A 69-year-old man has defied the odds by walking out of Westmead Hospital after a marathon 399 day admission for COVID-19.
David Avila Mellado was clapped out by scores of staff in the first week of September as he left the hospital that had been his home for over 12 months, including a gruelling seven weeks in Westmead Hospital’s intensive care unit last year.
“Thank you very much everybody working here [who] heal me a lot,” an emotional David said as he left the hospital on 1 September.
“I feel like [this is] my family in the hospital because it’s a very long wait and stay here.
I was in coma for a few weeks. I came back here, didn’t know my name, didn’t know nothing. But now I can say my name, I can say thank you.”
David’s long journey began when he was admitted to Westmead Hospital suffering from COVID-19 on July 29, 2020.
He spent seven weeks in intensive care before eventually being well enough to be transferred to the respiratory observation unit in September last year.
With the help of the medical, nursing, physiotherapy and speech pathology teams, David slowly regained his strength as part of his long recovery.
The hardest part was removing his tracheostomy tube, which was finally successfully taken out on August 10, 2021 – after more than a year of being unable to breathe independently or talk.
Finally, after a 399 day admission, David’s journey is continuing with ongoing rehabilitation beyond Westmead Hospital.
It was a bittersweet moment for all involved as he bid farewell to the staff who had become like family.
“I have in my heart everybody I remember,” David said.
“When I do exercise [in] the corridor, I know everyone, everyone they say [to] me, “hello David”. I feel happy because I don’t remember many people, but they know me.”
Respiratory observation nurse unit manager Trudy Darling said the staff were extremely proud to see David overcome the odds.
“All the staff felt he was very much part of our family and we loved caring for him,” Trudy said.
“We miss him and it’s sad to see him go, but he needs to get back to his family. We’re very pleased to get him going in the right direction. We all wish David and his family all the best.”
As he left hospital, David also made an impassioned plea for people to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and prevent them from ending up in hospital.
“Many people, they don’t want the vaccine, they don’t trust about [COVID-19]. But it’s real. It’s real. So they have to understand, they have to get the vaccine, they have to help the other people too,” he said.
“My recommendation and the final idea is tell the people: don’t wait. Try to get the vaccine as soon as possible.”