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Struggle for survival against Covid in ICU is laid bare in documentary


Caring: Staff in the Mater during the filming of the documentary

Caring: Staff in the Mater during the filming of the documentary

Caring: Staff in the Mater during the filming of the documentary

Nurses have told how they are now taking over the harrowing task from undertakers of ringing loved ones of patients who are near death from Covid-19 to ask what special possessions they would like to be buried with.

The struggle for survival and sad goodbyes that were part of the daily toll of the pandemic are revealed in 'RTÉ Investigates: Inside Ireland's Covid Battle', which captures how the deadly virus is fought by patients and staff in St James's Hospital in Dublin.

Patients who die must be placed in a double bodybag and placed in a sealed coffin.

One nurse speaks of how they contact relatives before a patient passes away to ask whether there is some item they would like them to be buried with "in order to make a bad situation better".

The programme highlights the case of one elderly woman, 'Mary', who in the final days of her life is comforted only by the kindness and care of hospital staff because her frail sister was unable to visit her.

The hospital, which has seen 79 patients die from the virus, has the largest intensive care centre in the country.

It achieved a survival rate of 80pc for Covid-19 patients who were seriously ill in intensive care, compared to the 50pc recorded in UK hospitals.

During the months of May and June, as cases of the virus were falling during lockdown, the 'RTÉ Investigates' team spent almost 30 days filming in St James's where the three wards were given over to Covid-19 patients.

The staff describe how cruel the virus is for patients whose relatives cannot visit them.

It is left to frontline nurses and doctors to step in to provide the daily updates to anxious loved ones as well as break good and bad news over the phone.

There are warm gestures arranging FaceTime greetings for patients fighting for their lives, and family photos by their bedside.

Among those featured is Patrick, a 97-year-old who was living an independent life in supported accommodation in Granby Row in Dublin until he caught the virus. His devoted support worker, Lisa, visits him every day in hospital and plays him one of his favourite tunes 'An Irish Lullaby'.

There are insights into how patients who have suffered the worst ordeal in intensive care, hooked up to ventilators and sedated, survive as staff bring them back from the darkest of days.

Patients Betty and John spend weeks in t he care of St James's, severely ill with the complications of the virus but survive to be reunited with their families.

Irish Independent

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