‘I returned with a smile on my face’ - N&N nurse back to work after coronavirus recovery

Lisa Stokes, a deputy nurse at the NNUH, has spoken of her experiences after contracting coronavirus

Lisa Stokes, a deputy nurse at the NNUH, has spoken of her experiences after contracting coronavirus. Picture: NNUH - Credit: Archant

A Norwich nurse treating coronavirus patients has shared her own battle with the virus as she returns to the ward for the first time since recovering.

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant

Lisa Stokes, a deputy sister at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, tested positive a few weeks after her ward started admitting patients with Covid-19 symptoms.

Before becoming ill, she had helped turn the hospital’s Cringleford discharge ward into a yellow emergency care area and began working on the hospital’s first Covid-19 ward.

She said it was hard to gauge where she contracted the virus but developed a persistent cough and dry throat, and went home to self-isolate with her family.

Seven days in to her symptoms she was seen at the hospital’s emergency department after experiencing breathing difficulties.

More: UK sees lowest daily coronavirus deaths since lockdown beganMrs Stokes said: “Being short of breath is one the scariest things to ever happen to me. Having no underlying health conditions, I was worried about how ill I really felt.

“I knew that working on the front line meant I was at risk, but I always felt my duty of care towards patients was stronger. I felt I had to keep going, and then go home and convince my loved ones that everyone was going to be because I was using full PPE to protect myself and lower the risk of bringing the virus back home.

“And then my husband, who is 30, and I contracted the virus. None of us had previous health conditions. My son, who is four years old, had symptoms too. “Recovering has been really hard, because we had to be completely isolated, but now, thankfully, we are all well.”

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She said she had the virus for two weeks and since recovering has been determined to get back on the ward with a “smile on her face” to support some of the hospital’s poorliest patients.

More: How Norfolk’s death figures compare in the war on coronavirusThe deputy sister said; “When, sadly, I see a patient passing away sometimes I think: ‘it could have been me’, but at the same time, now that I have overcome this illness, I feel I have even more empathy towards those who are suffering. Since experiencing serious breathing difficulties I can now relate to patients who are experiencing similar symptoms.

“If there’s a patient who is short of breath, I try to go next to him, hold his hand and let him know I’m there to make sure he’ll be OK, as that’s what I needed the most when I was poorly.

“Dealing with this outbreak is the rawest aspect of nursing I have ever experienced.”

More: WATCH: See inside Norfolk’s new centre for people recovering from coronavirusMrs Stokes, who has worked at the hospital for 13 years, said one of the most difficult aspects was the strict visiting rules for end of life patients.

Mrs Stokes said: “My colleagues and I had to learn from scratch new infection control procedures, new admission processes, new stock levels and new staffing levels as our patients’ acuity was very high. In a very short period of time we went from dealing with medically fit patients, who were getting ready to go home, to admitting people with Covid-19 symptoms who were extremely poorly.

“Some people are really poorly and can’t see their families.

“I have never had to implement strict visiting rules to our end-of-life patients. This is something which is emotionally hard to deal with and I have had my fair share of tears at work.”

She said she was proud to lead her team and thanked her senior managers, Jo Trundell and Jonathan Figura-Drane, who ensured she took the time she needed to recover.

She said the small gestures to support frontline staff from the community generate the biggest smile.