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Mum from Westward Ho! describes how she struggled to breathe after being hospitalised with coronavirus

Jess Marchbank at North Devon District Hospital

A mum from North Devon has described how she struggled to breathe and was left in severe pain after catching the coronavirus.

Jess Marchbank, who has no underlying health conditions, was the first patient to be treated at North Devon District Hospital with the COVID-19 virus.

The 32-year-old mother-of-two described how the virus "came on an instant" and left her in terrible pain. She is now out of hospital and recovering at home.

I had a slight sore throat Friday night but nothing big. Then as I went to put kids to bed It just came on in an instant. I had the worst headache ever. I couldn't see properly, felt like I'd been hit over the head. Like laser tattoo removal pain but in my head. Then it just got worse overnight. I was crying in agony as my joints felt like they were on fire. My chest was killing me, I had a high temperature of 38.5 and a dry cough, but it wasn't persistent. I couldn't get out of bed if I'd tried. I knew it was coronavirus as I'd never felt anything like this pain before.

– Jess Marchbank

WATCH: Jess speaks to ITV West Country about her terrifying ordeal.

The former paediatric nurse then rang 111 and was told they highly suspected she had contracted coronavirus.

She added: "We had already self-isolated as a family as per the guidelines, so as my husband managed the kids, I stayed in bed and slept all Saturday day and night and then slept Sunday as well.

"The joint pain and headache eased off but the lethargy got worse. Then I lost all taste and smell.

"Sunday night I had an episode where my breathing was impaired which shook me up. As a nurse I knew I was struggling to get oxygen in.

"This episode passed and I went to sleep. I wanted to get checked out but I didn't dare risk the possibility of passing the bug on."

On Monday Jess developed a cough, her chest became tight and felt light-headed and dizzy.

She went on to say: "I was all mottled and couldn't catch a breath so we ended up calling 999 and being taken to A&E (at North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple).

"The ambulance was super quick. The staff on board were amazing, really comical but caring in their manner. I was terrified to breathe on them. They put a mask on me, then an oxygen mask over the top."

Once Jess arrived at A&E she was taken straight to a specially made isolation cubicle within the hospital.

She said: "This was a bit scary but obviously necessary. The staff were phenomenal! I can't fault them. I had bloods, swabs, x-rays, a consultant assessment and a cup of tea all within 40 minutes.

"The staff were prepared, calm and collected. They treated me with compassion, empathy and dignity. "

Jess in hospital

Jess was later transferred to a cubicle dedicated to suspected COVID-19 cases.

She said: "I had oxygen therapy overnight and regular checks by nursing staff and doctors. I remained there till I was ready for discharge home.

"Due to my family all being in self isolation, the hospital arranged transport for me.

"Honestly, the care I received was second to none. I have nothing but praise for our stretched NHS."

Jess returning home from hospital

Jess was discharged on Wednesday (March 25th) and allowed to return home to Westward Ho! and her family.

She's feeling better but walking and talking hurt her chest and bring on fits of coughing.

She says she has no idea where she contracted the illness.

Jess on the mend before leaving hospital

We had been practicing social distancing and good hand hygiene, but it's like driving - you can drive as safely as you like, but it won't stop others driving too fast and crashing into you.

That's why it's so important we all follow the guidelines. Stay inside! It's not worth the risk! I still can't get my head around it all. It's like we are living inside a Stephen King novel. These are such testing times for us all. We've got two children under five years old, I know it's hard. But you know what, we've got to! Let's try and make the most of this extra family time. Get creative, dance, be silly, draw on the pavements in chalk, have pillow fights, build dens, plant seeds, make an inside assault course - do anything but spread this death eater.

Some of us, me included, love to push against authorities - but don't rebel against the government advice, rebel against this virus! There’s a time to be stubborn & rebellious - this isn’t it.

But when it’s over, let’s be stubborn about preserving our NHS.

Let’s be rebellious and demand our ‘key workers’ get paid WAY above the living wage and let’s remember that all those people who our little communities have recognised as vulnerable and/or isolated have been all along. Let’s keep on being good communities long after this is over.

– Jess Marchbank

We were sent this photo of Jess reunited with her children after recovering from coronavirus.

Jess Marchbank enjoying her first cuddles with her children after being separated from them because of coronavirus. Credit: Family