'The magnitude of patients we have to deal with is like two terrorist attacks': Doctor tells of how 'brutal' Covid-19 is

"The magnitude of patients we have to deal with it will be like having two devastating terrorist attacks twice a day on the hospital doorstep everyday for weeks maybe a month .. it's been really been overwhelming can you imagine ... a bombing at 8am and 8pm everyday...that's how brutal Covid is."

These are the stark words of a doctor who has come face to face with the coronavirus.

A doctor who has been battling to keep his patients alive from a merciless enemy.

Dr Rony Berrebi has been waging that war at an intensive care unit at London's Northwick Park Hospital.

It was the first to be hardest hit by Covid-19, declaring a critical incident early on in the UK's epidemic, after a surge in patients.

It had run out of critical care beds.

The Trust which runs the hospital has now reached another sombre milestone.

London North West University Healthcare Trust has recorded the UK's second highest number of deaths, 520 so far. But has now reported it is past the peak.

"You've got a sense of being powerless." Dr Rony tells me before adding: "None of us have seen anything that even comes close to it."

He described a virus that attacked the patients he saw ruthlessly, behaving in ways he and his colleagues have never seen before. Patients, he said, that deteriorated rapidly, in just a matter of hours.

The medical team could only look on with a crushing sense of helplessness.

"Covid-19 penetrates through your upper airway and then goes really deep into your lungs." he said.

"The feeling you get is very close to drowning...it's very distressing...you can't breathe ... whatever you do whatever position, you can't breathe anymore ...some died whatever we did."

For a man who has seen so much tragedy, he was remarkably calm.

Afterwards, I wondered why and how. And then I remembered our first meeting, on the day we did this interview at a park close to his home in north-west London, a few miles from the hospital where he and his colleagues have been waging the war against Covid-19.

He was sitting in his car, eyes closed behind a pair of aviator sunglasses. It had been a hot, sunny April day.

He did not see me approach, and when I knocked on the bonnet of his car (adhering to social distancing rules), I realised why.

He had been meditating. He told me, that is how he copes with a virus that is throwing everything at him and his team. A virus that is defying science and for which there is no cure, for now.

At the peak of the epidemic he told me the situation at Northwick Park was so acute, nurses and doctors from across the hospital were drafted in.

He has been working in intensive care for fifteen years and is used to see people dying. The colleagues brought into help were not.

"Nurses for instance ...who would only see outpatients...death is not part of their daily routine at all some of them have never seen anyone die and all of a sudden you get that sheer number of patients...it was overwhelming."

Dr Rony Berrebi and ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia. Credit: ITV News

He fears the mental and emotional scars will never fully heal. In patients and in staff.

"I've seen so many of our nursing staff our junior doctors in tears after a shift...It's the fright, it's being afraid of catching it, it's seeing some of our own people getting extremely sick even worse, wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) for hours on end."

"The mask is so tight... some people get terrible headaches and if you add on top of that working nights sometimes you do 2/3 nights in a row, you're sleep deprived."

I asked him, if he was scared to go to work.

"I am worried", he told me, "I've got my three year old boy at home what if I get unlucky. My son means everything to me, I can't imagine not being there."

One way Dr Rony copes is through music - He has written and recorded a song to pay tribute to all the UK doctors and nurses working on the coronavirus frontline and to the public who have been helping them save lives, by staying home and adhering to social distancing rules.

He hopes it will raise money so he can create the first mental health charity for all of the country's health workers.

He hopes this song he wrote and recorded will raise money to create the first mental health charity for health workers.

"It does feel like at war .. because you fight the enemy the best you can and you can't refuse that's a duty and you will put your life on the line we don't have the choice because people will die if we don't show up that's the profession we've chosen, that's the profession we love."

Dr Rony Berrebi has set up a crowdfunding page to raise money to provide life-changing mental health and PTSD treatment for frontline NHS workers caring for Covid-19 patients.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know