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WATCH: Applause as Ambulance Care Assistant who overcame Covid-19 leaves hospital

AN Ambulance Care Assistant who spent 11 weeks in intensive care after contracting Covid-19 has been discharged from hospital.

Steve Bell, who works for the Welsh Ambulance Service’s Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service, left hospital to rapturous applause in a poignant moment that was captured on video.

Steve contracted the virus in March and spent 92 days in Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny, 78 of which were in intensive care, before being transferred to Ysbyty Aneurin Bevan to begin rehabilitation.

The 59-year-old, of Ebbw Vale, has extended his thanks to his NHS colleagues for his care.

He said: “The staff in ITU in particular were brilliant and really looked after me, listened to me and showed compassion. I couldn’t have asked for better care. They saved my life.

“The support I’ve had from my colleagues in the ambulance service has also been brilliant.

“I was cycling 13 miles a day before I got ill. I’m still coming to terms with what happened, and I’ve got a long way to go.”

Steve’s wife Ann has recounted his journey.

She said: “We’d been on holiday in February, and a month after we got back Steve fell ill.

“After 12 days or so at home, he started to deteriorate and had to go into hospital. Before long, he was in intensive care.

“To make things worse, he contracted sepsis and his organs began to shut down. He also had a problem with his heart briefly, but that was overcome.

“I wasn’t able to visit Steve, but the nurses would allow me to video call so that I could see him, even though he was sedated.

“The doctors prepared me for the worst, but slowly, they began to wean him off the ventilator.

“We’re hopeful there’s no permanent damage to his organs, and he’ll be on oxygen for a while at home until his breathing improves.

“He’s also having to exercise to get his strength up. There’s a long way to go but we’re just so pleased he’s home.”

Steve, originally from Blackpool, spent 20 years in the British Army’s Queen’s Lancashire Regiment before joining the Welsh Ambulance Service as an Ambulance Care Assistant in 2001, based in Tredegar.

He and wife Ann, who is retired, have been married for 24 years and have four children and four grandchildren between them.

Steve’s colleagues have raised more than £3,400 via JustGiving to purchase rehabilitation equipment to support his return to normal life.

He said: “I formed friendships in the Army that I didn’t think I would have on Civvy Street, but my friends at the ambulance service have been brilliant, especially my team leader Paula Griffiths – not just to me, but also to Ann, checking in on her every day, sometimes three times a day.

“They sorted videos from the cast of Emmerdale and from sports personalities to try and bring me round from the ventilation.

“My friends and family also sent me video messages to try and bring me out of the sedation.

“I love my job and I can’t wait to come back, though it won’t be for many months.”

Phill Taylor, the Trust’s Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service General Manager in South East Wales, said: “We’re thrilled that Steve has been discharged from hospital and would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to our health board colleagues for looking after our dear friend and colleague.

“We’ll be supporting Steve and his family as he regains his health and wish him all the very best for his road to recovery.”

Director of Operations Lee Brooks added: “It’s been a really difficult period for the service, especially with the death of paramedic Gerallt Davies MBE to Covid-19.

“At the Welsh Ambulance Service, our bonds run deep, and we were devastated when Steve also became very poorly with the virus.

“The whole organisation has been rooting for Steve, and we’re delighted that he’s now been able to leave hospital.

“Our focus now is on supporting Steve and his family as he continues his recovery at home.”