Explorer Robin Hanbury-Tenison reveals how hospital garden helped his battle with coronavirus

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - A British explorer whose latest book warned of the dangers of a pandemic has told how he recovered from coronavirus after a 49-day battle that left him at death's door.

Robin Hanbury-Tenison, 83, was in an induced coma for more than a month before his recovery began when he was moved to a garden space in Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, Devon.

His latest book, Taming the Four Horsemen: Radical solutions to defeat Pandemics, War, Famine and the Death of the planet, was published on the day he first fell ill in March.

In interviews on Tuesday, he talked of the role of nature in his recovery and, pointing out he has lived in remote tribal societies, said he believes “we are poisoning ourselves without understanding how”.

Mr Hanbury-Tenison, who had no underlying conditions and was returning from a skiing holiday when he fell ill, said the coronavirus was “nasty” and “unpleasant”.

He was the first person in the England’s South West region to be admitted to hospital.

“I was in a pretty bad way, in an induced coma for five weeks and didn’t know what was going on. It’s a nasty business, very unpleasant. You are sedated and delirious,' he said.

“The remarkable thing is they kept me in this condition all this time. The big breakthrough moment was when they wheeled me down into this wonderful new thing which is an intensive care garden where you are in the open air with flowers.

“It sounds silly but it’s really extraordinary.

“The moment came for me though, I had all these tubes and four people pushing this big bed and with the sun on my face, and suddenly I came out of it.”

Reserch 'is needed'

Over the last two decades, indigenous tribes in Mongolia have changed their livelihoods to focus on the country’s rapidly evolving tourism industry, which has halted overnight. Courtesy Frank Schieweck / Adiyabold Namkhai

A Mongolian nomad family in their ger in the mountains of Altai. The coronavirus has not yet reached this remote region but the people are suffering from an abrupt end to tourism, the main revenue income. Courtesy Xaviar Smerdon / New Milestone Tours

Chile's Mapuche people have had to abandon age-old traditions in the face of Covid-19 which has reached their mountainous region in South America. Courtesy Rutas Ancestrales / National Tourism Board of Chile.

Randy Borman is vice president of Zabalo, a Cofan village in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Courtesy Explorer X / The Cofan Organistation

Moath is a member of the Ammarin Bedouin tribe, life in his Bedouin village in Jordan has taken a strange turn.  Courtesy Engaging Cultures Travel

The Yanomami tribe live in the rainforest in Brazil and Venezuela, where Covid-19 has already claimed lives. Courtesy Sam Valadi / Flickr

Adil (right) drinks tea with his cousin who is a nomad in Morocco's Sahara desert. Both are members of the Aarib tribe and face an uncertain future with no income while travel remains suspended due to the coronavirus.  Courtesy Una Simone Harris / Traverse Journeys

Until things improve and tourists return to the Sahara, the Aarib tribe rely on the few resources they do have like dates, home-cooked bread and the few vegetables that can be grown in this desert climate.

A woman from the Aarib tribe bakes bread in the Sahara desert. This is one of the few resources the tribe relies on now that tourism is suspended. Courtesy Traverse Journeys / Una Simone Harris

Nomads in Morocco's Sahara have no money to buy food for their camels and little money to feed their families. Courtesy Josh Telles / Traverse Journeys

Canada's native tribes rely on income from tourists visiting indigenous lands. This has dried up due to coronavirus restrictions. Courtesy Indigenous Tourism Association Canada / Mike Morin

As indigenous tourism has shutdown, no where are the effects felt more than in native communities around the world. Courtesy Indigenous Tourism Association Canada /  Moccasin trails

The indigenous tribes of Canada have seen job losses as tourism has halted. Courtesy Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada / Trina Mather-Simard

Mr Hanbury-Tenison, a co-founder of Survival International, said that his experience with coronavirus has supported the thoughts laid out in his book.

He said the key was research, and lots of it.

“This is a very complicated story and people don’t understand how all these viruses work.

“We need much more research, we don’t understand how these things happen and the overlap between being in an induced coma and being brought out of it, that is little understood.”

The National has contacted Derriford Hospital to explain more about how the garden is being used to help coronavirus patients.

Updated: May 5, 2020 02:11 PM

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