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Teenager who battled Covid-19 thanks Royal Papworth Hospital team for saving her life with artificial lung



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A teenager who became one of the youngest patients at Royal Papworth Hospital to be put on an artificial lung machine as she battled Covid-19 has been reunited with some of the team who saved her life.

Areeb Khan was just 16 when she collapsed at home last summer and was admitted to hospital as her oxygen levels plummeted below 50 per cent.

Areeb Khan with her mum, dad and critical care nurses below the window of the room where she was on ECMO
Areeb Khan with her mum, dad and critical care nurses below the window of the room where she was on ECMO

Her parents then received a call two days later telling them Areeb had to be transferred to Royal Papworth in Cambridge for ECMO - extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a form of mechanical support for patients in acute or severe respiratory failure.

It acts like an artificial lung outside the body to oxygenate blood, but is only used as a last resort for the most seriously ill patients, including those battling Covid-19, when all other interventions have failed.

Areeb, from Chadwell Heath, east London, was on ECMO for four weeks, becoming one of the youngest patients to be supported with it at Royal Papworth.

She was reunited at a six-month follow-up clinic with some of the critical care team who cared for her.

Areeb Khan is reunited with some of the critical care nurses at Royal Papworth Hospital
Areeb Khan is reunited with some of the critical care nurses at Royal Papworth Hospital

“Genuinely there are no words that I can use to express my gratitude to the doctors, nurses, and everyone who looked after me in critical care,” said Areeb, now 17.

“If it were not for them not giving up on me and making quick decisions then I would not be here today. The treatment, the care, the help I received, I am truly thankful for all of it.

“During my six weeks in critical care at Royal Papworth, the nurses would plait my hair, give me foot massages, play verses of the Holy Qu’ran on a Bluetooth speaker and play my favourite music for me.

“Some of this was while I was heavily sedated and unconscious, but when I came back around I had memories of it happening and it definitely helped calm me down.”

Areeb Khan in Royal Papworth Hospital (not on ECMO in this image)
Areeb Khan in Royal Papworth Hospital (not on ECMO in this image)

Areeb remained in hospital from August to November, also being treated at King George Hospital and Queen’s Hospital, run by Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Areeb’s mum Bushra and dad Saqib thanked the hospital for saving their “precious daughter”.

Bushra said: “We cannot say thank you enough. Her situation made us feel like we didn’t want to live ourselves if we didn’t have Areeb with us.

Areeb Khan with dad Saqib and mum Bushra
Areeb Khan with dad Saqib and mum Bushra

“She was only 16. I remember when she was being transferred from King George to Papworth and I was begging the doctor to save her life. She was very poorly and we had no hope at that point.”

Saqib added: “I remember the day when the ambulance brought her here, it was a difficult time for us. The staff were always helpful, not just for Areeb but also us, giving us hope. They would always support and talk to us, even at the end of a 12-hour shift.

“The critical care staff of Royal Papworth [are] really amazing, they are like angels on the Earth.”

The Khan family at the Rotary Young Citizen Child of Courage Awards
The Khan family at the Rotary Young Citizen Child of Courage Awards

The Covid vaccine became available for Areeb’s age group just days after she began having symptoms.

“I wish I could have had the vaccine,” she said, after being given the all-clear at her check-up. “My main message is to take the vaccine because it could help save your life.

“I will never get that part of my life back again, having to take a year out of school. My story should absolutely encourage others.”

[Read more: Father-of-four home for Christmas after battling Covid-19 at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge for months]

Areeb was recently awarded the Rotary Young Citizen Child of Courage Award for helping to make a difference to others.

Her parents collected her GCSE results for her while she was in hospital. She passed them all and is looking forward to restarting her education in September.

Eventually, she hopes to be a surgeon.



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