Woman who spent weeks in GWH with Covid shares her story

A MUM who spent more than a month in intensive care with coronavirus said it was the “worst thing you can give to anyone” – as she urged people to abide by the rules. 

Elaine Woodage’s family were twice told by doctors at Great Western Hospital that the 59-year-old might not last the night.

Seven months on, Elaine is back home in Kintbury – but still suffering the after effects of spending seven weeks in hospital with the virus.

Elaine said: “What really annoys me is when people think it’s fake, it’s the government doing this. Trust me, it isn’t. It’s the worst thing you could possibly give to anybody or anybody could get.”

She added: “Which is more important? People losing their business or people losing their lives? A business you can rebuild. You can’t say to somebody: ‘You’re dead, but I’ll bring you back.’

“Life is more important than a shop.”

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The call

In May, her husband, Steve, received the phone call he’d been dreading at 10pm. 

Elaine, his wife of more than two decades, had already spent three weeks in the intensive care unit at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital. Unconscious and hooked up to a ventilator, she was battling coronavirus.

Earlier that day Steve, 54, had received a flurry of phone calls from doctors at GWH saying his wife was gravely sick. “Everything was pointing to multiple organ failure,” he said. 

Steve told the Adver: “I had a phone call at 10pm that night from one of the consultants. He said: ‘If her heart stops, it’s not in her interests to resuscitate her.’”

The doctor invited Steve and daughter Clare, 21, to come to the hospital the following day. “They were really concerned she wasn’t going to make the night.” 

On Friday, they were allotted 10 minutes. Steve spoke to ICU consultant Mark Juniper while Clare held her mother’s hand. 

READ MORE: Health chiefs urge people to follow Covid Tier 2 rules for Great Western Hospital staff

“I was sat there and Mum was still hooked up to tubes,” Clare said. 

“I was holding her hand and she squeezed my finger. ‘That’s it,’ I thought. ‘She’s done it now.’” 

The ward staff explained that reflexes could sometimes act on impulse. But Clare was adamant: “‘No, no,’ I said. ‘She squeezed my finger.’”

“Clare said to me ‘we might not see her again’,” Steve said. 

“What the hell do you say to that? You can’t. There’s nothing I could have said. She’s a grown woman, she knows how serious it is. For your daughter to say something like that, it’s just…” he tailed off.

The silent killer

Seven months later, Elaine is back at home with her family in Kintbury. She spent seven weeks in hospital – six of them on the intensive care unit.

Although she has relearned how to walk, talk and eat, she’s not over the virus. Her joints are “annihilated” and she struggles to catch her breath on cold winter days.

The Berkshire mum is still not sure how she contracted coronavirus. She works nights at a supermarket and began feeling ill at work in early April. Her boss sent her home.

She got into bed and didn’t wake up until Saturday morning, April 4. Her family – worried – called an ambulance. It wasn’t until a paramedic said Elaine might have contracted coronavirus that they thought of the virus. 

Elaine said: “The people like myself who had it don’t know what’s going on, because we’re put in a unit out of harm’s way. Everything was either being done for me by the ventilator machine or the brilliant, brilliant doctors and nurses in the intensive care unit. 

“The cruel thing about this virus is it’s other people who know what’s going on – like my husband and daughter. For the five to six weeks I was in intensive care I didn’t really know because I was being fed by a tube. I was none the wiser.”

READ MORE: Don’t give the gift of Covid this Christmas warns Swindon health chief

Doctors twice told Elaine’s family that she might not last the night. The first dreaded phone call came on the Saturday she was admitted to GWH. 

Steve said: “Elaine was taken in at about 11am on Saturday morning and I had a phone call at 10pm that evening from one of the consultants to say ‘I’m sorry, it’s unlikely your wife is going to survive the night’.”

The medics turned her every 12 hours – a procedure called proning. 

“I sat there for half an hour waiting for a phone call good or bad,” Steve said. 

“That did work and every 12 hours they would then turn her onto her back, onto her tummy, onto her back, onto her tummy, to help her breathing.  

“I hardly slept properly for five or six weeks. We were just waiting for a phone call.

“I had updates every day from the hospital. All my daughter Clare and I had to go on were messages like her oxygen’s improved by five per cent or there’s no change. That was all we had to cling to, she was that seriously ill.”

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