A-Z

Experiences of Covid-19 and Intensive Care

When things get worse

Most people we spoke to were ill at home for several days, during which they began to feel worse and worse. When people sought help depended on how severe they believed their symptoms to be, and how likely they judged the health services were actually going to be able to help them. Some people had very few symptoms at all, and yet went on to require an admission to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) (see ‘Managing with symptoms at home’).

This page covers:

  • How difficult it was to know when to seek help as symptoms get worse
  • Getting advice from healthcare providers over the phone (111, NHS24, 999)
  • Getting ready for hospital admission

Determining the right moment to seek help

It was not always straightforward to know when to seek help. A few people had looked up information and closely followed the news about Covid before getting ill. Some called 111 in the UK or NHS24 in Scotland to get urgent medical advice on what to do.

In the early days of the pandemic, realising they had Covid and needed help was a frightening idea for people. Getting help was symbolically important, because it meant acknowledging the severity of the situation. Kate recalled: “I remember getting upset on the phone, which is crazy, ‘cause I’ve called 999 so many times, and they were asking about his symptoms, and they said, ‘do you think he could have Covid?’ And I said, yes. And I cried down the phone, because that was the first time that I’d acknowledged that he could have it.”

Particularly during peaks of the pandemic in 2020/2021, when the medical helplines were overwhelmed with the number of people trying to use the service, it often took a long time to get through to someone. Some were advised to stay at home when they personally felt they needed medical attention, and found this frustrating.

 

Paul’s wife called NHS24 but had. to wait for a long time before they could help her.

Paul’s wife called NHS24 but had. to wait for a long time before they could help her.

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Yeah, my wife phoned NHS24, and she was on the phone for nearly an hour on hold and then giving them information and then trying to let them know what my temperature was. Because I was taking my temperature maybe three times a day, four times a day, and it wasn’t coming down at all, and I was steadily getting worse. The coughing. I was coughing for maybe 12 or 13 hours a day, nearly constantly. I would get up and go to the toilet, which would be about 20 steps away, on the ground floor, and I would be exhausted, short of breath, to the point I would have to sit down and stop walking. I was just so tired. So that was on the day I got taken. She was on the phone for quite a while to the services and they suggested, well, with what you’ve told us, come to the hospital right away.

For others, reaching the helpline and receiving advice on whether calling an ambulance was needed was relatively straightforward.

 

Caroline believes she would not have survived if her GP had not followed up with her.

Caroline believes she would not have survived if her GP had not followed up with her.

Age at interview: 58
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 57
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I knew quite a lot about Covid. Because of my asthma, I educated myself a lot. But of course, at the stage I got it, it was very new. I went through a phase of watching the news compulsively, so I was up to speed with all the facts and figures. Still quite surprised when I got it, but I knew what the path was, I knew what the symptoms were. I knew about 111, so I used it. I knew not to contact my GP unless I had to, so I did when I had to.

So about…it was the week before lockdown happened back in March 2020. We decided that we were going to…my husband and I were going to lock down. I have mild asthma and I was really worried about getting Covid. And the night before we decided to lock down, my husband went out. Unbeknown to us, at the event he went to, which was an open mic, he caught Covid. So three days after lockdown started, he became ill and two days after that, which would be about the 24th of March, I became ill with Covid.

And we were both really poorly. We had all the symptoms but of course at that time, they were doing the stay at home, you couldn’t get a test. So we did phone 111 and after about a fortnight of feeling really quite poorly, my husband and I both started to get better. But whereas he kept getting better, after a fortnight or so, so about a month after contracting Covid, I was starting to get worse again.

I got in touch with my GP practice and after a lot of trying out antibiotics and toing and froing, two paramedics came out, eventually my own GP phoned me back two days after I’d spoken to her, my main GP, and if she hadn’t done that, I believe I’d have been dead. I could only just climb down the stairs at that point. And when we got to the hospital, my husband went and got a wheelchair to take me in. I was taken through to A&E and the last thing I consciously remember was climbing on the bed in A&E. It turns out that I was overnight in an A&E ward with my breathing getting worse. They took me down to intensive care the next day.

 

When Laurence became delirious his wife decided to call 111 to get advice.

When Laurence became delirious his wife decided to call 111 to get advice.

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Okay, so in early March 2020 I was in a meeting with a couple of individuals who weren’t very well. They worked for me, and I eventually sent them home. At that particular time Covid had kind of just been mentioned. No-one really knew what was going on. Subsequent to that, about two weeks later I started to feel unwell, and I assumed it was just the flu, so I was at home for about eight days feeling unwell. The symptoms, as have been described, the only thing I didn’t have was any loss of taste or sense of smell, but I have to say, I wasn’t particularly aware of that because I was becoming quite delirious, according to my wife. She became very concerned because I kept thinking I was fine, just taking paracetamol and being hot and cold and hot and cold and all that sort of stuff, a horrible cough. Then she took the decision to call 111, had a conversation, passed the phone to me. I remember having a conversation with a doctor and I think before I’d even passed the phone back to my wife, the doctor had already called an ambulance.

 

The practice nurse asked Donna to measure her husband’s oxygen levels, which showed that he needed hospital admission.

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The practice nurse asked Donna to measure her husband’s oxygen levels, which showed that he needed hospital admission.

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Then the practice nurse at the surgery phoned me and said, have you got an oximeter, and I said, well, no, but I can’t come out and get one. Because I was really paranoid about going out with Covid, because you’ve got to stay in. So, a friend got it, delivered it to me. We did Simon’s oxygen levels and they were really low. But at first, I thought, well, perhaps the thing wasn’t working, because I was feeling so under the weather myself. So, then the practice manager phoned me, she said, what are the readings? I told her. She said, do it on you. Did it on me, mine were okay. She said, I think you need an ambulance.

Accessing urgent and emergency care

It was often around the ninth or tenth day that people’s health had deteriorated so much that they called 999, or asked someone to call for them, or took themselves to A&E.

 

Goutam’s symptoms were so intense, that he and his wife saw no other option but to call an ambulance

Goutam’s symptoms were so intense, that he and his wife saw no other option but to call an ambulance

Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 52
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What was happening with you, with your symptoms that made you that time reach out to call 999 for an ambulance, what was actually happening at that time?

I think the triggering point was the breathing really because the body was like, I could feel the pain in my body. The aches and everything else and the fever because when you constantly were like, you know, was so high in spite of trying all the paracetamols you had or the strongest like, medicines that I had, or constantly putting cold water on the head with ice and everything it just temporarily for half an hour but it was constantly there. And I think once on that Sunday night, when the breathing like when I could see the cough was so immense like constantly coughing. When nobody else could sleep in the night in the house because you are constantly coughing so loudly. It’s a different kind of cough as well it’s more than something you are coughing, you know, on a normal when you have a tough cold or kind of thing. It was a different sound of the cough, and you are gasping for oxygen like that’s where I think, that’s the trigger point when you know that it is very hard. I can remember like going from downstairs to upstairs like from the living room to the bedroom that was a struggle like at that time, that’s when you know like okay something is really, really not right in your body and so yeah I think that was the trigger point for us.

And what was it like when the ambulance team came, you said they came inside the house, were they all kitted up?

They were kitted up I think they had the white mask like, you know, a thing on. But I, because at that time I was struggling myself so badly and like in a way I was relieved to see someone else, you know. Somebody with medical experience and I think, so then they come in and I think they were, they had PPE kit on. They didn’t stay, you know, I was on the sofa, so they came in and just immediately checked like things like temperature and pulse and all the rest. So, we didn’t, I think 15-20 minutes because they did say “okay get some of your stuff, get what you need”, and then, so I had a small bag packed with me. I think I still had on my ‘jammies or something and I had the gown on and then that’s it I was in the ambulance from there.

 

Elizabeth called 999 when her husband told her he thought it was time to do so.

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Elizabeth called 999 when her husband told her he thought it was time to do so.

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And what was the point when you felt that you needed help? You mentioned that he was getting increasingly breathless.

I think on that Friday night he’d gone up to bed before me, and I’d gone into bed, we were in separate rooms at that. Obviously, I didn’t isolate him, didn’t put him in a bedroom and left him there, but we were in separate rooms, and I heard him coughing. And I went and he was a bit breathless. But I opened the window and then he said, I’m fine. And as I say he was talking to me in full, you go back to bed, and so I went back to bed. And then I heard him get up and I went down, and he said, I’m okay, you just go back to bed. And I thought I don’t think I’m so happy. I went back and he was asleep, so I thought well, if he’s sleeping then he’s okay.

Then you lose a bit of track of time. Then he came upstairs, and he sat with me and said, I think it’s time. And with that he was sat, and his eyes were starting to roll, and he was starting to, to go on me a bit. I thought ooh, do I dial, because initially I thought is it 111 or 999, I thought no, it’s 999. He did come around quite spontaneously, he did, and he managed to walk downstairs and was talking. He was downstairs, you lose track, about an hour, it wasn’t that long. But as I say, he was able to walk out to the ambulance. Yes, his oxygen levels were low, they were 83 per cent, so he was obviously one of the happy hypoxia, as they say, so yeah.

Brian describes how he “managed” eight days at home, during which both he and his wife were feeling very unwell and increasingly breathless, and everyday tasks were a real struggle. However, there came a point when he and his wife were no longer able to cope. When his wife called an ambulance, Brian was taken in by the paramedics, whilst she was advised to stay at home. Wendy felt her symptoms were worse than an earlier experience with a lung disease, and called an ambulance when she was struggling for air.

 

Brian and his wife “managed” for eight days at home before calling an ambulance.

Brian and his wife “managed” for eight days at home before calling an ambulance.

Age at interview: 55
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 55
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So, myself and my wife, we went and had a Covid test. We went to [place], had a test and you wait whatever, I think it was a day or so, the next day they said, yes, you’ve got it. But, of course, we felt okay, even though you’d had the results of the Covid test. I knew I had this headache, and at night time when your blood pressure is dropping was really bad with the headaches and you’re just really not feeling very well.

As I say, I managed eight days, and the funny thing is, when I look back, because my wife stayed at home and she said she had a couple of moments. Because, we’ve got this dog and it just likes to go out in the middle of the night for a wee, and so my wife is now. When I think back for me, I’m just thinking, there is no way in the height of mine that I would have got down, I couldn’t have got out of bed, let alone go down the stairs. She had a couple of moments when she’s gone downstairs to let the dog out and, by the time she’d got back to the bottom of the…she’s at the top of the stairs, all her lips are turning blue. My son is, like, mummy, shall we call an ambulance.

I think she called 999 and they said, listen, my love, if you can, if you can stay at home, you will be much better off. And so, you know, by the time she’s at the top of the stairs and then you, kind of, recover the breath. I mean, I think she did really well to overcome that. Looking back, I had this problem with a headache, could I have stayed at home, could they have perhaps taken me into A&E, you know, I collapsed there, I was being sick. I don’t know, why did I collapse, you know, going to the CT scan, coming out, I don’t even know why, what was that about, I was already on a gurney, it wasn’t that they were asking me to walk into a different department. So, I fainted twice and then, when I got back, I was just retching, I don’t know, what does that mean. Could I personally have stayed at home? Looking back, no.

 

Wendy called an ambulance when she was struggling to breathe.

Wendy called an ambulance when she was struggling to breathe.

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And I did remember that from when I had my lung condition a few years ago. And I think that’s what alerted me slightly, I thought, oh this isn’t right. And then my breathing…this is, like, the night before I actually went into hospital, my breathing was very drawn and noisy, so it was like a gasp every single time and like a grunt. And my husband said, is that grunting making you feel better? I said, I’m not even conscious of doing it, I said, am I grunting? He said, yeah. I said, oh I didn’t know. And then I sort of went back to sleep and apparently was still doing this [non verbal speech] when I was asleep, which I found out later was the lungs trying to work harder to get the air in.

And then I think I got to the stage on the night that we called the ambulance where I just thought…this heaviness was getting worse and worse and I just thought, I can’t get a proper breath, I can’t. And I couldn’t…I just couldn’t breathe properly. And it wasn’t just a case of… I’ve had that with chest infections in the past where you can’t breathe properly but you can breathe. And this just felt like I can’t get enough air in. So that’s when I said to my husband, you’re going to have to call the ambulance. And yeah, and that was more uncomfortable than it was scary, it was just…it was painful, yeah, it was.

So, and then when the ambulance people came, like, I had to speak to the lady on the phone first and she just said, put me straight back to your husband to save your breath, actually I can hear how ill you are. Yeah, I could just about get a word out and then I had to take a gasp and get another word out. So yeah, actually speaking to you now, I realise just how poorly I was. My consultant and my nurse had both said to me, you have no idea how ill you’ve been, when I was complaining about not making a quick recovery, and of course, that all does take time. And recalling it to you, yeah, is really making me realise just how poorly I was really, yeah. Never been so ill in my life, yeah, just horrible.

Even though they were extremely unwell, some people told us how they delayed calling an ambulance, until they could no longer do so. Some were fearful of what going to hospital would mean for their daily lives, work and wellbeing.

 

Chris called an ambulance when he struggled to breathe even when sat down.

Chris called an ambulance when he struggled to breathe even when sat down.

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What kind of symptoms did you have and how long did they last?

My symptoms would have been general fatigue and tiredness and struggling to breathe, very bad breathlessness, taking my inhaler all the time to try and relieve it – my reliever inhaler – but that was doing absolutely nothing. Just absolutely zero energy, a small cough but not really a cough, but yeah, just the breathlessness and really bad fatigue. And then when it got to a point of my breathing was, even when I was motionless and just sat or laid there. I was struggling to intake a proper breath, that’s when we knew I had to…I dialled 111, and then they put me straight on to an ambulance. Within half an hour I think the two paramedics were in my front room hooking me up, checking my oxygen, giving me oxygen, checking my blood pressure. And before I knew it, I was in the back of an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

 

Peter was reluctant to call for an ambulance as he was frightened and unsure what going into hospital would mean for his everyday life and work.

Peter was reluctant to call for an ambulance as he was frightened and unsure what going into hospital would mean for his everyday life and work.

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Stephanie: Hi, yeah so Peter started with the [inaudible] on the 11th of September of last year [2020] initially he, he was just feeling generally unwell and had a very high temperature, so we were just managing it. Just paracetamol and rest and fluids and then that, so that was on the Friday and then by the Wednesday, Tuesday night Wednesday of the following week he started to become more and more breathless. Within sort of like 24 hours I was saying, you know, look you really need to be in hospital now, his respiratory rate had gone up to sort of 35/40 a minute. He didn’t want to go he was saying no I’m not going into hospital, no, so eventually I convinced him and called for an ambulance and his temperature was 40.5 at that time when the ambulance came. Respiratory rate was about 40 so they took him into hospital, and he was transferred into intensive care almost immediately, as he said he was put onto CPAP for 12 days.

And then Stephanie you mentioned that Peter was reluctant to go to, to call the ambulance, Peter why was that?

Peter: Yeah, I think I was frightened a bit, you know, I knew we had lots of stuff to do here because we were just coming into winter and, you know, who’s gonna deal with the horses and, you know, work to do and rugs to do, horses to do, it was a nightmare.

Stephanie: Yeah, it was, it was it was hard work, but I think, I mean it was, I think a lot of it whether you want to admit it or not a lot of the time you were frightened, weren’t you?

Peter: Oh yeah, yeah

 

Alisha’s father eventually agreed to being taken to hospital.

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Alisha’s father eventually agreed to being taken to hospital.

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So, the ambulance then came again and this time they noticed that his oxygen is dropping, and this time they gave him… I think the paramedic’s protocol is that you need to give oxygen three times and see whether they desaturate, and each time they do it for two minutes. So, they gave him oxygen and each time they did it he desaturated within a couple of seconds which was showing that his body is not strong enough or there’s something wrong inside that he’s not able to keep that level of saturation. That’s what prompted them to say okay, yeah, he definitely needs medical attention, he needs to be given a higher intervention of oxygen in the hospital.

Obviously, my dad being my dad, he likes to be in the comfort of his house, he doesn’t want to go to hospital. Especially when you’re seeing so many deaths in hospital from Covid you just don’t want to go to the hospital. It’s the place you just want to avoid. But we were like look, Dad, you’re going to be fine, because you have no underlying health conditions, there’s nothing wrong with you. He’s not a smoker, he doesn’t drink alcohol, he’s completely fit and healthy, and he’s only 52. So when you look at the statistics of Covid deaths and those being affected adversely he just doesn’t fit into any of the categories, so me and my mum were comfortable, we were like, yeah, you need to go to hospital and that’s the place you will get better. He agreed. He said, yeah, okay, I’ll go, it might just take one or two days and I’ll be back.

For several people, there was a moment of crisis that led them or their family members to call an ambulance.

 

His son found Yacoob lying on the bathroom floor and called an ambulance.

His son found Yacoob lying on the bathroom floor and called an ambulance.

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After I think four or five days, my son came by his feet, he wears all his PPE and then he called an ambulance and the ambulance people came and they said, all right, we went both together to the hospital A&E and then they checked on my husband and they said he's fine.  They check it again and said he’s fine, he has been discharged.  For me they said you have to stay.  But after four hours, they discharged me as well.

But instead of getting better, every day we are getting worse. My temperature doesn’t go down and he has got the oxygen levels, don’t, my oxygen levels also not normal. But my eldest son was with us so always he has to keep an eye across. Every room we stay in each of the room, but we can't eat anything. And the second time also Sunday, it was, he got so much high temperature. My son, again, called an ambulance and the ambulance people came, and they checked him, and they checked the oxygen and they said everything fine, they will get the fever down, no need to go to the hospital.

The third time, the last day, he didn't know, when he woke up, he didn't know, when my eldest son woke up, he found that my husband, he is lying in the bathroom, he doesn't know where he is, so he has to carry him and then we call my other son, and he called the ambulance. When the ambulance people came, he was not in a very good position. So, when ambulance people came, he tried, they tried to take him. But when my other son asked the ambulance people, can you check my mum? So, when they checked me, they said, she's worse than him. So, we both, the different ambulance, we would go into you know, [name hospital]. I had got the serious, all those days I’ve got the serious stomach pain, at night I was screaming, screaming, screaming. So many times, I have to go to the loo. And then we had been admitted then.

Of course, not everyone lives with another person who can help them decide when to seek help. Those who lived alone were sometimes very ill at home without anybody knowing. Sometimes unwilling, sometimes unable to seek help themselves, they depended on a family member or friend calling an ambulance when they realised they needed help.

 

Michael did not call an ambulance, because he felt others needed it more. His sister called one for him.

Michael did not call an ambulance, because he felt others needed it more. His sister called one for him.

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And so, your sister also called an ambulance for you; can you tell me more about how that happened?

Okay. So, as I said, I decided to try and…I was self-isolated and pretty much stayed in bed for that week after I’d known that I was positive. And I think me being very stubborn, I didn’t want to call the ambulance because I thought there’s more people out there that would need it. So, it was really the case of my sister said that if I didn’t phone the ambulance she would. And by the time I did need the ambulance I was so weak that I couldn’t speak or anything.

So, she managed to phone the ambulance, but she explained to them because she doesn’t live here it would be a case of they would have to somehow speak to me. So, I found I’d left the door open, and they managed to come in, and they tested my blood pressure, and I’m not sure if it was my blood oxygen at that time and deemed that they had to rush me immediately to hospital. And from thence, a kind of superficial thing, but I remember I had my phone in my hand and they said I might want to get a charger because the phone may go dead or something. So, I was consciously trying to go up the stairs to get the charger, and I just couldn’t. So, when I was in the hospital, and this phone, which was my one lifeline, and the battery was about to die, so it was kind of frustrating in that respect.

 

A friend of Rhod’s was not happy that he was deteriorating and called the ambulance that admitted him to hospital.

A friend of Rhod’s was not happy that he was deteriorating and called the ambulance that admitted him to hospital.

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And I guess the first I heard about Rhod was we had a, so we belonged to the same church, and we were at a meeting, a virtual meeting and they were asking for prayers for Rhod because he had Covid and was at home. And then the next thing I knew is that he’d got admitted to hospital but had again been discharged two days later just with oral antibiotics.

So, three days after that we had a prayer meeting at church and one of my friends texted and said, can I kind of talk to you straight after the meeting. And I said yes of course. And she phoned and she said that, thought that she’d seen Rhod that day virtually through the window, and she thought he’d really deteriorated. And he’d called the ambulance and the ambulance had come and they’d gone away again because he’d been admitted, was on antibiotics – and again we were all learning, we didn’t know the trajectory of this illness and how it would display going forward. So, I guess this was probably day five or six into his illness. And then, you know, she, she just said, I’m not happy that he’s not been admitted. So, I said, call the ambulance again and get them to go back again. Which they did that evening, and then he got admitted to hospital.

Waiting for the ambulance

Some told us their admission to hospital happened very suddenly, which meant that they had no time to prepare. Paramedics often reminded them, just before they were taken to hospital, to pack a phone and a charger. For others, the long wait for the ambulance meant they had time to pack some belongings to take with them. Sadia had already helped her husband to hospital with Covid, and this experience helped her to pack the right things when her father fell ill (see ‘When more than one person is ill’).

 

Sadia’s husband had been in hospital with Covid, so when her father was admitted, she knew what to do.

Sadia’s husband had been in hospital with Covid, so when her father was admitted, she knew what to do.

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And so can you talk to me a bit more about that time, when your father was about to be admitted to hospital? So, what kind of symptoms was he dealing with, and how did you handle that?

So, basically yeah, so on the Sunday morning, again, like I said, on the Saturday I saw him and he seemed fine, and I remember saying, oh what are your saturations? And he said, oh yeah, they’re good, they’re like 96, 97, 98. And I was like, oh great. So, then I got the call on Sunday morning, and basically my mum had said, oh dad’s not feeling very well, he’s feeling really weak and his saturations have gone down. So, I knew straightaway, I was like, okay, just get him ready. And at this time I was so experienced, because I’d had to take my husband so many times, because he was always sent back, and then I had to go back in again.

So I was like, okay dad, pack your charger, your phone, you need water, get some food, like some snacks, you know, and a toothbrush and toothpaste just in case, then at least you don’t have to worry about, you know? And then I was like, slippers, you know like, at that point, ‘cause I’d experienced it, so we knew what he had to take. So, I got my mum to get all that ready for him, and took him. So went there, and obviously by that time I’d had Covid, and I was over it, and I’d kind of bubbled up with my mum and dad at that point. And then he was starting to act really confused as well, so he was just a bit like, he wasn’t with it. So, like I said, I took him straight to hospital. So, at that point, I thought, there’s no point in calling him an ambulance, because I can probably get him there quicker than the ambulance would take to come.

So, yeah, I took him, so the process at [name hospital] was you go to the triage, so explained to him that he had tested positive for Covid, on whatever date, and then they checked his oxygen saturation, they checked his temperature, and they had to take him at that point. So, at that point, I said, you know, said our goodbyes, and then he went in. But I was able to give all the details that I needed to about how he was doing and what he had. And, to be fair, communicating with the hospital was quite good as well, in terms of you could call through, and they would give you an update as to what was going on. But I do remember, and I think my husband’s experience, and my dad’s experience was very similar in that A&E was just really, really uncomfortable and at that stage it was at the peak, so it was very, very busy.

Sometimes the wait for an ambulance was longer than people felt they could manage without help. When Donna and her husband Simon had Covid in the second peak they were both isolating. When it became clear he needed to get to hospital, Donna asked their daughter to take him to Accident & Emergency as she was unable to leave the house and no ambulances were available.

 

When Simon became increasingly unwell, Donna was in self-isolation so that their daughter had to take him to A&E.

When Simon became increasingly unwell, Donna was in self-isolation so that their daughter had to take him to A&E.

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So, I called the ambulance and that’s when they said could they speak to Simon, which they did, and they said they couldn't come, it was a day that was really busy, they couldn’t come. So, we had a bit of that before because when I was poorly six years ago, they didn’t come for me either.

So, I thought I’ve got to get him to the hospital, and I said to my daughter, Sophie, could you come from work, come and get dad and take him to hospital, because I’m self-isolating, he needs to go into hospital. I didn’t really think it was really urgent, I have to say. Even though I call the emergency services often for patients. I dealt with it straight away, then my daughter came, and Simon was upstairs, and it took ages, it took him about an hour to get ready. He was having a shower and getting ready, and I went up to say come on, we’ve got to hurry up, you’ve got to go to hospital now. So, my daughter took him into the local hospital, and I packed up some belongings and I just said to Simon, I’ll see you soon, thinking that I would see him soon, because I never really thought it was so serious. I just thought the oxygen and whatever, antibiotics. And that’s when he obviously stayed in, and we were all liaising as family. But I think it’s more difficult if you’ve got two people that have got Covid and are unwell because you’re trying to deal with it on your own without anybody in here.

So, then he went into hospital with your daughter?

Yeah. With my daughter. Little bit worrying. My daughter said, where shall I take dad in? I said, oh, go to A&E, leave him in the car, get out, go and ask at reception. He had a mask on, they both did. She knew the protocol. So, she then took him in, because he was a little bit wobbly. They went past A&E, so other people were sitting in A&E, and so you’re taking a Covid patient through A&E, past a red line, and then she has to leave him there because she wasn’t allowed to go in any further because of Covid. Because obviously it was back in January, there were more casualties, more people that had got it. So, she felt a little bit unnerved by taking him through A&E where there was people that perhaps didn’t have Covid. Then she left him there with a health professional, didn’t just leave him. That was it. Then we said we’ll keep messaging. He had his phone and iPad, which was really handy, and that was his lifeline in there.

People knew that having to go to hospital meant their condition was serious. Carl remembered: “When the ambulance came, I kind of knew it was serious. When I got into the ambulance I tried to not stress, because I’d got my wife and my two boys there, they’re 13 and 15. And because in a fortunate way they didn’t really know much about it because it was only really the very start of it. Loads and loads of people were very worried, but I knew it was risky and I knew when I got in the ambulance this might be it, I knew that. But in the back of my mind I was telling myself I’ll be okay, I’m going to be okay.”

Read more about people’s experiences of Admission to the ward and ICU and family members’ efforts of Staying in touch during the visitor ban.

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