Toby and Donna Morgan have run the Victoria Inn, West Marden, near Chichester, West Sussex, on an Ei Group lease, since 2011.
Donna began feeling unwell on a Monday in March, after spending the weekend with friends.
Toby said: “By Tuesday night, she couldn't breathe, and at 1am on Wednesday morning I phoned 111, she went to St Richard’s Hospital by ambulance.
“By Friday of that week, she was in intensive care. By Monday 23 March, she was in a medically induced coma and that’s where she is now.”
This also meant Toby had to self-isolate for two weeks and he then began showing symptoms of the virus.
He added: “She got taken off in the ambulance and I was told to stay inside, on my own for the next 14 days.
“I am locked in the pub for 14 days thinking ‘what am I going to do?’. For the first couple of days I had the virus but nowhere near as bad.
“Then had 12 days of chilling on the sofa, watching Netflix, which for a publican was just amazing. I enjoyed the rest.
“But, by the same token, my wife was in hospital. To begin with, she was on oxygen.
“You heard about how it affects people but thought she’s in the best possible place, it will be all right then slowly realised that she, true to form, wasn’t going to do things by halves and then 14 days in, I was at the hospital because, by this time, I thought there’s nothing I can do about Donna but I can sure as hell help look after the people looking after her.”
This spurred Toby to put together care packages for the hospital staff to say thank you for what they were doing for his wife, including hand sanitiser, shower gel and hand cream.
He said: “We were hearing all the stories about there being no PPE, etc. and it turned out they were all right in that regard. One of the locals of our pubs is an MD of a hand sanitiser company, and he gave me a few boxes (which were donated to the hospital).
“When you have someone in intensive care, you have a phone number to call, you give them a password and speak directly to the nurse sat next to the patient.
“Every time I did that, I wrote down their name. I have now got a big whiteboard with about 60 names on it, all the people who have been with Donna.
“I made a tag for each one [of the packages] and wrote thank you for looking after her on each one, and gave it to the hospital.”
However, Toby also restarted his business by providing a fish and chip offer from the front of the pub to the locals on a weekly basis, which has been rising in popularity.
“The fish and chip night has gone bonkers. The first week was 67 covers, the next week was 111, third week 139, fourth week 173, fifth week 175,” he added.
“The income I am generating is by no means enough to cover anything but it means I can't furlough myself because we have declared I am doing this.
“We were lucky enough to get a £10,000 grant, which is nearly all gone.”
Alongside this, Toby has also been making videos of himself, in fancy dress, taking care packages with donations from the public to the hospital.
He has also installed a totaliser outside the front of the pub to keep the locals up to date with how much money has been raised for the hospital.
These donations, both monetary and gifts, will be used by the hospital staff to help provide a holistic service to patients and their families.
He has now set up a Just Giving page as well as a dedicated website to garner more support for the fundraising. The total made so far, including the monetisation of the gifts donated, was about £58,000 at the time of publishing, Toby estimated.
But Toby’s plans aren’t going to stop any time soon with huge plans to raise very large amounts for the hospital.
He said: “We are about to hit the £60,000 mark, I'm going for £200,000 then £2m and then £20m then £200m – and I am not joking.
“There are 286 intensive care units in the country at the moment, 245 of them have more than one Covid patient in. There are currently 2,403 people in the same situation as Donna.
“Let’s say that affects 10 family members, that’s 24,000 family members. There’s 100 doctors and nurses in each ITU, that’s 28,000. That’s more than 50,000 people directly impacted.
“What started as a pub landlord trying to sort out a few Mars Bars and moisturisers for the people at the hospital because he couldn’t look after his wife but could look after the people looking after his wife, has now turned into a national campaign.
“We are so far beyond what the staff wanted, they said ‘stop giving us stuff’. They wanted to use any money raised to enhance the service they give, which is just a testament to these amazing people.
“Clearly, we aren’t going to be opening the pub any time soon so I’m doing my damnedest to rally the troops to see what I can do.”
Toby went on to outline what the future holds for Donna when it comes to her health.
He added: “She probably won’t be able to do much until 2021, in terms of what the doctors have told us, the prognosis and her recovery because of rehabilitation, she will have to learn how to sit in a chair again, to walk.
“She won’t be running a pub any time soon. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out if Donna is going to take a year to recover, to even sit on the flipping sofa, the likelihood of her continuing her role as a landlady is fairly tiny.”