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‘Never thought he’d survive’: 80-year-old with history of chest infections beats coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 11:09 08 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:10 10 May 2020

Barry Nixon is described by relatives as a 'massive fighter'. Picture: AMANDA SADLER

Barry Nixon is described by relatives as a 'massive fighter'. Picture: AMANDA SADLER

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When dementia sufferer Barry Nixon, 80, was diagnosed with Covid-19 after a history of bad chest infections, his family bluntly said: “We never thought he’d survive.”

Barry Nixon pictured with his family. Picture: AMANDA SADLERBarry Nixon pictured with his family. Picture: AMANDA SADLER

But the jolly former Bury St Edmunds postman is today back singing and dancing at his care home – after West Suffolk Hospital nurses “completely dedicated themselves” to helping him survive, against all odds.

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The happy-go-lucky great-grandfather of 20 had already surprised everyone by surviving a series of bad chest infections last year, with daughter Amanda Sadler saying: “We nearly lost him.”

So when carers at Bury St Edmunds’ Cornwallis Court care home phoned relatives five weeks ago to say he was having more chest problems, Amanda said: “We thought the worst.”

After his condition deteriorated further one night, he was taken into West Suffolk Hospital.

When a positive Covid-19 test result came back a few days later, Amanda said: “We thought he was going to die. We thought that was it.”

Yet while the postie of 26 years can often be seen laughing and joking even while he is doing kitchen chores, his family say that, beneath it all: “He’s a massive fighter.”

And so it proved when, with the love and care of hospital nurses, his condition gradually improved to the point where began breathing without additional oxygen – and could even be seen walking around the ward, joyfully singing to himself.

Barry Nixon was a postman in Bury St Edmunds for 26 years. Picture: AMANDA SADLERBarry Nixon was a postman in Bury St Edmunds for 26 years. Picture: AMANDA SADLER

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“Gradually, he got better and better,” said Amanda.

The former merchant navy waiter, who used to help run Bury St Edmunds’ Market Tavern pub, is now back at Cornwallis Court – where his family say: “He’s doing the washing up, laughing and joking.”

Nurses ‘gave us hope’

Barry Nixon is known for his jolly nature at Bury St Edmunds' Cornwallis Court care home. Picture: AMANDA SADLERBarry Nixon is known for his jolly nature at Bury St Edmunds' Cornwallis Court care home. Picture: AMANDA SADLER

Amanda, herself a carer, said: “He’d been really ill last year, on and off, with lots of chest infections.

“When he went into hospital so suddenly, it was like we could’ve been run over by a bus. We were devastated.

“He has always been our rock. He is just an amazing dad and grandad.”

However, she said: “I knew in my heart he was being looked after.

Barry Nixon beat coronavirus despite having previously suffered from a series of bad chest infections. Picture: AMANDA SADLERBarry Nixon beat coronavirus despite having previously suffered from a series of bad chest infections. Picture: AMANDA SADLER

She said West Suffolk Hospital’s nurses were “amazing the whole time”, adding: “They just gave us hope.

“They loved him, looked after him and fed him when he couldn’t feed himself.

“They just completely dedicated themselves to him and made him better.”

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In a thank you message to the hospital afterwards, Amanda added: “Words will never be enough to thank you for looking after our dad and granddad.

“He is a man that, by all accounts, should not have beaten Covid-19, but with the care of your fantastic team, he has smashed it.”

She also thanked staff at Cornwallis Court for their care of her father.

Covid-19 is ‘indiscriminate’

Amanda said the fact her father had contracted the disease, despite being relatively isolated, showed how dangerous and prevalent Covid-19 is.

“I honestly think that, until it directly affects you, you’re quite removed from it - even though you see it on the news,” said Amanda, who also suffered from coronavirus but made a full recovery after rest at home.

“It feels like everyone is in denial about how easily it’s transmitted.

“You see it on television and you don’t think it’s going to affect you, but then it does. It’s flying about the place.

“It’s indiscriminate. It’s hitting everyone but everyone has different symptoms. If you’re vulnerable in any sort of way, it gets in there.

“If it was an enemy with a gun, you’d be hiding in your homes.”

‘Try not to think the worst straight away’

Yet while she stressed no-one should ever be complacent about the risks of coronavirus, she believes her father’s survival shows there is hope for even the most vulnerable with the illness.

“Please don’t despair straight away that this is the end,” she said.

“Our NHS is brilliant, so try not to think the worst straight away.

“We all thought dad was going to die, but he’s back to how he was.

“It’s a miracle he’s all right, but it’s given everyone such a boost, because they know there’s hope.”

On its Twitter feed, the West Suffolk Hospital NHS Foundation Trust thanked Barry’s family for the “amazing feedback”, adding: “We’re so glad to hear Barry is back at home.”


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