hospital immediately. Still unwilling to burden the already saturated ambulance service, he asked his wife to drive him as safely as she could to the nearest hospital (Queen’s Hospital, Romford) before isolating herself back at home.
Bro Al was admitted directly into a Covid ward and was immediately put on 100% oxygen at 15 litres per minute. He was put on a ventilation machine that night which then supported him for the next five days, including Christmas day.
The staff at Queen’s Hospital’s Bluebell Ward B worked tirelessly. Their course of treatment meant that Bro Al narrowly avoided admission to the Intensive Care Unit where the most severely affected patients were being treated. It was harrowing for him to see some other patients being transferred to the Intensive Care Unit, sadly never to return.
The story ended well for Bro Al, who was discharged on 30 December to convalesce at home. He is extremely thankful to the many people who gave him support, particularly at the Queen’s Hospital, and his family, as well as the friends and Brethren who kept him laughing. But, in particular, he is grateful to Bro Daniel, who identified the criticality of his situation and, by acting promptly as he did, Bro Daniel indeed served his friend and Brother in time of need.
Bro Al wants to share a warning about Covid-19: "This virus takes no prisoners. It doesn't care how old or ill you are, or if you have health issues. If it gets you, you can go downhill so fast. It's truly shocking. I knew I had it, but I did not for one minute think I was as bad as I was."
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 44 April 2020 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 44.
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