Monday, January 17

– I sent an SMS to my lawyer informing him that he had to make a will

He was in a respirator for 69 days, of which 54 days were in a deep coma. He is probably among those in Norway who have been in the coma the longest due to the corona. It has left its mark on the shopkeeper Stephen Fu (57).

– If I go from the bathroom to the bedroom, my heart rate rises quickly to 120, and this is how it is throughout the day. I have such poor lung capacity that it has been measured at only 45 percent.

– I can not stand another round of corona. It will probably not go well. The doctors have asked me to be careful. The main goal is to be able to function in daily life and I practice that all the time, says Stephen Fu seriously.

At home in Bodø, he flips through the memory book he received from the intensive care nurses at the University Hospital in Northern Norway (UNN).

Next to her sits Elisabeth Benonisen Fu (41). She has been part of a completely unreal experience.

Trying to forget

Stephen reads aloud from the book. The memories of the little he remembers flow.

– I try to let this go a bit into oblivion because I will move on and up, he says.

MEMORIES: Stephen Fu is surprised at how quickly the corona virus attacked and destroyed the lungs. Photo: Roy-Arne Salater / TV 2

Stephen Fu was top trained. Among other things, he has cycled Oslo – Paris four times.

He is also an active businessman and has employees in both Norway and China. During the pandemic last year, when both Norway and the world screamed for infection control equipment, he managed to procure 40 tonnes of much-needed equipment.

That he himself would become terminally ill from the corona was unthinkable, but at the end of February what started to be a battle against death – and for life.

– I was infected during a job meeting at the office in Bodø. I did not notice any symptoms until on the third day I realized that something was wrong. It suddenly became so difficult to breathe, he recalls.

The date was February 24 and Stephen was at Finnsnes in Troms- and Finnmark.

OXYGEN MASK: - It was like breathing through a gas mask, and it's heavy, says Stephen Fu.  Photo: Private

OXYGEN MASK: – It was like breathing through a gas mask, and it’s heavy, says Stephen Fu. Photo: Private

He drove with a colleague back to Bodø.

There Stephen went straight to the emergency room where they thought it was a pneumonia. They took a coronal test and he was sent home with a packet of antibiotics.

– I became increasingly short of breath and around midnight on February 26, I was informed that a close contact had received corona, he says.

– We called the emergency room and I came straight in. The emergency room sent me on straight to the hospital and in isolation. I got better and the first three days in isolation went very well, says the 57-year-old.

– I wanted to fight

– I took elbow bends and got bored, but then it narrowed. I could not breathe and the staff came with an oxygen mask. I was transferred to the intensive care unit on March 3, says Stephen.

He had to use the oxygen mask to be able to breathe. But still, it only got worse. The superior wanted to put the 57-year-old on a respirator.

– I refused. I wanted to fight, he says seriously.

The oxygen mask was like walking around with a gas mask. It was hard to breathe.

At the hospital in Bodø, things started to happen quickly. The state of health was deteriorating and worries increased.

– I sent an SMS to my lawyer informing him that he had to make a will. I had a bad stomach feeling that this was not going well, says Stephen.

WERE AFRAID: Cohabitant Elisabeth Benonisen sat for several hours at Stephen's hospital bed every day for seven weeks.  Photo: Private

WERE AFRAID: Cohabitant Elisabeth Benonisen sat for several hours at Stephen’s hospital bed every day for seven weeks. Photo: Private

Monday, March 8, the superior comes in again with a strict and determined voice.

‘Now we’ll put you on a respirator. It is no longer up to you to decide “, said the doctor according to Stephen.

– I was not allowed to call Elisabeth’s home once, they were so busy. The whole anesthesia team came in, and in five minutes I was gone, says the 57-year-old.

On March 18, he was sent from the hospital in Bodø to Tromsø.

At UNN, the state of health was serious. It eventually becomes a long process, and Stephen hovered between life and death.

On April 7, an attempt was made to wake him. It went completely wrong.

– I was afraid

Stephen was unable to breathe on his own. The lungs were not ready, but the health team at UNN managed to stabilize him again.

– In retrospect, I heard that they called Elisabeth in the middle of the night, and then she was very afraid it had gone really wrong, he says.

Upright: Here the intensive care nurse tries to get Stephen to sit upright for the first time in a long time.  Photo: Private

Upright: Here the intensive care nurse tries to get Stephen to sit upright for the first time in a long time. Photo: Private

A couple of weeks later, another attempt was made to wake Stephen again, but it did not go well either.

Only on the third attempt did the doctors manage to wake him.

What Stephen did not know was that Elisabeth sat in the hospital bed for several hours a day for almost seven weeks.

– It is very tough to see your loved one lying there and fighting for life for so long and the uncertainty that you do not quite know how it will go. Especially at the end. By then, more than 50 days had passed in a coma. It was quite a lot of overtime, says Elisabeth Benonisen.

She looks at Stephen.

– I was very scared, but I never lost hope that it would go well. It is clear that you make a lot of thoughts along the way and you have no guarantees. I was very scared of losing him, says Elisabeth.

She praises the staff at UNN.

– They were very good at the hospital to take care of us relatives. They shared everything they knew along the way, but it’s tough, she says seriously.

For Stephen, two months of life are gone.

– I looked out the window and did not recognize myself. The voice was gone, I saw twice and had a huge pressure in my ears. There was a nurse who told me I was in Tromsø. I thought, “Wow, what am I doing here?”

It was a shock

– It has been a completely surreal experience. You have seen from movies that when people wake up from a coma, they are up and walking.

– Do you remember anything at all from the time in the coma?

– Yes, that’s a little weird there. I had a lot of nightmares because of the medication. There is no medicine or treatment for corona. These are steroids used to strengthen the immune system and it gives the body a beating, says Stephen.

At UNN he tried to lift his legs, but did not succeed. Stephen managed to twist his hands, the rest of his body did not listen.

THE MUSCLES ARE GONE: After 69 days in a coma and a respirator, 17 kilos have been lost.  Photo: Private

THE MUSCLES ARE GONE: After 69 days in a coma and a respirator, 17 kilos have been lost. Photo: Private

– It was a shock, says Stephen.

On the hospital bed, Elisabeth sat faithfully next to her loved one.

– What did her support mean?

– It meant everything. When you lie there and can not even sit upright, such support means a lot. There were strict restrictions at the hospital, so I was very happy for the hours she could be there. It facilitated as much as they could in the hospital. Elisabeth gave me motivation to be able to get back on my feet, says the 57-year-old.

Now 17 kilos are gone and the road back to life has just started.

– A physiotherapist and two intensive care nurses came to get me up from the edge of the bed. It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever done in my life. I was full of drugs and I had no muscles to sit upright on my own. I had to have help with everything, he recalls.

When we meet Stephen and Elisabeth at home in Bodø, it has been six months since he was discharged from the hospital.

The time has gone to rehabilitation and training. Things take time.

The news picture in December is filled with high infection rates and the new variant, Omikron.

Vaccine is insurance

Stephen has no hysterical relationship with the corona even though it was about to take his life.

– It was right to open Norway again, but I think it is strange that the precautions were dropped.

MOTIVATION: This image is used by Stephen when everyday life is heavy and difficult.  Photo: Private

MOTIVATION: This image is used by Stephen when everyday life is heavy and difficult. Photo: Private

– In Norway, people sit and wait for an order from the Minister of Health and NIPH, but it is allowed to think for yourself. I steer clear of crowds, concerts and shopping malls and have few close contacts, says the 57-year-old.

– What do you think about the increased infection in Norway?

– I am not surprised at all about the outbreak. We must learn to live with this here. There have been too many black and white thoughts surrounding the pandemic. Either we open, or we close, he says.

Got applause

Stephen is provoked by those who do not want to take the vaccine. He has seen how hard intensive care nurses and doctors work to save people’s lives.

– What the unvaccinated do not think about is that when they become ill, it is precisely the health service in the form of intensive care nurses and doctors who have to show up. It is their job, and I have seen for a fantastic effort they make, he says.

– If you do not get vaccinated, I wonder what kind of measures to take then? A total isolation of society is of no benefit. How do we get rid of the pandemic without vaccination and vaccination? asks Stephen.

He is surprised that the proportion of unvaccinated is still so high.

– I tend to say that Norway is an enlightened country with democracy. That’s why I’m surprised so many are not vaccinated. Taking a vaccine today is probably the best insurance you can have against getting sick, he says.

Stephen does not praise the heroes of the health care system in Norway well enough, and he knows what he is talking about.

– I usually say that emergency medicine in Norway is the best in the whole world. When I left UNN in Tromsø, intensive care nurses and doctors formed a flagpole and patted me out. They were very happy that I survived, he says moved.

No one has been in a coma for 54 days at UNN before. It’s a dismal record.

In the hospital, Stephen lay listening to the eternal murmur of the respirator breathing for him.

Freed from the hospital bed

He thought that you can not get further down in the basement than this. Something had to be done to find some bright spots.

At the top of this list was to date Elisabeth, the cohabitant for many years.

– It’s not just about free, I was going on my feet to do it in the normal way by walking on my own two feet. My goal was that I would make it before this year was over. I have used that as my great motivation, says the 57-year-old.

For Elisabeth, who had been sitting by the edge of the bed for seven weeks, it was a very special experience.

– I barely spent a second saying yes. I had to ask you afterwards if you remembered anything. You were quite dizzy even though you were completely ready when you woke up. It was very moving and romantic in all this here, says Elisabeth Benonisen.

DESIGNATED MARRIAGE: On December 4, Stephen and Elisabeth walked up the church floor in Bodø Cathedral.  Photo: Sigfinn Andersen / TV 2

DESIGNATED MARRIAGE: On December 4, Stephen and Elisabeth walked up the church floor in Bodø Cathedral. Photo: Sigfinn Andersen / TV 2

On Saturday, December 4, he and Elisabeth went down to the church floor as newlyweds. A big upswing in a gloomy year.

– When you have been through something so tough and been completely down, you appreciate the things in life that mean the most, says Stephen Fu.

Hairy goals

He has been told by doctors that he will never be the same top-trained man he was almost a year ago. But Stephen has disproved doctors before, and plans to do so again.

– I have set myself some small goals, and it is to get me on alpine skis and cross-country skiing soon, then there will be some cycling next year.

He has a motivational picture on his mobile phone from the day he sat in the hospital bed himself again. It inspires on heavy days.

– Now I say something to you that I might not have said, but I have set myself the goal of cycling for the fifth time Oslo – Paris in 2024. It is 1750 kilometers over nine days. Whether it will be on an electric bike or if I will spend a month, I will have the fifth ride, Stephen Fu promises.

On December 22, Stephen was at the pulmonary ward at Nordland Hospital for a check-up. He got good news. Lung capacity has increased from 45 to 55 percent.

– I was deeply impressed with the progress and I am light and happy that it is going the right way now, says Stephen.

Reference-www.tv2.no

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