Lembit Opik has revealed he’s become a father for the second time despite both him and his girlfriend, and two other family members, suffering from coronavirus.
The politician-turned-media personality, 55, is celebrating the birth of his daughter Maria with his 36-year-old partner of five years, Sabina Vankova.
He hailed the birth at St Thomas’ Hospital in London last Saturday a ‘silver lining’ in an otherwise tricky year.
Ms. Vankova, a Bulgarian lawyer, tested positive for Covid-19, as did their three-year-old daughter Angelina, and Ms. Vankova’s mother, also named Angelina, 61, who fell critically ill in intensive care.
Ms. Vankova’s infection was of major concern as she was nine months pregnant – but miraculously she gave birth to Maria, who was healthy and weighed just under 8 lbs.
Opik, a former Lib Dem MP who found fame on ITV’s I’m a Celeb said: ‘Coronavirus has been Hell on Earth for masses of people, including me and my family.
‘Our many dark clouds now have a very special silver lining, for which we are extremely grateful, but this year has had more twists and turns for us than the Isle Of Man GP.’
- Lembit Opik has revealed that he has become a father for the second time.
- Former MP has been dating Bulgarian lawyer Sabina Vankova, 36, since 2015.
- He hailed the birth last Saturday as a ‘silver lining’ in an otherwise tricky year.
Opik, a broadcaster, chairman of the parliament of the first space nation Asgardia, and a spokesperson for the Motorcycle Action Group believe he caught the virus while traveling.
He said: ‘I travel a lot. In fact, I was doing 20,000 kilometers a month, going through airports, sitting on aircraft with other people. I actually thought I had Covid in February, possibly picking it up at an international airport.
‘I felt pretty ill for a few days, which was very rare for me. But there was no real testing going on then, and it came and went.
‘As a family, we all took the basic precautions, wearing masks and washing our hands a lot, and it saw us through.
‘On October 30th, after I went for a swim as I often do, I got home and had a bath. As I got out of the bath, I was incapacitated in a way that stunned me. It felt like I’d suddenly gone from health hero to health zero.
‘I was utterly exhausted, I was sweating, I clearly had a temperature and I was light-headed. I knew it was Covid. I got tested the next day and sure enough, I was positive.’
As he shares his home in South London with his family, Opik added: ‘I knew the others had it too. They couldn’t not have it.
‘Sabina was coughing, her mother was coughing. My house was saturated with Covid. Everyone got tested, everyone had it… although Angelina showed no symptoms at all and retained her energy.
‘Her grandmother became so ill that she ended up in an induced coma and on a ventilator in intensive care. She was critically ill.
‘Sabina had to sign release forms so an experimental antibody plasma treatment could be tried….and thankfully that saved her.
‘I got bad and slowly got worse and worse. My oxygen levels were down, and my blood worryingly. My temperature was over 100 degrees day after day. I had a headache lasting 11 days which felt like having razor blades inside my head.
‘Every time I moved, it felt like different parts of my head were being cut open from the inside. I was sweating continuously from fever. I was delirious and hallucinating. I was unable to sleep properly. It was frightening. I lost my energy, my appetite, and my sense of smell and taste which reduced food to just texture.
‘Anything I ate made me cough. I lost 20 percent of my body weight. I lost interest in everything. Everyone I spoke to then, including Nigel Evans the Deputy Speaker, tells me they were really scared for me.
‘Looking back now, I realize I was far worse than I realized. Sabina called 111 quite a few times. My symptoms were so bad at that point that they said ”if you want to come in, we’ll accept you”, but they’d have had to send an ambulance.
Opik found fame appearing on I’m a Celeb in 2011
‘I was afraid I’d end up in the hospital for a long time, but mercifully just managed to avoid being taken in. Even though I don’t tend to take drugs, I took everything I could get. I hoped I’d get better in 10 days, but it took 18.’
Extreme tiredness, a high temperature, and a persistent cough were Ms. Vankova’s main symptoms.
Opik recalled: ‘I couldn’t stop worrying that with me incapacitated, Sabina exhausted and ill, her mother in intensive care…had Sabina gone into labor then, how would she have got to the hospital? That was not the NHS’ responsibility; they are not a taxi service.
‘Also, what would have been the complications for the NHS of birthing a child with an infectious mum who was endlessly coughing, had a fever, and everything that goes with Covid? That was a desperate situation.
‘I was especially concerned for our unborn child, save for the fact that her sister Angelina was showing no symptoms. That made me hope this was a disease for older people.
‘Health professionals told Sabina there wasn’t evidence an unborn child would be harmed by Covid. As with all the mums arriving at St Thomas’s, Sabina was given a Covid test at the hospital. Fortunately, hers was negative. And of course, the hospital took every precaution.
‘I was made to wear full PPE. They are so professional, there’s no opportunity to transmit the disease. However, very shortly after Maria was born by Caesarian Section, another life-threatening situation rapidly developed.
‘For the first 15 minutes, everything was fine with Maria. But then her breathing accelerated – she was breathing too fast. Within two minutes experts were there, which was incredible considering the situation.
‘They started giving her help with breathing. Her oxygen levels were down to 91 percent which sounds good but they needed it above 95 percent. Then they gave her oxygen as well, and I stood there worried about Maria.
‘Nothing else mattered to me, as I knew Sabina was going to be okay. Very quickly, Maria was moved to the Intensive Care Unit for babies on a different floor of the hospital.
‘It was immensely distressing because there was nothing Sabina or I could do except watch. Then she was placed in an incubator, and in the evening her oxygen levels had gone up and they switched the oxygen off, and her carbon dioxide levels had been good all the way through.
‘So her condition had improved so much that overnight she was breathing by herself. Now she’s doing really well. It’s impossible to describe the relief. When Sabina and I first got to hold Maria, it was a hugely emotional moment.’
Despite their understandable worries, the couple was reassured that Maria’s breathing problems were not Covid-related.
As for the potential danger of Maria being handled by and taken home to a family who all recently battled Covid, Opik explained: ‘Ours is now a Covid-free house. We are no longer infectious. We have the after-effects but no symptoms now except fatigue. It’s gone.
‘I’d say I’m 70 percent back to my normal self and I’m starting to work again. I imagine I’m immune now, but we are all sticking tightly to Covid regulations.’
Delighted that his partner and baby daughter returned from the hospital on Tuesday, he added: ‘I’ve been on emotional high alert throughout this, and I am utterly exhausted.
‘Even though I shut down completely for almost a month and I’m now over the disease, I still get a few after-effects and have to lie down for a bit.
‘Exhaustion is a legacy of the disease. I will definitely join the queue for the vaccine when it becomes available because I definitely don’t want to go through that again.’