Luton councillor spent 6 weeks in coma and on life support machine while suffering Covid-19
A Luton borough councillor was in a coma for almost six weeks with Covid-19, but is now on the road to recovery, a meeting heard.
Liberal Democrat Wigmore councillor Alan Skepelhorn was on a life support machine in an East Anglian hospital, after contracting the deadly virus in January.
He was only well enough to move to a general ward a fortnight ago, according to Liberal Democrat group leader and Barnfield councillor David Franks.
Councillor Skepelhorn was taken to a local hospital when he became seriously ill, before being put in an intensive care bed and receiving oxygen, councillor Franks told a full council meeting.
He had been spending time with his parents in Lowestoft, towards the end of last year.
But his mother died not long after his arrival, explained councillor Franks.
Councillor Skepelhorn stayed in Suffolk until after the funeral, and had been planning his return to Luton in January.
Under the Local Government Act 1972, a councillor must attend a meeting of the council, or one of its formal committees or sub-committees, at least once in any six-month period to avoid being disqualified from office.
The local authority was considering a request for absence of a council member on ill health grounds, which it agreed unanimously.
This means he no longer has to attend a meeting before November 26, 2021.
A report to the council said: "Councillor Skepelhorn is now recuperating, but is currently in poor health and may be unable to attend meetings for some time.
"To give him time to regain his health, without the pressure of having to attend a meeting before he's well enough to do so, it's recommended he's given a six-month extension to the statutory period."
He last attended a meeting on November 26, 2020, added the report.
"The requirement to disqualify for non-attendance can be waived, if any failure to attend was because of a reason approved by the authority in advance of the six-month period expiring."
Moving the recommendation, the council's deputy leader Sian Timoney sent her and the Labour group's best wishes to councillor Skepelhorn for a speedy recovery, saying: "We hope to see him back fit and well, some time in the future."
Councillor Franks said: "He was in a coma for almost six weeks. It was only two weeks ago he was considered well enough to move to a normal hospital ward.
"His consultant said councillor Skepelhorn was medically fit, but his legs didn't work as the muscles had lost all the strength needed.
"He said he's recently taken 74 steps with his walking frame. It was good to hear him say it.
"And he'd been fed with a tube, so the muscles in his throat weren't capable of swallowing.
"On Sunday, (March 21) he'd eaten a first meal since the beginning of January.
"He told me it was the best tasting food he'd had in his entire life," added councillor Franks.
"I thank councillor Timoney for wishing him a speedy recovery. I will certainly pass that on to him.
"He's going to make a complete recovery, all of the medics are quite sure of that.
"Sadly I don't think it's going to be speedy, which is why we're asking for an extra six months leave of absence."