A nurse who is one of the UK’s longest-suffering Covid-19 patients says the illness aged her 10 years in just six months.
Grandmother Paula McCarten, 57, was running marathons before she was struck down with coronavirus in April.
Now she can’t walk across her living room unaided.
Mum-of-three Paula – a prison nurse at HMP Humberside – opens up about her terrifying ordeal, which saw her spend 135 in hospital, 98 days of those in intensive care, in Channel 4’s Dispatches on long Covid.
“I had a stroke, then a brain bleed, then I fitted – the longest being 55 minutes,” she told. “I got infections in my legs, nose and forehead. I was on kidney dialysis after kidney failure, I had blood transfusions. It was horrendous.
“I was so active and able before. I loved walking, I did the London Marathon. To go from that, to walking with a zimmer frame. I’ve aged 10 years in six months.”
Detailing how the virus ravaged her body, Paula told: “My hair fell out in lumps. I had lovely long, dark hair. That hurt me.
“I can’t drive now. I’m epileptic. There was a point when I could only move my eyes.
“Now I have intensive physio and learning to walk again.
“It’s so hard. It’s life changing.”
Despite leaving hospital in September, Paula, from Bradford, still struggles to do the things she was able to do before.
“My sisters come and shower me. They’ve got to wash me back. It so hurts me to depend on others to do something as simple as shower. I just want to get up by myself and do things without having to ask someone for help. Without having to plug my oxygen in and maneuver around.”
She says one of the hardest parts of her battle was the thought of her three sons Marcus, Ryan and Simon, watching her at death’s door.
“I’m suffering now as I know what my children saw me like,” Paula, whose husband Peter is also suffering from long Covid, said. “I’ve nursed people who have fitted – and it hurts me so much that my boys have seen me like that. It’s the mental scars that hurt the most now.
“So many times they had to come say goodbye to their mum and I didn’t know anything about it. It happened several times. It was really hard for them. Our middle son still can’t talk about it.”
Next week’s Dispatches: The Truth About Long Covid reports from Bradford, one of Britain’s worst hit communities during the pandemic.
It’s predicted that up to half a million people are now living with long Covid in the UK. Dispatches asks if the NHS will be able to cope with the lasting legacy of the virus.
“People think when you come out of hospital you’re better,” Paula added. “But it’s only the start of your journey. I’m getting there. It’s a long road.”