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Interview with Annalisa, Sherman Household Team Leader, about her experience of Covid-19

29 Apr 2021

Interview with Annalisa, Sherman Household Team Leader.  Read about her experience of being in hospital with Covid-19.  She urges everyone to have the vaccine.

Interview with Annalisa:  April 2021

Tell me a little about your career at Nightingale Hammerson.

Nightingale Hammerson recruited me in Israel but I am originally from the Philippines.  I have been working at Nightingale House for nearly 17 years and I currently work as a Team Leader on Sherman Household.

When were you diagnosed with Covid-19?  What happened in those first few days?

I came to work on 4th January and carried out the usual hygiene protocol, rapid testing and put on all the PPE before starting work. My rapid test result is negative before I started working. I began to feel strange at around 11:00 am.  I took my temperature and it was 39.5 and I immediately inform Nuno (Director of Care) and decided to go home.

By the evening, I was finding it really hard to breathe.  I felt very cold and at after few minutes I am sweating profusely and feeling hot. I feel so breathless. My head felt like it was going to explode and I was really frightened.  In the middle of the night, I dialled 999 (I live alone).  They kept me on the phone for 4 hours, trying to keep me awake as I was so poorly, whilst waiting for the ambulance.

In a flurry of trying to be organised, I telephoned my insurance company before calling the ambulance and giving all my details to my sister. I was already anticipating that I won’t be able to come back alive. I just wanted to make sure my son would be looked after if the worse happened.  I was giving my sister full instructions in what to do. I even told my sister I am for cremation.

I was admitted to St George’s in the early hours of 5th January and I stayed there for 8 days.  They told me how lucky I was to have been admitted and that I could have died at home.  I only told my sister that I was in hospital, on the condition she did not tell anyone else in my family.  To this day they still don’t know how bad it was.  I can’t tell my mum my present condition.  She had lost my sister a few months earlier from pancreatic cancer and my uncle and aunt had also recently died.

What did you see in hospital?

It was really bad.  My bed was opposite the entrance/exit.  I saw everyone coming in.  So many people died and their bodies passed by me every day. I prayed it won’t be me next.

It was so busy, they were understaffed, you could hear shouting, see people running, I couldn’t manage to sleep.  There was so much rushing and beeping of machines everywhere.  I found out there were 25 patients allocated to one nurse and 15 patients allocated to one HCA.  We are so lucky here at Nightingale House to have such high staff levels.

You were part of a research programme?

I signed to be part of the Research for Covid. They gave me Remdesevire and Steroids. Due to the Dexamethasone tablets they give me while I was admitted they have to check my blood sugar 7x in a day (all my fingertips turn black). Apart from that, Bloods were taken from me in the morning and also in the evening.  My veins in my arms already collapsed.

I was given various drugs as part of a research trial, including IV fluids and medication.  I honestly believed that this saved me.   I was even told how lucky I was to be part of this trial by another nurse.

I understand there was a time when you were so weak, you could not call for help?

I could not physically do anything.  I could not even lift my phone.  I could not go to the loo and I had to ask for pads, which was so embarrassing.  I passed out 2x while I was on the toilet even when I was on oxygen. I was on 8-9 Liters of Oxygen 24 hours a day. On my 6th day in the hospital they slowly reduced my oxygen to 6L.

On my 3rd day in the hospital. Consultant wanted to transfer me to ICU due to my EWS total is so high.  I declined to go.  My friend died in ICU.  I was determined not to go. I helped myself by doing sponge bath even when I feel so weak till the wee hours of the morning. By 05:30 am my temperature then began to come down to 38.7.  They could see I was turning a corner and eventually the consultant agreed I did not have to go to ICU and will be closely monitored.

Were there young people fighting for their life?

Oh yes.  There was someone in their 30s nearby and also a 21 year old.  They died while I was there.  I remember thinking this should not be happening.   I could not understand why these young people were so ill. It does affects everyone regardless of what age bracket you are.

What is your overall memory of this experience?

All the front liners really are heroes. I remember one doctor who slept next to a patient, not wanting to leave them. The consultant mentioned that almost all the staff in the ward had Covid-19.

I remember crying in my hospital bed. I thought I was going to die.  I was never going home again to see my son, my mum, my family, friends, my colleagues and my Sherman residents. I felt so vulnerable and alone.   I remember saying, ‘please let me go home’.   I prayed and bargained with God not to let me die.  I kept on saying in my prayers “God I promised that I would devote myself to help more people at Nightingale”.  This was not my time and I had more to contribute.

I was so glad that all the staff in our unit who had Covid are now back at work except one staff name Gary (He is still at home recuperating).

What happened when you left hospital?

Two days before I went home, I was told I needed further tests which were not related to Covid-19.   They had discovered from my scan that I got cysts on my colon, kidney and liver and the recommendation is abdominal surgery.   I just could not believe it. I had just dealt with Covid-19 and survived.  I now had this to face a new battle again. I was really afraid.   

When I arrived back home, doing anything was extremely hard especially I live alone.  Even going to the loo was hard work.  I purchased my own monitoring machines to measure my BP, Oximeter, nebulizer Machine and even thermometer.

While I was at hospital they stop my Amlodipine (Blood Pressure tablet). My consultant advised that the Amlodipine will be review by my GP after 2 weeks. I check my BP every day and my Oxygen saturation.  My breathing was still difficult and my BP is starting to go high on the 10th day (after my discharged). I called my GP and asked for advised for the Amlodipine to be reinstated as I am getting concerned. My GP advised not to take the Amlodipine yet as it was too early to start and just to monitor my BP for 5 days and call them back. On the following day (the 11th day after I got discharged), my BP was now 195/105mmhg. I called 111 and spoke to OOH GP.  Ambulance arrived within 5 minutes and took my BP. It was measured at 223/145 mmhg. Immediately they took me straight to A&E (majors).  I had chest pains 2x while I was in A&E. I was really terrified when I saw the Stroke Team was in front of me.  Again I was admitted in Stroke ward (non Covid-19) and I was hooked up to so many machines.  My whole body hadn’t recovered from my first admission (covid)and haematoma and bruises are visible from the needles and injections and I said to myself here we go again.  Until to this day, I am still not completely well 100%.

My cysts still need to be dealt with and I’m closely being monitored.

What did this experience make you feel about your family?

I appreciate my life and my family even more, even to the smallest things matter to me now. After Covid-19, my perception of life has changed.  I want to spend time with my family as soon as I can.  I will get the first plane home and see them again.   

When did you come back to work?

8th March 2021.   I wanted to go back sooner though!  2 months at home with no one and nothing to do was terrible. I miss work so much. I miss my colleagues and Sherman Residents.

What are your hours and are you able to cope?

I’m now back to work and working 9-5pm.  I’m OK. I’m getting there.  I was very emotional on my return and cried on my first day at seeing everyone again.   I felt really loved by colleagues, residents and even their wider families.  Everyone’s support has been amazing.

What message would you give to friends, work colleagues and your family?

You must take Covid-19 seriously.  It is real and you don’t know how your body is going to react. A lot of people never survive. I was lucky to be alive.

What were your thoughts about the vaccination before you had Covid-19?

Honestly?  I was really hesitant and if I had not had Covid-19 I don’t think I would have had the vaccine to this day.

And now?

My perception has now changed.  Without a doubt, I would really, really encourage all of my friends and colleagues to – please – have the vaccine.

I had friends and acquaintances who died of Covid.  They were also admitted to hospital and some never came back.  I was nearly one of those.  There are doctors in my family – my uncle had Covid-19 three times and my aunt had it twice in the space of 3 months.   You can get it more than once.

Please have the vaccine.  Please keep up the social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks.

Even though life looks like it’s going back to normal, we can’t go back to where we were in the height of lockdown and hospitals being overwhelmed.

“I will always remember leaving the hospital after having Covid-19.  I was followed by 2 dead bodies on trolleys. I moved to the side to let them go and thinking it could have been me.  I’m so thankful I came out alive.”