The Long Riders' Guild

Robin’s Rescue


Louella Hanbury-Tenison


Robin and Louella Hanbury-Tenison are among the original Founding Members of the Long Riders’ Guild. They made five wonderful equestrian journeys - across France, along China's Great Wall and through both islands of New Zealand, the pilgrimage to Spain's Santiago de Compostela and more recently a ride through Albania.

In addition to writing five equestrian travel books, Robin wrote the Preface to the Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration. Renowned for his generosity of wisdom and his encouragement of young travellers, Robin has mentored dozens of Long Riders for more than thirty years. To mark his 82nd birthday, Robin was designated a Living Treasure by the Long Riders’ Guild.

On March 16th 2020 the London press reported that Robin was critically ill due to the coronavirus. He was rushed from the family home in Cornwall, to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, where he was in a coma for a month, was put on a ventilator and because his kidneys began to fail, had to be put on a dialysis machine. Robin’s condition became so grave that he was “on the knife’s edge of death.”

In emails sent to the Guild and family friends, Louella provided a moving account that explains how a team of dedicated doctors and nurses spent weeks battling to save her husband’s life and thereby brought about a medical miracle.

17 March 2020


Dear All,


Thank you!  Robin is in Derriford which has a special ward set up for the virus and so far not full, so best care and lots of doctors and nurses, all experimenting on their guinea pig firsts. But we have to isolate as well so will not be able to see anyone or stay etc. So kind.
This looks very serious and he is suddenly horribly ill.  He will probably go to ICU this afternoon for 10 days, sedated.  They say it will attack his lungs, then kidneys and then heart and if he fights all that off he has a 20% chance of recovering.  And that is taking into account his good health, no underlying problems and no medication at all.  He looked very ill indeed when I face-timed him this morning and speaking exhausted him.  When they took him away last night we didn't even say goodbye.  And of course he can have no visitors.  All very brutal.  But we are putting our belief in him being in the 20%...


With very much love,



Founder Members of The Guild, Louella and Robin Hanbury-Tenison on their Camargues, Tiki and Thibert, that they rode from the Mediterranean to Cornwall

20 March 2020


Dear All,

I am now looking at a list of 140 email addresses of lovely friends who have all written and asked for news of Robin.  I thank you all for your kind messages and wish I had something uplifting to say.  I don't want to be sending you all an email if there is nothing to report, but then I hope that the 'No News is Good News' mantra might just remind us that this Coronavirus takes time to shake off.  He is remaining heavily sedated in the intensive care unit on a ventilator at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth and basically there is no change.  I asked the nurse if patients can hear when sedated and she said 'Sometimes.  But they won't remember it when they wake up', which rather begs the question 'well in that case how do we know they can, if they don't know because they can't remember.?'  If you see what I mean!  Anyway, I asked her to tell him he is much loved and she said she would, and not to worry as she is looking after him as if he were her own.  What more does one want to hear?!  He is getting the best of care and we are fortunate he got taken to hospital so quickly.
This total isolation lark is not very jolly, but we will probably all have to experience it.  They predict it will double the birth rate and the divorce rate!!  Well, rock on that first category, and perhaps try not to enter the second!  We all need each other and with empty diaries and long 'to do' lists; no more excuses to not address the cracking paint and chores, the box of photographs and all those old letters and diaries that need sorting - well, what have we to complain about?  Our houses should all be sparkling, our DIY skills honed and our gardens all mini Edens as we enter spring and come out the other side of this nightmare, to count our blessings.
So, he's still on the critical list, still stable and luckily unaware of this unforeseen adventure he is going through, all we can do is wait and see.  I will only email you if there is something to tell you, because although no news might be okay, I would rather have something more positive to say!  Meanwhile thank you all so much for your utter love and kindness to us all, and especially to Robin.

All stay safe and I am loving the virtual hugs!

Robin Hanbury-Tenison OBE, FRGS is an explorer and equestrian traveller par excellence, who was hailed by The Sunday Times as "the greatest explorer of the past twenty years." He made the first land crossing of South America at its widest point, led twenty-four expeditions and was awarded the Patron's Gold Medal by the Royal Geographical Society.

22 March 2020

Dear All,


No real news to impart on Robin for the last two days.  They are tweaking the machinery that is helping him to breathe in the hope of decreasing his dependency on it, but he is neither better nor worse.  The nurse said today that recovery will be ‘super slow’ but they are dedicated to doing their utmost to meeting him on the other side of this horrid illness.  He is very ill, but they are all reading his new book Taming the Four Horsemen and want to talk to him about it when he is a bit better.  It is too ironic that the Pale Horse has taken him down… but all your wonderful messages of love and support, some Buddhist chanting and other votive vibes are working, I know they are.  Please keep them up.  And thank you for worrying about me – I’m fine.   Obviously very, very worried, but we all need to be strong and believe he will get well and come home. 

We want to continue to raise awareness about the brutal effects of Corona Virus and the need to be safe and sensible at this unprecedented time.  We also feel there is huge appetite at the moment for sharing real, human, personal stories and so telling the world about Robin’s fight with Corona Virus feels like an important thing to do.

Thank you so much, and please, everyone do what you can to stay safe and well.


Lots of love,


Robin and Louella riding the pilgrim trail to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

26 March 2020

Dear All,
Having not had much to say on Robin’s fight of the coronavirus for the last 48 hours, I know that there are so many of you wanting to hear how he is that I must update you all now with what the consultant said this afternoon.  This is in rather staccato form as it is literally the notes I take when they ring.  I have then put below Merlin’s second article for the Spectator blog which was published today.

Dr Sair rang and said progress is slow.  Yesterday they realised that the virus has attacked Robin’s kidneys and overnight they tried to help him improve his renal function.  There is no major deterioration of his kidneys today and he is holding his own, but they now think on balance it would be reasonable to put him on dialysis so they take over the work of his kidneys.  This will clean his blood and hopefully aid in taking out some of the detritus accumulating in his system.  He said things may get worse.  They need to optimise all other things and try and get him off the ventilator.  He told me Derriford is still more than coping and not to worry, they are well able to keep trying on his recovery.  The ventilator is resulting in him being ‘de-conditioned’.  It will be a very long haul to get back to normal but he still has a reasonable chance of recovery, as long as he doesn’t go into shock or organ failure.  They cannot escalate the treatment at the moment but can support him for a few more days.  They want to try to get him better.  They may also, in a few days, put in a tracheotomy so they can take the intubation out.  There are slight risks to this but it is kinder and gentler on the patient.  The thing they want to do most importantly is get him breathing on his own.  He promises Robin is not in any pain.  Dr. Sair says he is a realist and at the moment what they are doing is still worth continuing. 

So we wait.  I am so sad that this news is not as encouraging as we would all like, but we know he is in an incredible hospital and they really, really want to make him well. 

Meanwhile I cannot thank you enough for all the loving messages everyone is sending.  They mean a lot to our family, and we hope that everyone getting this email is staying well and strong.  I will only write again when there is more news. 

Latest Spectator piece:


With very much love,



In 1969 Robin co-founded the charity Survival International. He wrote, “The idea of an organisation to represent tribal people was greeted with profound skepticism by most academics and realists, especially those who believed that progress was unstoppable. Most thought the struggle hopeless and the people we cared about doomed to extinction in the near future. We were seen as trying to stop the clock, create human zoos and delay progress.”

01 April 2020

Dear All,


I am sorry that I have not been in touch for five days but I didn’t want to clog up everyone’s inbox with updates that are not newsworthy enough to send.  I thank you all for wanting to know how Robin is, and yet I know that many of you may be suffering symptoms; we are all isolating and coming to terms with a new way of spending our time.  Whilst I want to share Robin’s journey with you because it may keep you all sensibly cautious of the virus threat, it is also interesting to track his progress so we learn a bit more about this potentially deadly disease and how they are treating it. 

At the moment we are still banking on Robin getting through this and eventually coming home to be nursed back to health.  If we find ourselves having to fight this virus (hopefully not) this update may give us hope.  Robin may be the first person many of us know to get it badly and so his story allows us all to understand the severity of the virus and just why we are all in lock down.   

The fact that the amazing doctors at Derriford still think they can get him through this is a testament to their belief that they have the skills and equipment to conquer this deadly new disease, even though they have told me several times that they are learning on the hoof and desperately unsure how best to treat their ever increasing number of patients.  They have been unstinting in their care and dedication.  The nurses are all so nice and the doctors have been totally honest with us about his chances, which have hung in the balance and still do.  Meanwhile we, his family, are strengthened by our belief in his fighting ability; his determination to live forever, and his desire to do more of everything for many more years to come.   

Since I last wrote Robin’s kidneys were attacked by the virus and he was put on dialysis to ‘wash’ his blood.  Despite the heavy sedation to enable the ventilator to support him, he has been initiating each breath – just not able to carry through.  Not to go into any more detail than is necessary, the sedation drugs cause the problem as they stop your muscles (including those needed to breathe) from working and you get pretty weak very quickly.  So the quicker they can wean you off those drugs and have you conscious the better.  So yesterday they inserted a tracheostomy in his wind pipe, took out the two tubes that were down his throat and stopped the sedation drugs.  This is kinder and gentler and the ventilator is now attached to the tracheostomy plug, his body can get rid of all the drugs making him sleepy and he can slowly be woken up.  This may take two days, and they monitor it so he is not stressed, and keep any confusion he will experience on not knowing where he is or why to a minimum.  They are playing Classic FM to him as that is his favourite radio channel.  He is still unable to respond to commands but his breathing is a bit better so they are able to decrease the ventilator support a bit more.  He will stay on the dialysis for the time being.  Hopefully in the next few days he will be able to respond more and get the breathing muscles to work a little harder.   

Clearly this is an update that might have been more cheerful sent tomorrow or on Friday, but although he is still clearly critically ill and in intensive care, I feel we can be very cautiously optimistic that he might have been through the worst and is going to take some tiny steps forward.  I don’t want to jinx this outcome, and the hospital certainly does not encourage us to think he will find the next few weeks easy.  But all the love and prayers, chanting and messages are helping both Robin and his family to feel he just could beat it, so please don’t stop yet!  I will, of course, send another update when there is something to share.  It may take a few days, and in the meantime I really hope you, dear friends and supporters, are all well, and all those you know and love are staying safe.

With much love,



Robin and Louella Hanbury-Tenison rode across both islands in New Zealand.

06 April 2020

Dear All,
I am aware that although Robin may have been one of the first people we all know to have caught the virus, we probably now know other people who are either ill, or we have friends who have friends who are ill with the virus, or know people who have lost the battle and died.  The shocking news that Boris Johnson is in hospital having probably exacerbated his illness with over work worrying about our nation as well as Carrie, pregnant and also isolating, brings it home to us all.  Meanwhile those of us unable to see our loved ones whilst they are in the care of the NHS have done none of those chores, ticked nothing off the list of good intentions, and remain sapped of energy and wondering where the day went.
Robin seems to be doing well in intensive care and has now been in hospital for three weeks.  He is still so drowsy that they hope the sedation drugs will soon be flushed out and he will start to wake up.  He has managed 30 hours off the ventilator and is off dialysis, apparently taking small steps on the road to recovery.   His tracheostomy means he no longer has tubes down his throat and he can be supported with an oxygen mask supplying his lungs through the plug in his windpipe.  He may need help with the ventilator on and off, but his breathing muscles are doing well. He is placed in a chair for around 3 hours a day so the physiotherapy team can help his muscles, and today they put him on a tilt table so he was in a standing position for 10 minutes.  All this sounds like steps in the right direction, and indeed it is.  But there are two major worries which might turn into setbacks, and so caution must be observed.  Somehow we had let ourselves visualise his home coming and a gentle recovery over the summer.  Now we have to sober up a bit and realistically there are two elephants in the room.  One is his kidneys, which are functioning but may go either way, and apparently going back onto dialysis is not an option the doctors want to action.  The other is this intensive care delirium which he is in a higher risk group due to his age.  They hope he will wake and be more lucid in the next few days, but until he does they can’t move forward with the physiotherapy.  He has to be able to cough and to sit up.  If he continues to stay in this holding pattern there are problems like secondary chest infections etc.  Basically we need him to start engaging and wake up.
I am aware that all this may be too much information for some, and I apologise for sharing it with you.  I think for many it will be a reminder that this virus is easily caught and incredibly difficult to shake off.  We need to take care of ourselves, keep an eye on all those we love, and let our admiration for the doctors and nurses know no bounds.  They sound cheerful and loving, they show concern and understanding for both the patients they are dedicated to making better, as well as the family on the other end of the telephone.   I feel this update will leave you as confused as to where we stand as it leaves me and all the family.  Feeling more confident or more anxious?   I’m not sure.  I do know that when he is conscious he will start the fight.  So please, keep praying and chanting and sending all those kind and healing thoughts.  And I will also keep all of you in my heart and hope none of you have to go through what Robin is having to tackle.
I will write in a few days time and hope the elephants have left the room.  Meanwhile, stay safe and thank you so much for all the touching messages both to me and on the Survival International webpage.  He will be so touched.

With much love,

To celebrate his 80th birthday, in 2015 Robin set off to accomplish eight remarkable challenges. He is seen here having climbed to the top of Mount Snowdonia.

13 April 2020

Dear All,

Again, apologies for a whole week of no news, but there was no news.  We have been in an extraordinary waiting room, and although it is a virtual one whilst we wait anxiously from afar, we have been moved and horrified by tragic stories in every news bulletin, some of them truly awful.  Then on Easter Day, when we traditionally celebrate the Ascension of Jesus Christ, Robin typically decided to gate crash the Easter party and start ascending from his long sleep.  Perhaps the sedation delirium has been protecting him from waking up too fast, and certainly he is still in its grip, but the doctors are relieved and we are elated.  The hospital then rang and said they were hoping to allow close family the chance to see their loved ones in the ICU on Zoom (which is a bit like Skype) and wanted to practice on us to see if they could get it to work.  Suddenly we were able to see Robin, groggy but looking so cared for, and despite all the tubes and breathing apparatus he opened his eyes and tried a little wave.  Today was another triumph when four nurses wheeled his bed outside into a
small garden and we were able to see him look at the blue sky and smile.  He understood all we said and smiled and even gave us (or was it for one of the four nurses?!) a wink. 

As you can imagine, I am chuffed to bits to be able to tell you this.  Of course there are many hurdles, and it will take a long time yet before he comes home.  He will be in intensive care until they deem it safe to take out the tracheostomy and make sure he can breathe without it.  He needs to regain his strength and go through physiotherapy and speech therapy and goodness knows what else.   He is clean shaven and by the time he comes home he may have hair long enough for a pony tail! 

We are certainly still cautious in our optimism and appreciate that everyone has been so kind and concerned, sending all those prayers, chants, vibes and shouty instructions to him, and this pretty much proves your efforts have worked.  So please keep sending them.  The doctor I spoke to last week said he thought it extraordinary that at his age Robin had fought through a month of pretty brutal treatment and the team looking after him were all in awe.  We never allowed ourselves to consider he wouldn’t pull through, but of course we know the only reason he has is because of the incredible care and abilities of the doctors and nurses who have been unfailingly cheerful and appear to do their job with such dedication, courage and love.  We are so lucky to have experienced this so personally and no words can express our thanks.

Someone emailed me last week to say she was looking at a book of prayers compiled by Debroah Cassidi and Robin had contributed two favourites to the book.  One seems to be rather apt for all of us hunkered down and observing isolation so I share it with you:  “May the roof above never fall in, May we below never fall out”.   His other contribution is rather un-Robin like and I share this because he would never be able to resist exaggerating a little bit more…

“Lord, grant that I may catch a fish so large that even I, In speaking of it afterward, may have no need to lie!”  Hmmm.

I will write again when hopefully things are even better and perhaps he will really be on the mend.  Don’t worry, I will send another update.  Meanwhile,  keep him in your thoughts for a bit longer please, it really is working.

Survival International suggested I include this link:  They would like to print out all the messages of support received on the webpage for Robin to see when he gets better.

Merlin’s latest Spectator article is here:  I know a lot of you have seen it, so apologies to those who have.

Our family want to thank you so much for your messages, cards, telephone calls and even despite florists being shut I was sent some flowers.  This has meant so much to us all, it has kept me busy and in touch with people and I haven’t had time to get too sad.   You are all lovely and thank you!

Much love,

In 2019 Robin’s latest book, Taming the Four Horsemen, issued a call to arms to save mankind from threats including global pandemics. When the book was released, Robin said he was taken aback by the developing pace of dangers such as climate change and prophetically warned ‘now we have the horrible new coronavirus’

20 April 2020

Dear All,

Eight days ago Robin started to wake up. 

Over the last five weeks I was rung three times by Consultants saying they felt we were close to having a ‘difficult’ conversation as it looked as if he was not going to make it.  The National news did not make it easy to see him bucking the trend either, and our unshakeable faith in Robin shook.  Three weeks heavily sedated on a ventilator and ten days on dialysis, followed by a tracheotomy, had naturally taken their toll.  Overcoming the sedation drugs is a Herculean task and the doctors feared for his neurological signs and rang me to say they suspected he might have also had a stroke.

In the last eight days both Robin, and his family, have been on a rollercoaster ride of swooping ups and downs.  One moment a wink and a smile, then a high temperature and infection.  As I write we are in awe of the doctors and nurses in intensive care who have never given up on him, and we have held our breath as Robin grappled with set-backs and threw himself into the battle of returning to Planet Earth.  It has taken him two weeks, and he has astounded the team in charge of his care with how well he has progressed.  He is very weak with loss of muscle mass and he has to learn to swallow and cough on his own.  Yesterday the tracheotomy was removed and he can now sip water – something he told the nurses he would never normally drink unless with whisky.  He is still fed through his nose.   He is suddenly no longer depending on monitors, machines and medication and with the extraordinary dedication and courage of all the staff at Derriford involved in keeping him alive and now intent on his recovery he has joined the fight.   We know he is on a road which will bump along with twists and turns and potholes, but he is speaking more clearly and strongly each day, and although still showing signs of confusion and disorientation, his determination and humour shines through. 

Today, out of the blue and some days ahead of the hoped for plan, a Staff Nurse rang to say he no longer needed to be in the ICU.  At lunchtime he was wheeled out, a long guard of honour of all the doctors and nurses clapping him, and taken to a ward where he will enter a long and exhausting programme of physiotherapy.  He says they are slave drivers!  In truth he has no memory of the last five weeks and today is the beginning of the next phase in his recovery, and  one in which he will need all his determination and courage.  I know the doctors and nurses are thrilled to have a happy result so far, something they are proud to have achieved against all the odds.

Derriford Hospital in Plymouth is apparently one of the only centres in the UK to take ICU patients outside, and the Rehab Team have built a Secret Garden to restore, rebuild and nurture their critically ill patients.  Robin was wheeled out through endless corridors, initially in his bed plus all the paraphernalia he was so dependant on, and later in a wheelchair, to sit for half an hour every day and gain strength from cool air, a patch of sky, raised flower beds, sunlight and normality.  He looked forward to these restorative moments in his long and tiring day, and there is no doubt the Secret Garden is a valuable tool and treat for the Rehab Team of dedicated physiotherapists and their patients. 

We hope when Robin comes home in a few weeks and we have nursed him back to health, that he might challenge himself (and others) to raise some money to get Secret Gardens into more NHS Trusts for their intensive care patients.  For the moment that is a pipe dream that will fire up his imagination and, ambitious as it may be, he has said he desperately wants to give something back to the NHS for saving his life.

I will keep these updates to one a week, so rest assured in the meantime he will be working hard to get well, and we ask you all to keep him in your thoughts.  We have all of you in our thoughts and thank you so much for following his story and caring so much for him.  Your messages have kept me going, and when he comes home he will see them all.  We hope everyone is safe and well and Merlin has a fifth article in the Spectator online and a sixth will go out on Friday.

If you wish to send a message to Robin you can now do so on this link and the hospital will print them out and read them to him.


With much love,

Robin wrote the Preface to The Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration, which includes a quote that epitomizes his refusal to surrender, “The will to survive is more fundamentally important than any pill, lotion or powder found in your first aid kit! This invisible force will help you to overcome obstacles that seem quite impossible at the time. Unlike taking a course in first aid, one can’t be taught how to tap into this secret part of your soul. What you must comprehend is that your determination to survive is the single most important factor in any emergency. No matter how hopeless the situation might appear, you must never give up. Ever! Hope gives you pluck and comfort. This fundamental rule applies to every situation a Long Rider may encounter. Regardless if you are lying in pain or are facing an emotional disaster, sheer determination is what separates the survivors from the statistics. When accidents happen, you must learn to call upon the hidden reserves of strength and courage which lie deeply buried within your own soul.”

27 April 2020

Dear All,

How can another week have shot by? I find myself staring at the screen and wondering how to encapsulate another seven days of ‘downs and ups’?  I say it that way round as I ended last week’s update with Robin being clapped and cheered as he left intensive care after five weeks.  He was wheeled out, stopped midway to be given a face mask and then wheeled on to his next port of call, an acute ward.  I didn’t include the short video of his clapping guard of honour, but somehow it seems to be doing the rounds and was a fitting and emotional farewell to him from the most incredible team of doctors and nurses.  I kept a list of the names of the nurses that I spoke to during those five weeks, and given that many of them I talked to several times whilst they sat by his bed, I counted 32 nurses names and 7 different doctors, all kind enough to ring me and keep Robin’s family totally up to speed with his battle.   That was the ‘up’ at the end of last Monday’s email and clearly the Gods thought we were getting a bit too cocky about his progress.   

On Tuesday morning I had a very early call to say Robin had fallen out of bed during the night, cracked his head on the floor and was sporting a 3” gash over his right eyebrow and eight rather large stitches.  As he had not moved without huge amounts of help and hoists for 35 days, it seems extraordinary that he found the strength to do this, taking with him all the paraphernalia he was attached to, so no doubt quite a drama and earning him a long stint on the naughty step.  I suspect he was unused to not having a dedicated nurse by him 24 hours a day and had devised an attention seeking plan which went a bit wrong!  The upside of it was the hospital had to allocate an extra nurse to look after him.   No doubt his end of bed notes said “Watch out – this one’s trouble!”  

He then followed the path I mapped out last week of twists and turns and potholes.  A lot of delirium, much increased with the disorientation from moving wards, and I was thinking of running a book on who was maddest – Donald Trump with his cleaning agent injection cure, or Robin.  We have been able to talk to Robin several times a day as he now had his beloved mobile, although he can’t remember how it works.  His nurse helps, and we had many strange conversations as he told us he was up the Amazon in a boat with the Vilas Boas brothers, a Major General and his ADC, 12  burrowing owls and some small green men with hairy legs who were guarding the owls.  Or he told us about the large fat moles popping up from under the floorboards of the ward whilst he stroked a giant cat sitting by his bed.  Reading just these two hilarious hallucinations I still think Donald Trump wins the trophy!  Robin made friends with a man in the bed opposite him today called Alan, and they are happily exchanging their mind bending stories and he is excited to think they both entered a parallel spirit world not unlike the ones the Yanomami, Yawanawa and many other people do whilst practising their shamanistic rituals.  And all at the expense of the NHS!  The spirit world certainly kept him shielded from the reality of these past weeks and he is delighted to now be back in our world but still have the happy memories of the dream world. 

A puree’d menu, once he re-learnt to swallow, has not excited the palate, and the workouts twice a day from the amazing team of ever patient physiotherapists has meant exhaustion and sleep and a lot of strange dreams and stories.  Once he started to talk a week ago it seems he hasn’t stopped.  The other worry is a secondary infection somewhere unidentifiable and despite the efforts of the pharmacists faced with endless samples taken from him and a full body CT scan, he had high infection markers and a high temperature and fever.  No more physio that couldn’t be done in bed and a slowing up of his recovery.  We have had some dismal days. 

On Saturday, just when we were feeling things must start to turn around they did.  I know you will all rush to the drinks trolley and please do!  He is walking slowly with a zimmer frame and one nurse in attendance, he can throw a soft ball vaguely in the direction they ask him to, and he can catch a ball.  He has no tubes anywhere, can now enjoy a daily shower, and he is starting to take an interest in the news and loves reading all the cards that you kindly sent him last week and the hospital have printed out.  He is amazed at the fuss and attention and the kind words he has seen. 

He will be assessed again early next week.  Cognitive tests and a week of monitoring his blood to make sure the infection has gone away.  I know he is disappointed that he can’t just come home now, but he will be sent to the Plymouth Rehab Unit at Mount Gould Hospital for physiotherapy once discharged from Derriford.  The journey back to health and home will continue, but it seems he is moving forward every day and your prayers, chanting, thoughts and concern are still pushing him on.

So this is where we are, and I hope it not too presumptuous to assume that everyone wishes to see this story through to his homecoming.  I apologise for perhaps more detail than you might want, but this virus is still not well understood, and nor is the road to recovery.  This personal journey is told as much to help us understand what it does to us if we get it as to how random the result.  Many much younger people than Robin have sadly died, and too many of the heroic NHS and social care workers have been struck down whilst caring for others.  Robin has had the best of care.  He will be 84 in ten days time, and somehow, despite multiple organ failure and a bang on the head, he is pulling through.  Thank you for your continued support and all the messages, they have meant so much to us all and really made a difference.  I hope we will all soon see better days and can be with our families and friends again.


Much love,


Robin and Louella riding through the Pennines

04 May 2020

Dear All,


He’s home! 


Yes, let’s all drink to the NHS, then to Robin, and then one more to all of us who have willed him to get over this beastly illness and whose prayers, chants and healing thoughts, candles, dream catchers and all the other props we resorted to which helped pluck him from the brink. 

No-one had any idea this time last week how hard he would work and how exhausting it has been engaging with the amazing physiotherapists, who made their sessions fun and told me that when they thought enough was enough, Robin always wanted to try ‘just one more of each’.  They have all said they can hardly believe his progress.  When the ICU team heard he was to be discharged today they came across to his acute ward and swarmed around his bed to wish him bon voyage.  They told him that he was their longest stay seriously ill patient and they really didn’t think he would make it.  They are all thrilled for him, and he was immensely touched by their good wishes after all they had already done for him.  I was completely stunned when I was told over the weekend that they thought he could cope at home.  From an acute ward to home in one leap.  All the doctors and nurses clapped him out and cheered.    

He is doing well learning to walk again, balance, wash, dress and feed himself.  He has me to look after him in a new house which is mostly on one level.  We tick all the boxes.  But there are many Covid patients recovering who desperately need a halfway house for rehabilitation, and some who will struggle to get back on their feet and may not have much support, if any, at home.  The hospitals are finding it difficult to source community hospitals and homes that will take them.

I want to thank all those lovely people who over the last seven weeks have asked how I am.  Many of you worried that I was not able to visit Robin, to sit by him and hold his hand.  I understood I couldn’t visit him, but it was initially hard to bear.  He has been in the most sterile environment throughout his stay, right up until today.   No Visitors are allowed in ICUs or acute wards.  Hospitals have recently been supplied with iPads so they can set up Zoom calls for patients who may be able to hear but not participate whilst families can still see their loved ones and speak to them.  It has been amazing for us to do this.  When Robin was recovering in the acute ward and had his mobile he could ring us and we him.  We Facetimed.  We could take the telephone and show him the view, the bluebells up the drive, the dogs, the horses and test his knowledge on plants and trees.  It brought him back to this planet when he was suffering sedation delirium and helped him remember his home and family.  Facetime meant we had as many visits a day as Robin felt up to.   Sometimes the physio team rang and showed me how he was doing and he tried even harder whilst they urged him on to greater achievements.   

I think in future hospital visits may have to be conducted in this sensible new way.  Better for patient and family.  Families can Zoom a patient and the whole family can smile and wave and encourage, instead of being limited to one or two people at the bedside.  Visitors bring a heightened risk to hospitals, and possibly put themselves at risk too.  More work cleaning floors and surfaces from stranger danger.  The planet will also benefit if we emit less driving to visit people in hospitals whilst arguably a better visit experience can be gained online.  Of course there will always be hospital visiting and the comfort that gives both the patient and the relatives, but certainly whilst we could not visit due to isolating, and Robin being so ill, the new online visiting has given us all much joy.   Perhaps a portion of the huge car parking areas at hospitals could then be turned into gardens where patients could sit and heal.

We now have to isolate together for two weeks before we can adopt social distancing of 10’ from others.  We will use this time to do his physiotherapy online.  He will attend a weekly clinic online.  The Respiratory Team will visit him online as will the Occupational Therapists.  We will do this together and I will make sure he does his exercises and then do ‘just one more of each’.  He has 169 pages of messages printed out by Survival International to read.  There’s  over 1,200 lovely messages from around the world.  He has cards and letters and all the emails and loving words sent to him to digest and marvel at.  He will be very emotional, as I have been, at all your support.  We will also think of a challenge to spur him on because there is no doubt that the first time he turned a corner was when his bed, with all the medical support swinging and swaying beside it, was wheeled into the secret garden created by the ICU Physiotherapy team and Robin felt the sun on his face, he opened his eyes for the first time in nearly a month, and he smiled.  We want to make sure more ICUs can do the same for their patients.  When we have thought how to do this, I will email you once more.

His journey is not over by any means.  But he has made it home for his 84th birthday later this week.   I hope that in sharing the last seven weeks with so many friends it has helped you all to view this virus with huge respect and that Robin’s experience will remind you to stay safe and keep well.   We hold you all in our hearts and can’t thank you enough.  Take care….


With much love from us both, 

Robin and Louella

Louella and Robin Hanbury-Tenison, a lesson in love during a time of crisis.

Post Script – Robin and Louella’s son, Merlin, published a series of articles in The Spectator and The Daily Mail which describe how his family dealt with this medical emergency.

Back to Stories from the Road