By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
“I thought I was going to close my eyes and just die”. These are the words of a Croydon grandmother who spent 11 days in hospital battling coronavirus.
Sheila Holliman was taken to Croydon University Hospital in October after she began feeling breathless.
The 77-year-old said: “I was not feeling well for a few days, I had trouble, breathing so my daughter called the ambulance.
“They didn’t think I had coronavirus at first, they thought it was a clot on my lung. I was finding moving about very difficult.”
Initially Sheila was on one of the main wards but when a Covid-19 test came back positive she was moved to a private room.
The Croydon resident of 50 years said: “Everyone suddenly appeared dressed up in PPE and took me to a private room.
“They got to grips with it very quickly then they gave me the steroid dexymethazone, I think it worked quite quickly.
“They came regularly to take my observations but they were already so busy even then, and there were only about 10 people at that stage with Covid.”
This is a stark contrast to the more than 200 patients now being looked after at Croydon University Hospital with non-urgent planned care being cancelled to free up frontline staff to deal with Covid-19 patients.
During her hospital stay she was given oxygen through a nasal tube, felt very tired and had no appetite. At one point she even thought she may die.
She said: “I felt so ill I thought I was going to close my eyes and just die. That was how bad it makes you feel. All my family was really quite worried about me.”
She returned to her home in Shirley after 11 days in hospital but it took six weeks for her to feel better again.
“I was so glad to be home as it is not a nice feeling being in hospital. I remember thinking ‘I just want to go home’ and ‘I’m never going to complain about anything again’,” she said.
“The recovery has been slow, I came out and was unable to do very much, I’ve had some physios come round. Every time I got up I was feeling shaky.”
Gradually she was able to go for slow walks with her 28-year-old grandson who lives with her.
She added: “I am not as good as I was but I am so, so much better.”
In the weeks after her illness, her two daughters in their 50s and some of their family members came down with the virus but recovered quickly.
The grandmother-of-four said she finds it frustrating to see people saying online that the virus is not that bad.
She added: “A lot of people are saying that it has been exaggerated but there are people in there that are really, really ill. The poor nurses are run off their feet.
“It is so touching. Somebody described it as glitter on a Christmas card, how it just kind of gets everywhere.
“That is exactly how it is, if you don’t know you’ve got it you can spread it so easily.”
Croydon University hospital said it is now “incredibly busy”.
A spokesman for the hospital said: “We are continuing to provide urgent and emergency care for patients with and without Covid-19.
“We are also providing urgent planned care and cancer services to a number of patients.
“The NHS is here for those who need it but we are incredibly busy and would encourage Croydon residents to contact NHS 111 first if they feel unwell.”
Pictured top: Sheila Holliman
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.