Nurses crying in desperation, alarms going off all day and night and wards running out of hospital gowns for patients.
These are just some of the harrowing details of an overstretched ward that a young coronavirus patient has experienced at one Welsh hospital, reports WalesOnline.
Alexandra Adams, who is a fourth-year medical student at Cardiff University, has been in hospital for seven months being treated for an underlying health condition and tested positive for coronavirus the day before New Year’s Eve.
She saw the worst of the second peak of the pandemic and has spoken out about the immense pressure staff at the University Hospital of Wales are under as they deal with gasping patients surrounded by alarms that won’t stop going off.
Writing from her hospital bed, Alexandra, who is the UK’s first deaf-blind medical student, says: “It’s crazy here, and I’m not even talking about the shop floor.
“I’m a medical student and have been ill in hospital for seven months, but now I’m on ‘the Covid ward’ (after testing positive just before New Year’s Eve), though most wards in the hospital are now Covid wards.
“We’re all gasping, barking, grunting, and the machines won’t stop alarming at our ‘low sats’ [saturation levels]. Staffing is so unbelievably stretched here – we’ve had agency nurses the past few nights because they are so short.
“Our call bells could be going off for hours before we’re seen and nobody can come when our machines beep continuously, because they’re ALL going off.
“Myself and a patient in their 80’s cried over the noise one night. It was unbearable. One night was so busy that I was left chilling in bed sheets of vomit and urine, where my catheter had leaked, and I had aspirated, for three hours before I was changed.
“The bone pain that comes with Covid is horrific (on top of my pre-existing Ehlers Danlos and dislocating joints) so I need to be turned regularly, but some nights there’s only been one nurse and one healthcare assistant to a whole Covid ward, so we all have to wait.
“It’s completely unsustainable and none of the staff’s fault. If anything, I feel so bad for them and just wish I wasn’t a patient needing so much help and care. I’m praying for the day I can get back and help on the frontline where I belong as a soon-to-be-doctor.
“One day, I spilt boiling hot coffee all on me and the bed, but I couldn’t reach the call bell. It had gone all over me and in the bed, down my torso and legs, and into my pants too, but I couldn’t move and I couldn’t reach the call bell.
“All I could do was shout out ‘Hot! Hot!’ but nobody heard me. It was 30 minutes before a member of staff was able to help.
“The nurse in charge eventually came and apologised, before bursting into tears to me, saying this shouldn’t be and it isn’t what being a nurse is all about. People are dying, yet staff are suffering.”
The situation in our hospitals is improving and on Friday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said the total number of people in hospital with coronavirus has fallen below 1,800 for the first time since early December and the number of people with coronavirus in intensive care is 50% lower than at the peak of the pandemic.
Alexandra, who celebrated her 27th birthday in hospital at the end of January, has been blogging about her medical studies and her stay in hospital, and one particular entry as the hospital dealt with the second spike in coronavirus at the start of this year.
“One night, the bone and muscle pain from Covid-19 left me howling so much that I had to chew my pillow in an attempt to silence myself,” she said.
“The doors were sealed shut. The porters would come by to close them each time a deceased patient needed to be transported off the ward and over to the mortuary. In the beginning, this happened once, maybe twice, a week. Now they kept them shut permanently.
“I heard the numbers had soared that week I was there. I chose to stay looking away from that desolate corridor, and instead stared blankly towards the grey sleet sky, hanging with no emotion through the cold-paned window.”
Alexandra, whose mum has been living in Cardiff to be near her while her dad and sister are 200 miles away in Kent, says that coronavirus has hit her “hard” and it is something that she wouldn’t wish on her worst enemies.
And to make it worse, she has been targeted by anti-Covid trolls. Alexandra says the purpose of her blog has been to inform people of the real devastation going on behind the closed doors of our hospitals, and to highlight the hard work of the NHS staff at the centre of the battle against coronavirus.
She says: “Yet, some people’s comments to my blog have left me shocked and upset. I’ve been called a ‘pile of horsesh**’, ‘fake’, a ‘liar’ whose story is nothing but ‘fictitious’ and ‘bullsh**’. I’ve also been called a ‘photo propaganda prop’ and that I’m ‘scaremongering people into believing that young healthy people are at serious risk when in fact they are not’.
“People who don’t believe in Covid keep saying ‘She’s portraying that random young people get severe Covid. That is not true’ and that ‘she’s making this virus sound like something it isn’t’.
“To top this all off, anti-vaxxers have been insisting I do not get any vaccines, blaming everything on my medical history, and one social media user simply replied to my Covid account with ‘common cold’. All of this has made me so angry and upset, but I’m still unwell in hospital, so I don’t have the energy to respond back to any of it.
“It’s just such a slap in the face for all of us – but especially those who are working tirelessly to save us, and those who have lost loved ones to this virus, young or old. The first person I lost to Covid was a friend of mine, back in the first lockdown. And yes, he was young, with no underlying health problems. So it does happen.”
Alexandra adds: “I’m young, in my 20’s, and this virus has utterly wrecked me – and yet it’s breaking me to hear of all the anti-Covid protests by those who are so blind to it out there. What has this world come to?
“Covid has hit me hard. Really, awfully hard. Xmas and New Year turned very, very grim – something I‘d never wish upon the worst of enemies.
“Beyond everything, the Covid-19 pandemic has not only taught me to be grateful for every little thing I do have, but also to be forgiving, in a time where we are met with nothing but incredibly unforgiving circumstances.
“The commitment, the love and the pure selflessness of every single person, carer, provider, hero, continuing to push through in a time of such horror is one precious positive this pandemic has not produced, but finally brought out for overdue respect and recognition.
“The only other thing I truly wish for now is for the rest of you, the general public, to really look, listen, stop and appreciate that Covid-19 really is real, really is horrid, and really can , and will kill, if you don’t start listening to our stories now, and taking responsibility for it.”