Doctor recalls Covid patient describing 'terrifying' final days

A doctor working on the frontline as Covid-19 patients fill hospital wards has shared the moment a dying patient described what it’s like to suffer from the virus.

Dr Simon Tavabie, a palliative medicine registrar working at The Royal London Hospital, said NHS staff are feeling “tense, anxious and exhausted” by the “sheer number” of patients dying.

He recalled one particular patient who likened her illness to being “just a bit too deep in the ocean”.

“[She] was able between gasps to describe what it felt like to be so terrified and so breathless,” he told ITV News.

“And she said that it was like when you’re swimming out in the ocean and you swim just a bit too deep for the amount of air you have in your lungs.

“And you get to a point where you look back up at the surface, and you see it and you know that you can’t get there in time.

“That feeling of panic – that I’m sure most us have felt at some point – but just feeling that constantly for hours and for days.”

She later died.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has warned of the dire situation the NHS faces. Credit: PA

Earlier on Sunday, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty warned hospitals in England are facing the "most dangerous situation anyone can remember".

He said rising cases could well cripple the NHS, despite the new national lockdown rules.

Writing in the Sunday Times that if cases continued to rise as they are, intensive care wards will be overwhelmed and "avoidable deaths" will occur.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock also urged caution, warning people who are bending of the rules that it could be fatal.

Dr Tavabie is one of many who are living with the consequences of those who choose to ignore the lockdown rules.

“NHS staff aren’t superheroes, they aren’t angels as people often like to characterise them, they’re just normal people working flat out day in, day out to try and make what is an awful situation better,” he said.

Given his background in palliative care, Dr Tavabie is used to caring for people in their final days but even he has felt “burnout” at times in this pandemic.

It is not unusual, he adds, to find colleagues crying in quiet corners of the wards.

“We’re working with this constant anxiety and worry that we’re not going to be able to do the right thing for the person in front of us,” he said.

“And you can maybe stomach that for a short period of time but when it comes to being months, and months, and months, it will get the better of most people.”

Watch ITV News Correspondent Geraint Vincent's full report on the current struggles faced by the NHS