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‘Grandpa Tino’ recovers from hardest Covid fight

Documentary showed discussion about possibility of ending treatment

14 August, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Tino Cabral’s recovery was shown on a BBC documentary

A POPULAR restaurant owner survived one of the worst coronavirus infections doctors at University College Hospital had seen.

Tino Cabral, who runs O Tino in Plender Street, Camden Town, was on life support for three weeks after his lungs were almost entirely overrun by the disease. Experts discussed stopping the 68-year-old’s treatment in a tense meeting which featured in a BBC documentary last Thursday.

The Euston Road hospital’s intensive care unit consultant Dr Mike Patterson said: “Of all patients who were as sick as Tino, maybe one other person survived. Many, many were not as lucky as him. It’s really hard to understand. In 20 years of being a doctor, I have never seen lung damage like this.

“This is the worst type of coronavirus we have seen on the intensive care unit,” he added. “His own immune system starting to attack his body – in a way it started out to protect him from the virus, but is now turning in on itself.”

Dr Patterson said: “Covid-19 is completely different to any other illness we have seen. It seems to do some harm to lungs, heart, circulation, to gut, kidneys, to your brain. It is so malign in so many ways, but the degree of vulnerability we feel in treating this illness, I could not believe we would see an illness like this. Half of the people who come in die.”

The documentary showed how staff held an iPad next to Mr Cabral so he could communicate with his family who were restricted from visiting the hospital.

He was gasping for breath as he heard their voices, while on a mechanical ventilator and dialysis machine. O Tino was started by Tino and his wife Elizabeth and is now run by son Pedro and daughter Denise. The family had enjoyed eating there and in 2009 bought the restau­rant, filling “the kitchen with both love and traditional Portuguese dishes”.

Denise described her father “always up for having a laugh; always got a different joke to tell”, and told how she had to stay strong through the ordeal “so my mum and brother can be strong”.

The hospital meeting had heard how he was “on the verge of not benefitting from the amount of treatment he is having” but that “the odds are against him, not overwhelmingly against him”.

Later, his condition improved so much that he was discharged to St Pancras rehab centre from UCLH. At the end of last week’s documentary, his daughter says to him: “They don’t know how you survived?”

A message on the restaurant’s website said: “Disaster stuck when Grandpa Tino himself was taken ill with coronavirus, spending 14 weeks in hospital – including 12 weeks in ICU. Finally, he is thankfully on the road to full recovery.”

The BBC’s Surviving the Virus: My Brother and Me featured a story of an UCLH doctor who during the making of the film learned his twin brother had contracted the virus.

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