When doctors mentioned the words “high-dependency unit” John Spanswick thought it was the beginning of the end for him.
The 57-year-old Bridgend County Borough Council councillor was struggling for breath so much he couldn’t talk before Christmas and, at one point, feared the virus was going to kill him.
Just over two months later he is well and giving back to his community by taking vulnerable and elderly people, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get to vaccination centres, to have their Covid-19 jabs.
Cllr Spanswick, from Bridgend, contracted Covid-19 in December and was isolating at home after developing symptoms. At first he didn’t think much about it as the symptoms he experienced were said to be “flu-like” but days later he was unable to breathe.
Cllr Spanswick said: “My wife is a carer and she had Covid in November and then I had it. I didn’t think much of it. I thought I would be at home for a couple of days but then I couldn’t breathe.
“The symptoms were just a bit like the flu. This is why I didn’t think a big deal of it.
“We could hardly eat and we were just drinking water. My wife was still the same but I was getting worse. It was getting harder and harder to breathe.”
As his condition started to deteriorate Cllr Spanswick was eventually taken into hospital on December 4.
He said it got to the point where he “didn’t have the oxygen to talk” and was taken to the Covid ward but he later had to be put on high-dependency.
Cllr Spanswick said: “I had oxygen – the maximum amount of intake. I couldn’t have any more oxygen without having ventilation.
“That was the Monday morning. I woke up and the doctor told me what was going on.”
Cllr Spanswick said it was at this point he was told he had to tell his wife what was going on and this is when he felt “really scared”.
Over the course of the next few days, due to treatment, Cllr Spanswick gradually started to get better but he said there was a time when he feared for his life. “I was there for seven days,” he said.
“I was very lucky – others are not so lucky. At one point I didn’t think I was going to make it and then it turned around.
“There was a woman in her 80s next to me on the Covid ward. One minute she was having treatment and the next minute she died. There were a lot of younger people there too.”
Cllr Spanswick said the treatment he received at the Princess of Wales Hospital was vital in helping him to recover.
The councillor said the staff are doing an “amazing” job at helping people and said “people of all ages” were being taken in for treatment at the time.
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Cllr Spanswick was back home by December 11 and, when he was a lot better, he decided he needed to do something to give back.
He helped out in the community at the very start of the pandemic last year and his duties involved doing things like delivering meals to people who needed support.
The demand is said to have quietened down a bit during the autumn months but he said, after everything he went through, he wanted to get back into volunteering and last week he started a role with Age Connects Morgannwg.
When asked how he helps people Cllr Spanswick said: “I pick them up and take them to the vaccination centres – people who haven’t got family near or public transport nearby.”
Last weekend Cllr Spanswick said he took one lady to the Rhondda to get her vaccination and he felt it was nice just for her to be able to have a little chat. She had pretty much been on her own for a year due to lockdown restrictions.
“She was in her 70s but she was on her own,” he said. “She was really grateful to see someone and go out of Bridgend. She was living in a flat just looking out on the balcony watching the world go by for over a year.
“I bet there are many others like that. She hasn’t been able to go out. It makes it all real then.”
Cllr Spanswick has been involved with Bridgend County Borough Council for more than 20 years. He formerly worked as a parks and community manager and is now semi-retired but said the last few months have given him a “new lease of life”.
“I was so lucky and I wanted to give something back,” he added.
He is determined to continue his volunteering and said he will help out with jobs like shopping for people during times where drivers aren’t in demand.
Cllr Spanswick also hopes he’ll be able to enjoy life more when restrictions ease later this year. He hopes he’ll be able to travel a bit as well as continuing his volunteering.
“I want to go on holiday,” he added. “A year ago I bought a motor-home which has been outside the house ever since. That will be my treat when we are able to do it.”