THE owner of a Winsford cafe is still seriously ill battling coronavirus.

Neil Hawkins, who runs the Humble Pie Coffee Shop with wife Sarah, was rushed into Leighton Hospital earlier this month.

The 50-year-old has now been transferred to a specialist ventilation unit at Wythenshawe Hospital where he is receiving oxygen outside his body.

Sarah, 44, a former teaching assistant at St Nicholas Catholic High School in Northwich, said: "He needed specialist care. He is still very very sick and not out of the woods yet.

"They are now ventilating him outside the body because he is so poorly. This will enable his lungs to recover from the coronavirus."

Neil, a former graphic designer for Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, fell ill five days after the cafe welcomed customers back earlier this month whilst extensive Covid-19 safety measures were in place.

Sarah, daughter Alicia, 19, and several members of staff also tested positive but have all made a good recovery. Their 15-year-old son was the only member of the family who escaped the virus.

Northwich Guardian:

The Humble Pie Coffee Shop has now reopened following an extensive deep clean

The cafe was immediately closed.

Neil had been on a ventilator in intensive care at Leighton Hospital for several weeks.

"He was on a steady decline," said Sarah. "I just think he was too sick for Leighton to deal with. If a consultant hadn't acted when she did and transferred him to Wythenshawe, things could have been a whole lot worse. It was the right decision to move him. The treatment is having there is much more specialist."

Top respiratory consultants and a strong multi disciplinary team are now caring for Neil at the long term ventilation unit in Manchester, one of only five specialists centres in the country caring for patients with chronic respiratory failure.

"Neil is the only patient there who doesn't have any underlying health condition," said Sarah. "Neil is never ill, he is always fit and healthy. He is not overweight and doesn't smoke so all of this has come as a terrible shock."

Tests are being carried out to see how his body is reacting to treatment.

"We are just waiting on CT scan results," said Sarah. "There have been tiny improvements and small signs of progress.

"He is heavily sedated but they are starting to reduce the level of support he is on.

"Me and the kids are zooming him, sending messages every night just so he hears our voice."

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Northwich Guardian:

Sarah wants to thank staff and customers for all their support

Sarah has been overwhelmed by messages from customers, family and friends. The coffee shop reopened following an extensive deep clean after being closed for two weeks.

"I've got great support from the girls in the cafe and my family," she said. "People are coming in and asking how he is.

"Neil faces a long period of recovery but he is putting up an extra good fight. We've got to take every day as it comes.

"We've got a good cafe, we sell great food. We will bounce back. It's about riding the storm."