The long way home
Country Life UK|November 11, 2020
Struck down by Covid-19 earlier this year, Robin Hanbury-Tenison spent five weeks in a coma and was close to death. Now, he is valiantly fundraising for more of the healing hospital gardens he believes helped save him
Robin Hanbury-Tenison

IN February this year, I published my latest book, Taming the Four Horsemen—about the imminent threats we face and my rather radical proposals as to how to deal with them—with a big party at Stanfords in London’s Covent Garden. The major menaces of pandemics, war, famine and the death of the planet are listed on the cover and, on page four, I write: ‘There is little doubt that we face a major global pandemic before long.’ I go on to say how research into the infinite world of microbes and viruses is urgently needed if we are to avoid a pandemic and how much more valuable this would be than spending vast amounts on striving to reach outer space.

Then, in March, we went skiing in France. I was skiing pretty well, I thought, for a man in his eighties, but, on the last day, I felt a bit knackered. By the time we arrived back at our home on Bodmin Moor, I was exhausted. An ambulance came and whisked me off to Derriford hospital in Plymouth, where I was told that I had a choice: to stay in the comfortable admission ward and almost certainly die or to be taken down to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where horrible things would be done to me, but I would have a 20% chance of survival.

Those seemed reasonable odds, so I was taken down to ICU and mercifully remember very little of the next five weeks, which I spent in an induced coma. I was put on a ventilator, had kidney failure, which involved dialysis, and had a tracheostomy fitted to help me breathe. The nurses and doctors were amazingly patient and kind, never giving up on me, although, three times, they rang Louella, my wife, to say that I had a less than 5% chance of surviving and that she should prepare for the worst.

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