Ex-corona patient Ko returns to ‘his’ IC to process intense time

“I get goosebumps standing here again.” Ko Berkhout’s voice trembles when he returns to the intensive care unit after six months, where he fought for his life during the corona pandemic. He can hardly remember anything about the ‘short hibernation’ as he calls it himself. He therefore allows the space to take effect well. The aftercare clinic of the Bravis Hospital offers him and other ex-corona patients the opportunity to better process the unpleasant period in their lives.

Due to the infection with COVID-19, ambulance driver Ko (55) ended up in the intensive care department of the hospital in Bergen op Zoom at the end of last year. He was kept asleep for five weeks and had to be given artificial respiration. The recording was very drastic for Ko and his family.

“It was especially intense for my wife and daughter. It was only when the sleep medication was phased out that I started to observe things carefully myself. But you still don’t have a clear picture. The stories afterwards show that I have gone through a very black page here and that I can be happy that I am still here,” says Ko.

“We’ve always stayed positive, it kept us going.”

Daughter Jane (20) gives her father a hug when she notices that he is getting too angry. “It was also very intense. We came to visit every day but we couldn’t do more than give you a kiss and a washcloth over your forehead because you were sweating so much. We have always stayed positive, it kept us going. Even when things could go wrong. Fortunately that did not happen.”

Ko is back in intensive care with his daughter Jane (photo: Erik Peeters).
Ko is back in intensive care with his daughter Jane (photo: Erik Peeters).

Ko is now physically well recovered and he is feeling good again. The hospital’s aftercare clinic played an important role in this. Reconstruction is a special part of the aftercare process. Patients are allowed to take a look at the room in which they have been lying.

“The confrontation with the IC often evokes emotions.”

“It’s been proven that it’s good to go back to a place that has had a lot of impact. It is important for the patient and the family to process. The confrontation often evokes emotions and that is why we prepare the patients well. It is of course voluntary, but I estimate that at least ninety percent would like it,” explains IC nurse Jessica Huybregts.

Ko was artificially kept asleep (private photo).
Ko was artificially kept asleep (private photo).

Meanwhile, her colleague Suzan Havermans shows Ko around ‘his’ room. She explains about the monitor, the ventilator and the infusion pumps. “Often the family has taken pictures, but it’s different to really be here,” says the IC nurse. Ko agrees: “Now that I see the equipment and the bed I’ve been in, it will come in extra.”

“I’m happy with this opportunity, otherwise it just keeps spinning in your head.”

During the reconstructions, Jessica and Suzan also get to hear the most bizarre hallucinations that corona patients had during their stay in intensive care. “Someone thought we were all here in clown clothes and celebrating carnival,” says Suzan.

“Or someone who saw things crawling out of the holes in the ceiling panels, very frightening. In the eyes of the patients, it all really happened. That is why the visits to the IC rooms are important”, Jessica adds.

Ko feels the bed for a moment and takes a last look outside. “It’s fine this way. I’m glad I got this opportunity, otherwise it just keeps spinning in your head.” Daughter Jana, meanwhile, takes her father’s hand: “It’s better to close it now, you don’t want to keep bottling it up. It’s going really well now. I am incredibly proud of you.”

Fortunately, Ko has recovered well from corona (photo: Erik Peeters).
Fortunately, Ko has recovered well from corona (photo: Erik Peeters).

Ko Berkhout was in intensive care for five weeks (private photo).
Ko Berkhout was in intensive care for five weeks (private photo).