'Please don't underestimate Covid-19'

Sister Kelly Turner on Ward 12 (Respiratory Support Unit) at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington.Sister Kelly Turner on Ward 12 (Respiratory Support Unit) at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington.
Sister Kelly Turner on Ward 12 (Respiratory Support Unit) at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington.
A nurse on the frontline in the fight against Covid-19 is warning people not to underestimate the virus.

Holly Turner, a sister on Ward 12, a respiratory support unit at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington, is the newest diarist in the #BeatCovidNE campaign.

The 26-year-old, who cares for those living with the significant effects of Covid, said: “Throughout the pandemic, my ward has been constantly busy. This new lockdown is no exception.

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"What is different this time is the type of patients. During the first lockdown, patients were predominantly older men. Now many new admissions are a lot younger than you’d expect.

“The majority of patients come in with extreme shortness of breath and feeling lethargic as well as suffering from a loss of taste and smell. Almost all of them have pre-existing health conditions.

"Extremely unwell patients are treated in the ward’s respiratory support unit (RSU). The remainder of the ward is made-up of normal beds for patients who need to receive non-invasive ventilation or oxygen therapy.

"Each day we are trying our best to help our patients but this virus is like no other.

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“The hardest part for me is that Covid patients can be sitting up in bed, making conversation the best they can through their mask and asking for a cuppa and yet be critically ill. So ill they’re 100 per cent dependent on oxygen. They couldn’t survive without it.

“It’s extremely hard for people to grasp how ill their loved ones are when they can see them sitting up and having a conversation. Every other day we lose patients to this cruel virus.

"Seeing a family member falling to pieces beside their loved one's bedside is heartbreaking but in those times I try to stay strong for them.

“There are often times on the ward when I notice my colleagues need support and I take them aside for a cup of tea and a chat. My team is amazing and we all support each other.

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"I always say to colleagues, it’s better to share how you feel than bottle it up.

"Personally, for me when I go home and reflect on my shift with my partner, I share how I’m feeling and if needs be I'll cry to let everything out. At the end of the day, we’re only human.

“With each shift also comes positives. In the first lockdown, I was taken back by people’s generosity and support donating freshly made cakes and snacks, handmade wash bags for our uniforms and hand cream. People’s kindness made a huge difference.

“In the third lockdown, team morale isn’t low at all. When the ward had to go into full lockdown, we all thought ‘not again’ but day-to-day, we keep each other’s spirits up.

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"From giving recognition to colleagues who have gone above and beyond, to sharing a positive quote or even a joke during our morning team huddle.

“What’s stuck with me over the pandemic is the patient's reactions to being admitted. I’ve had people say, ‘I didn’t think it’d be as bad as it has been’ or ‘I never thought I’d get it. I had no idea how poorly it would make me’.

"While others who have recovered from being severely ill have said, ‘I can’t believe my lungs are working again.’

"My message to the North East is you can’t underestimate this virus. Every one of us needs to take responsibility for our actions. The vaccine does offer hope, but please, keep following lockdown rules and hopefully, we won’t have to wait too much longer for a Covid free future.

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“I was shocked when both my mum Colette and I caught Covid last year. While I had mild symptoms, just a dry throat and a constant headache, my mum’s condition deteriorated over a few days.

"Usually, she’s a fit and active 56-year-old who loves running but within days she couldn’t get out of bed, wasn’t eating and found it difficult to breathe.

"Thankfully she didn’t need to go to the hospital but it’s taken her a few months to feel like herself again.

“Right now what’s keeping me going is the countdown to my wedding in November, fingers crossed, at the Le Petit Chateau, in Otterburn.

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"We got engaged in August and have been able to rope in all of the bridesmaids and groomsmen to join me and my partner virtually in getting fit. There’s ten of us all working together to lose weight and keep fit each week.

“It’s been great so far. We’re all sharing recipe ideas and it’s a real boost having more energy, working towards a goal and trying new things.

"In our first week between us, we’ve lost 3st 3lbs. It’s been great to put all our energy into something productive while staying at home. I’ve even started the NHS couch to 5k challenge and can’t believe how quickly I’ve progressed.

“I can’t wait for the wedding but I’m also looking forward to the day I can just walk into my mum and dad’s house, sit down in the living room and enjoy a cuppa with them. It’s the small things I’m missing at the moment.”

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