ICU nurse Joan Laplana who suffered PTSD for 18 months is on the road to recovery as he is set to run marathon
Image: Joan Laplana)
A brave ICU nurse, who suffered a breakdown after working through the pandemic, is running the London Marathon for charity.
Joan Laplana is hoping to beat the Guinness World Record for the fastest man to run a marathon dressed in a pint of beer costume.
The dad-of-three took up running after he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder earlier this year.
Since running Joan says he has become fitter, his mood swings and anxiety have improved and he no longer needs medication.
But it hasn’t been an easy journey for Joan, who is still haunted by the faces of Covid-19 patients who died.
Joan, 46, says: “People were dying daily from Covid, I used to think to myself, I could potentially get the virus and die.”
Get the news you want straight to your inbox. Sign up for a Mirror newsletter here.
Joan, who has been a nurse for 23 years, was working as lead nurse for NHS Digital Transformation, which looks at ways to improve the delivery of care.
He volunteered to go back to the frontline for both waves and said it was one of his “most proudest moments”.
But his mental health suffered when he lost a patient, who was the same age as him.
“One of the hardest shifts was probably when I lost a Covid patient, who was the same age as me, with daughters the same age as mine and he had no underlying health conditions”, says Joan.
He adds: “On paper he should have survived but he didn’t. Just half an hour before he passed away, his daughters told him they loved him on FaceTime.
“I was in pieces, that image stayed with me. I couldn’t even walk into the ward for my next shift the next day, and that is when I knew I needed help.”
Joan went back to his job at NHS Digital Transformation in between the first and second wave.
But despite suffering from panic attacks and anxiety, Joan still wanted to continue his work in ICU when the second wave hit the country.
Joan, who lives in Chesterfield, says: “It was my choice to go back to the frontline during the second wave, partly out of anger, because I was angry that the Government had reopened the country near Christmas.
“But I fell to pieces during the second wave and in March I was diagnosed with PTSD.
“I was destroying my marriage, my job and my relationship with those around me.”
Joan says he would get into “silly arguments over little things” with his wife, his mood would often change very quickly and he hadn’t slept through the night for 18 months.
But a heart-breaking conversation with his wife made Joan realise he needed help urgently.
He says: “She sat me down and said, ‘I’m afraid of you and I am considering moving out’.
“That stuck in my heart, the person I love the most in the world, was afraid of me. She was afraid of my mood swings, it broke my heart, that was the lowest point for me.”
Joan then started getting counselling from a psychologist and he was encouraged to write down his thoughts.
Joan, who is Spanish, says there is a “macho culture” in his country and it is harder for men to express their feelings.
He adds: “The pandemic took a strain on my mental health, the fear and anxiety got worse and I became very lonely. It was a very bleak and dark time.
“I wanted to protect my family during the pandemic, so when my wife asked how my day was, I didn’t tell her the truth.
“In the car before going inside the house, I would pull myself into one piece and put this wall up around me, it was my mistake to handle it like this.”
Joan has now started a new job at NHS Education England, as a project choice area manager.
Since his new fitness regime, Joan says he isn’t taking medication anymore and has finally started sleeping through the night for the first time in 18 months.
He says: “In March I joined a running club and it has been building up from there. On days when I can’t motivate myself, my friends from the club will message me at 6:30am.
“I knew I had to get serious about my running when I got an email to say I got a place for the London Marathon. I am very proud of myself after everything that I have been through.
“Running has improved my mental health, I’ve lost three stone and it has helped with my anxiety, reduced my panic attacks and improved my mood swings.”
In July, Joan climbed to the top of Mount Snowden dressed as a pint of beer for charity and he now hopes to beat the Guinness World Record for the fastest man to run a marathon dressed as a pint of beer.
He has named his challenge #Pint4Cavell and he hopes to raise £10,000 for the Cavell Trust, who support the welfare of nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants.
The week before the marathon on October 3, Joan will also be running the Sheffield Half Marathon.
To make donation towards Joan’s #Pint4Cavell challenge page.
Do you have a story to share? Email [email protected]