Toby Morgan, who has run the Victoria Inn in West Marden since 2011, said his wife Donna had been in the intensive care unit longer than any other patient.
Donna first felt unwell one Monday in mid-March, after returning from a weekend birthday break to Wales with her friends.
The next day the 52-year-old, who Toby said was ‘fit and healthy’, developed a fever and a cough, and by 1am on the Wednesday morning, Toby called 111 because she could not breathe properly.
She was taken to hospital, where she was the fourth patient to be admitted with the virus, Toby said.
On March 23, she took a sudden turn for the worse and was put in an induced coma, where she has remained since.
Toby was confined to self-isolation in the pub for 14 days and experienced mild symptoms, though he is unable to know for certain whether he had the virus as he was not tested.
Once he was better, he sprang into action to support the hospital.
He said: “There’s nothing I can do about Donna, but I can sure look after the people looking after her.”
Toby decided to raise funds and collect items together to create goody-bags for the hospital staff, who he said had been ‘incredible’ and ‘so, so caring’.
The project snowballed, and before he knew it, Toby was delivering piles of care packages to the hospital in his ‘campaign bus’, which he emblazoned with the slogan ‘come on Donna’.
People donated thousands of pounds worth of funds and gifts including soap, bath stuff, hand cream, while children in the village like Oliver Bean aged six and Archie Stillwell aged four wrote handmade cards for the nurses, thanking them for looking after Donna.
As of Wednesday this week, the total raised stood at £36,294.
“The generosity of people has just been amazing,” he said.
Toby said Donna, who worked at Goodwood for many years in front-of-house roles, was well known, adding: “There’s a lot of people in the local area who are rooting for her.”
After a second delivery, grateful hospital staff told Toby to stop bringing them gifts – and instead asked whether he could use the funds raised to help develop a service to support the family members of coronavirus patients, like him.
Toby, who formerly worked at the Body Shop for 20 years as a values manager, leapt at the challenge and has put together a proposal for what such a service could look like.
He said: “It’s really helped me, because it’s been a nightmare.
“I know she’s being looked after and I can’t see her, and I completely understand why I can’t, but I can’t be the only person in this sort of boat.”
To celebrate the clap for carers every Thursday night, Toby has started a trend of dressing up and playing music to a different theme each week, to keep people engaged.
Last week he dressed as an ABBA singer for the theme of Mamma-Mia, one of Donna’s favourite films, and this week the theme is Bond.
Each week, Toby is clapping extra hard for those caring for his wife of 21 years, who have been doing all they can to make him feel to close to Donna in the weeks they have been apart.
He can call a direct number and speak to the person on duty, to find out how she is, and earlier this week a nurse plaited her hair and sent Toby a photo.
Nurses have arranged pictures by her bedside, of Toby, of her children – Amy, 33, Cameron, 30, and Charles, 19 – and her beloved dogs, Gin and Tonic.
Donna is also played video and voice recordings from friends and family, of them telling jokes and singing her songs.
Toby said: “That’s been a real solace as she’s got more and more critically ill.”
He has now launched a fundraising page and set himself the target of raising £200,000 for the hospital – find it and donate here.
As well as the hospital, Toby has been delivering supplies of hand sanitiser – generously donated by Luigi Weissbarth of Zidac Laboratories – to the following places: Chestnut Tree House, St Wilfrids Hospice, Hambrook Meadows Care Home, Lordington park Care Home, South Central Ambulance Service, South East Coast Ambulance Service, Wisteria Lodge Care Home and Rowlands Castle Surgery.
Toby thanked the following key donors who offered items for goodybags: Mr Weissbarth, Carolyn Sweeney of Creations Chichester, Will Windsor of the South Downs Water Company, Lisa Sellers of Delonghi, Marcus Rishworth of Quooker.
A message from the Editor, Gary Shipton:
In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news, I am asking you to please purchase a copy of our newspapers.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspapers.
Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.
Stay safe, and best wishes.