A teaching assistant has candidly spoken of how dangerously close she came to dying with coronavirus – and how her husband saved her life.
Angharad was among 50 staff at Ysgol y Deri special school in Penarth who caught coronavirus at the end of last term.
Nine days into self-isolating, she collapsed at home before being found unconscious by her husband and teenage son before being rushed to Llandough Hospital.
Doctors later found that the teaching assistant, who only wants to be known by her first name, suffered a bleed on the brain, a blood clot in one leg and viral meningitis as a result of being severely weakened by Covid.
Keen surfer Angharad said: “It was frightening. I am fit, I am 47 and never go to the doctor. I had none of the classic symptoms.”
Two months on she is recovering and doing some online work with the school but is still having dizzy spells. She said she feels better five days in seven.
She said the experience left her terrified and she is relieved to have now had a first dose of the vaccine, like all other staff at the school.
Special school staff were finally categorised along with care workers in getting priority because they provide intimate care. But it is understood not all special school staff across Wales have had the vaccine yet.
“The school was very strict with taking precautions and our classes were bubbled. We all had PPE and I have seen my team of five staff and our pupils since September. I felt safe,” Angharad added.
“I only had headaches. I had no other symptoms. I had no cough, I didn’t lose my sense of smell and had no temperature, I know that because we had our temperatures taken every day at school.”
When a colleague who suffered the same headaches tested positive on November 20 she went for a Covid test too.
When her test came back positive next day Angharad began self isolating, but wasn’t worried as she didn’t feel ill and was able to do normal things like clean her house.
Things took a turn for the worse on day nine of her 10 days self isolation. After having a shower Angharad was so exhausted she lay down on her bed and remembers nothing until she woke up in an ambulance.
She had been found unconscious by her husband,a firefighter and son, who volunteers with the RNLI. When they couldn’t get her to respond they dialled 999.
“I can remember none of this. Then I remember shivering and my breathing was laboured and I was in and out of consciousness while I had oxygen in the ambulance. I was so sensitive to light I had to be blind folded. I was in so much pain as well. My head was banging.”
After tests, including a brain scan Angharad was admitted to the Covid ward at Llandough.
“By then they told me I had viral meningitis and Covid. I had a deep vein thrombosis, three blood clots and a brain bleed,
“They told me between day seven and 10 of having coronavirus your body gets tired and you can get “sticky blood” causing clots.”
The coronavirus also went for weak spots leaving the teaching assistant susceptible to viral meningitis.
“You start thinking “what has happened to me?”. I am fit. I did the Cardiff Triathlon but here I was on a high dependency Covid ward. I’m never ill normally.”
The teaching assistant said it was traumatising watching people die.
“90% of the patients were elderly and had dementia, the rest were between 40 and 60. A lot of the older patients didn’t know what was going on and got out of bed and wandered around. Almost every night people would say ‘I can’t breathe’.
“I saw so much I would not want to see The memories still send me shivers.”
Angharad said she couldn’t praise the hospital staff enough. She said Christmas had been !a write off” but she was well enough to return to work remotely two weeks ago and said she fully supports schools re-opening as soon as they can.
“I still wake up in the morning exhausted sometimes but feel 100% better in myself.
“With my hat on as a teacher it frightens me going back, but it is needed. Children and teenagers need social interaction and guidance.
“I have been told I will get my second vaccination in March. Why haven’t all school staff and police been vaccinated?”
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk