Ex-boss who ‘almost died twice’ after contracting virus gets back on track with life coaching business
PUBLISHED: 13:13 03 November 2020 | UPDATED: 16:56 03 November 2020
Being wheeled onto a covid ward was probably the scariest moment of ex-sales boss Mike Beech’s life.
Now awaiting surgery at Papworth Hospital, Mike — who was subsequently diagnosed with heart failure — was in the middle of launching a new business in his home village of Lavenham when he was struck down by coronavirus.
A single parent, he had spent nearly 25 years working in commercial media in management and directorship roles and had used his many years’ experience in business to set up Fit For Tomorrow while looking after children Dominic, 11, and Amelia, 16.
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It was part of a lifestyle change which came after he quit his job as a sales director for East Anglian Daily Times owner Archant to spend more time with his family.
“I loved my job and the people I worked with,” he explained. But he added: “I knew deep down I wanted to have a break and a change. My lucky break came from a business restructure that allowed me the time and space to cement my ideas and start Fit For Tomorrow.
“I had spent some time considering different options and opportunities and decided that I wanted to follow a dream that meant I could put my family first, look after myself and develop a business I truly believed in that supported the wellbeing of others.”
He launched in February 2020 and with a growing interest in health and wellbeing the business got off to a promising start. But it came to a shuddering halt with the coronavirus lockdown and he moved his focus online.
“I did what I could, reached out through social networks and built the profile online. A day didn’t pass when I didn’t try to make a positive step,” he said.
But in May he fell ill with the virus.
“I couldn’t breathe. Walking, trying to lie down and sitting was almost impossible. I was frightened as I thought my days were numbered,” he said.
“I had spent a week unable to breathe properly or lie down – so I slept over a kitchen table. My doctor referred me to a Rapid Assessment department where they diagnosed coronavirus and pneumonia.
“When I drove into the hospital I was incredibly anxious, but I thought I’d walk in, be seen and prescribed some antibiotics. To be told I had to stay and knowing I had left my children alone at home and having to call them to say I wouldn’t be home was heart-breaking.”
He was very ill – but determined to get home as quickly as he could. But he remembers a feeling of relief at being able to hand his health over to the professionals.
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“I was then taken/wheeled to the Covid ward to get me comfortable and start antibiotics. Being wheeled into the ward was probably the scariest moment I can remember.
“You are being taken into a stripped down and sterile environment where the nurses are exposed to the virus as you are – zipped behind a plain temporary tarpaulin doorway. I was quickly told I might as well remove my mask. That’s when it hit me – I had two options, get better and walk away or stay and face a bed in the intensive care unit (ICU).”
He was hospitalised to help his breathing and was able to return home after a couple of days. But over the summer, his health took a turn for the worse and in August he was diagnosed with heart failure – a weakness exposed by the virus.
“The day I fell ill, I was struggling with my breathing and something didn’t feel right in my chest. A week later I couldn’t breathe, walking, trying to lie down and sitting was almost impossible. I was frightened as I thought my days were numbered. I didn’t fully recover.
“Eventually I was seen and admitted into the cardio unit in West Suffolk Hospital and they diagnosed heart failure – it seems the virus had found a weakness.”
Over a four day period the medical team drained 15 litres of fluid which had affected his breathing.
“Today I feel amazing – I’m limited as to what I can physically do, but I’m waiting for a date for heart surgery and as soon as that’s done I’m booking a socially-distanced sky dive,” he said.
The experience has left him with plenty of material for his new venture, which he has been working on since. This is “very much alive”, he said and he’s hoping to help both local and national businesses with the kind of workplace wellbeing support that is usually only available to very large enterprises. He works with specialist therapists and practitioners providing mental health workshops, and even alternatives such as wilderness training.
“Compared to how I felt in May, I’m almost back to full strength and waiting for the operation date is just that – it’s a wait and while I have a date, things could change. I won’t lose sleep over it as it’s out of my control. I take it easy and focus on my kids and building my business www.fitfortomorrow.co.uk – largely online and over the phone.
Without a doubt the hardest part was starting the business at the beginning of a pandemic “and being so ill that I almost died at least twice”, he said. “That said, if I can start a business under those conditions – anything’s possible.
“It’s a very exciting time as the feedback is brilliant and I’m able to keep growing the portfolio of services that I’m offering. At the moment outplacement support is of growing interest and helping people in need is incredibly rewarding.”
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