‘It’s crazy here’: Covid patient describes harrowing account of hospital life

A Covid patient has given a harrowing account of life on a coronavirus hospital ward.

Writing from her bed, Alexandra Adams, 27, from Kent, described "gasping, barking, grunting," "suffering staff," leaking catheters and alarms constantly going off during her seven-month stay at Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales.

The medical student was initially being treated for an underlying health condition before testing positive for the virus on December 29.

Having experienced the peak of the second Covid wave, Alexandra also revealed just how much pressure hospital staff are under.

"It's crazy here, and I'm not even talking about the shop floor," Alexandra, the UK's first deaf-blind medical student, wrote in a blog. "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 80s cried over the noise one night. It was unbearable.

"One night was so busy that I was left chilling in bedsheets 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."

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said on Friday the number of Covid patients in hospitals had fallen below 1,800 for the first time since early December.

He added that patients in intensive care due to coronavirus had halved since the peak of the pandemic.

Alexandra, who celebrated her birthday in hospital at the end of January, wrote: "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."

"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."

She also discussed how she had become a target for anti-Covid trolls.

She wrote: "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 added: "I’m young, in my 20s, 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."

Alexandra hopes her blog will inform others of what life is really like on Covid wards and highlight the efforts of NHS staff.

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