The normally ebullient solicitor Paul Nicholls joins our club as a very special member. Paul has been seriously ill with coronavirus, hospitalised, ventilated and was given a 50% chance of survival.   He is now back at home and working. Against this background many of the questions I normally ask seem trivial. However Paul, being Paul, is now behind his desk and – possibly – ignoring counsel’s strongly worded advice that he should not work too hard (not to work at all actually…).  Reading Paul’s experience in hospital gives rise to some extremely sobering reflection and reminds us why we are isolated.

Tell us about your experience of coronavirus.

I had very mild symptoms of what I thought were a cold. They got worse to the extent I became very fatigued. A few days before I fell ill, I fell asleep at my desk for around half an hour, and things escalated pretty quickly from there.
Symptoms came on quickly over the next few days. I had terrible sickness and diarrhoea, constant nausea, and terrible fatigue.
I called 111 and was told I had symptoms of CV and to isolate. Within a few days I worsened, lost my appetite, couldn’t hold down food or any liquids and fell desperately ill.
I was blue lighted to hospital, delirious, barely able to breathe, and completely dehydrated. I was unable to open my eyelids I was so weak, and had vice like headaches. I was in really poor shape.
I now understand I was given a 50% chance of survival. It was touch and go as to whether I was ventilated. I had very low oxygen and was struggling to breathe.
I had pneumonia, a classic symptom of CV, and a complication of diabetes: Ketoacisodis, which had completely dehydrated me. I ended up losing 18 pounds in weight in around two weeks.
Hospital was a sobering experience. I was only able to get up to go the loo and shower after 4 days. Walking more than a few steps was exhausting.
I loved all the NHS staff at the QE Hospital in Birmingham who were brilliant. I got to know most of them really quite well, all were superb. The very first nurse who saw me was a friend from church which was a real comfort to me. One day as I was beginning to get stronger, one of the nurses came in and closed all of the curtains in my room – I was in a single room as I was isolated. I asked if the dead were being taken away, I was told they were. That was the single most upsetting experience I can remember. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that loved ones had died, and their families were unable to visit them.

Where were you working from before you were hospitalised

I was working from home. In fact, I was barely unable to work as I was getting so poorly. I had been in the office, but was so weak, I couldn’t drive.

What was the difficult thing about working remotely.

The internet connection kept crashing. I have an office / study at home that is away from the main hub. As everyone was using the system, things seemed slow – not helped by a 5 year old MacBook that also kept crashing.
Silly things like slow printing and scanning were a real bind. Access to paper files was also a luxury I missed.
The poor connectivity and having to work from a screen was a real challenge and demotivated me.

What has been your biggest technical challenge?

See above – the biggest tech challenge was probably connectivity and having to work from paperless files. I’m a bit of a dinosaur in that regard.

Is there anything (work wise) that you wish you had with you?

Yes, I work closely with a superb legal assistant; Mandy. Although we were in touch remotely, it was a very poor second favourite to working physically together on physical files.
I understand tech. I think it’s a great support – but it can’t replace the office environment and at hand resources as far as I’m concerned.

What has been the most helpful thing you’ve learned.

That I have some brilliant colleagues.
That work isn’t the be all and end all.
That I’ve been working far too hard.
That you won’t find written on any tomb stone the epitaph Is wish I’d spent more time at the office.’
That things are going to change For the better  when normality returns.

Do you think this is going to change the way you work in the future?

Absolutely. I have been working far too hard, and at far too high a pace. What I consider ‘normal’ 12-14 hour days is, in fact, ridiculous.
That I will work from home if needs be, but will always consider it to be a temporary, poor second favourite.
That the working relationship with colleagues is very important.

What is the first thing you are going to do when you are out of lockdown?

I’m back at work now, and happy I am, as it highlights the fact I need to switch off when I get back from work.
I’ve really valued family and friends in particular.
When lockdown ends, I’m looking forward to seeing my grandkids who I’ve missed terribly. I’ve also missed my friends and colleagues.
I’m going to rethink the way I work too. At the end of the day, your health is much more important than work. As important as work is, it has it’s place – and I’m afraid that if it’s at the top of the list, something is wrong and needs readjusting.
(The photos in this post were supplied by Paul and are used with his permission and blessing).