'While ill with Covid, I saw my own funeral'

61-year-old Laurie Wiseman saw himself at his own funeral. Except he was still alive — and hallucinating.


Struck down by Covid, 61-year-old Laurie Wiseman saw himself at his own funeral. Except he was still alive — and hallucinating.

The pioneer in healthcare information technology from London was admitted to Royal Free Hospital on March 22 — the day before lockdown – and spent five days in the ICU on a ventilator. He had no pre-existing medical conditions.

According to psychologists, hallucinations are common among Covid patients.

Four months on, Mr Wiseman is now recovering well at home. But the hallucinations persist.

Many patients (including himself) are seeking help with how to cope with the aftermath of Covid-19, particularly these psychological after-effects.

These are Mr Wiseman’s reflections on his pandemic dreams, in his own words.

I could see my funeral. Socially distanced, my wife and two children were standing in a circle around the coffin — in mourning and alone. And I could hear their sobs.

My internal world became the only safe place I could inhabit. That world was as real as the hospital bed on which I was lying. My body was connected to tubes and monitors; but my mind, set free, was moving into new realms.

Soon after my entry into ICU [Intensive Care Unit], I imagined I had been transported to a converted wing of a smart hotel in Chelsea which was now used by the NHS for intensive care. Groups of cousins and well-wishers were offering me morsels of exotic food. And the moment I consumed them, I would cough uncontrollably.

Today, I can still see and smell the food; I can also witness the staff, in full protective wear, floating around my bed in Chelsea, their figures set against the backdrop of expensive wall coverings in one of the best suites in town. My body was consumed with pain; I was intent on dying at that point and curling up on the floor.

Soon afterwards and back in North London on the ICU ward at the Royal Free, there was a knock at the door. A slightly portly 30-year-old man with an aging rucksack smiled at me.

He had come to write my obituary, he told me, with an eager look in his eyes, as if I would make a good story for his newspaper about an early death from the virus.

It was now Friday night. I could see an elderly rabbi in the bed next to me. His passionate followers were permitted into ICU for a brief visit. They overstayed their welcome. They began to sing, their voices forming harmonies that had no end point.

In reality no visitors were allowed in ICU — ever. I only learnt this after discharge.

Then there was a famous arrival from Essex. I could see the private ambulance pull up; a celebrity footballer or athlete was writhing in agony, choking uncontrollably on floor of the vehicle.

The next morning, he was cured magically. His cough had disappeared, and this kindly athlete was offering me a coffee — which I had to refuse graciously, as the tubes down my oesophagus were not yet ready for any warm brews. At the same time, the paparazzi were appearing at the only window in ICU, desperate for that one image of my fellow patient inside the hospital.

A few days after I left hospital, I told my son this tale of the celebrity sportsman. I said it must have made headlines in at least the local press. My son looked on blankly. What sportsman, when?

My hallucinations and dreams seemed as real as the hand of the consultant, Jim Buckley, who told me, as he was squeezing my palm at the end of my 12-day stay in intensive care, that I would live. “No BS, you’re going to be okay.”

A full 26 days after admission, I was fully conscious and did not need oxygen support. On Thursday afternoon I was told great news: I could leave.

The paramedics arrived with the wheelchair at 7.30pm. I was lifted into the ambulance at 7.50pm and at precisely 8pm I arrived on our street, with our neighbours and friends on their doorsteps clapping enthusiastically or banging saucepans with wooden spoons. Unaware of the Thursday evening ritual to thank the NHS for their bravery, I thought they were assembled to greet me! As I emerged from the ambulance, the applause turned into cheers.

I could see my wife and family for the first time in 26 days. I had to reassure myself, time and again, that this was not a dream. I was home – and alive.”

Paul Cainer is editor of

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