A top Harborough farmer received an emotional message of support from Prince Charles as he waged a terrifying life-and-death battle with coronavirus.
Battling Hylton Murray-Philipson, 61, is now recovering back home on Blaston Estate at Blaston, near Medbourne, after winning a desperate 12-day fight to beat Covid-19.
And the internationally-renowned conservationist said he’s thrilled to have been wished all the best by the Prince of Wales as he bravely conquered the disease at Leicester Royal Infirmary.
Speaking from his 1,000-acre family farm, indomitable Hylton told the Harborough Mail: “It just feels so incredibly good to be alive – it’s as if I’ve been given a second chance and I’m starting all over again.
“And I’ve got to stress that I can’t thank the NHS staff enough.
“They were simply brilliant from start to finish.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the fantastic nurses, doctors and all the other staff at the LRI who looked after me.
“I was on the very edge and I was taken to the absolute brink by this devastating virus.
“I spent five days in the intensive care unit and I could easily have died – so it feels very much like I’ve been reborn.”
Steeped in conservation and committed to saving the planet, the high-flying dad-of-two sits on the Advisory Council to the Rainforests Project of the Prince of Wales.
“It may be an exaggeration to count Prince Charles as a friend but we have worked together on his crucial work to save the rainforests and we get along well.
“I admire him greatly.
“The Prince of Wales did send me a personal message by email last week while I was in hospital,” revealed Hylton.
“He basically told me to get better and get well because our country needs me!
“I know just how busy the prince is, he’s a workaholic, so it was deeply touching and humbling to receive his support.
“Prince Charles has also suffered this virus himself but nowhere near as badly as I did thank goodness.”
The former leading international banker was rushed to the LRI by ambulance on Sunday March 22 after falling seriously ill.
Hylton was admitted just 24 hours after his well-known dad Robin Murray-Philipson, 92, the former High Sheriff of Leicestershire, passed away.
He watched his father’s funeral from his hospital bed.
“I’d been ill for a few days and my temperature had shot up to 104.
“I got a cough and I vomited so I knew I was in trouble,” said Hylton, chairman of the Global Canopy campaign to stop tropical deforestation.
“I called 999, shaved and grabbed my new pyjamas and an ambulance came out to fetch me within the hour.
“I quickly deteriorated after going into the LRI and I was switched into the intensive care unit.
“The coronavirus got into my lungs and made hay.
“Before I knew it I was fighting for my life.
“I couldn’t breathe, it was as if my lungs had been paralysed.
“I couldn’t cough and it felt as if I was drowning.
“I had to make a real effort to calm down my entire system as the lovely people there mopped my brow and stayed by my side.
“I was so worn down and tired out by day four or five I started to doubt how long I could go on for.
“It was a huge temptation to stop fighting the virus and just give in.
“But I’ve got two great sons, Jim, 23, and Luke, 19, that I wanted to see again and I’ve still got a lot of work to do on this earth yet,” insisted Hylton, whose wife Nicola sadly died in 2016.
The eco-farmer, who couldn’t have any visitors during the most traumatic time of his life, said Jim had been studying at university in California while Luke was travelling in Chile.
“Luckily they’ve both managed to get back to the UK and I hope to meet up with them again for the first time on Wednesday.
“I had some terrible moments while in the intensive care unit.
“It’s so devastating physically as well as mentally – I’ve plunged from 10 stone to eight and a quarter stone,” said Hylton, a director of Agrivert Ltd and Geothermal International Ltd.
“I also had flashbacks to my childhood and random incidents in my life such as cycling with friends up in Scotland.
“I was blessed to have a vivid golden vision of heaven as I was praying when my wife Nicola died four years ago.
“And this time the story of Jesus calming the waters for his disciples on the Sea of Galilee appeared in my mind.
“I’ve worked for a long time with the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and I’ve got a very strong Church of England faith.”
To make matters even worse his mum Nini, 85, and sister Cornelia, 63, were both taken into Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital with Covid-19.
“They were both treated for four days at Glenfield although they weren’t on ventilators.
“I fear my mum caught it from me and my sister contracted it in London,” said Hylton.
“It was especially worrying given my mum’s age and she’d just lost my dad after they’d been married for 65 years.
“But her pre-war generation are so tough and resilient.
“And we are all at home together now as we get over this most dramatic few days of our lives.”
He said he was fed intravenously and regularly given oxygen and medication while he was on a ventilator helping him breathe.
“Slowly but surely I started to get better and I was moved into Ward 23, for patients battling the coronavirus, after five days in intensive care,” said Hylton.
He celebrated his 61st birthday on the ward on Thursday April 2.
“A nurse asked me what I’d like for my birthday.
“I said I’d love a shave and she shaved me, which wasn’t easy.
“Then the nurses gave me a cake and candles, stood around my bed and sang ‘happy birthday’ to me,” said Hylton.
“It was that touching I blubbed like a baby!
“I’d been so close to not making it at all.
“And it was thanks to these amazing nurses and their magnificent NHS colleagues that I was still there to turn 61 at all.”
To top it all Hylton was given a guard of honour and a tearjerking round of applause by over a dozen nurses and medics as he was wheeled out and allowed to go home on Friday April 3.
“I’ve been out enjoying the spring sunshine on our farm and apart from a raspy throat I’m feeling so much better already and raring to go.
“I’m a student of history and of all the great things our country has done over the centuries the NHS is by far our finest hour.
“Our phenomenal health service is a towering achievement,” said Hylton.
“People come from all over the world to work for the NHS and it is so huge.
“And yet everyone is so compassionate, so caring, so committed and so brilliant looking after us patients.
“I wouldn’t be here today talking to you without them – it’s as simple as that.
“I was reduced to being a baby – entirely dependent on the staff looking after me.
“So I’d urge everybody to stay at home, follow all the latest Government and health advice and don’t spread this horrific disease.
“Stay at home, save lives – and save our glorious NHS.”
Dr Chris Miller, the Consultant on Ward 23, said: “This is an example, not only of the care Mr Murray-Philipson has received on Ward 23, but of the exceptional care that occurs across all our hospitals, every day of the week.
“After a very tough week this (Hylton going home) has really been a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Andrew Furlong, Medical Director at Leicester’s hospitals, said: “We are discharging patients on a daily basis who have recovered from Covid-19.
“Our staff are providing amazing care and it’s a joy when we’re able to see patients well enough to leave our hospitals.”
Making his own powerful plea to people, Mr Furlong added: “The most important things the public can do to protect themselves and support our team here at Leicester’s hospitals is to follow the Government’s social distancing guidance and regularly wash their hands with soap and water.”