The silence is deafening.
Virtually each mattress on the ward is taken however no affected person voices could be heard. The one sound is the fixed bleeping of the life assist machines.
I’m standing within the kids’s intensive care unit at St Mary’s Hospital in central London.
However there are not any sick kids right here. It is stuffed with critically in poor health adults. Virtually each single one is on life assist.
There are 13 beds and 12 of the sufferers are sedated and intubated. The ventilators assist their virus-infected lungs to breathe however the healthcare workers should do all the things else, 24 hours a day.
One nurse leans over an unconscious affected person, dabbing the nook of his mouth with a cotton swab. She then gently wipes away the discharge that has pooled within the nook of his eyes.
That is tender, loving care administered to a affected person who’s in a deep induced coma, utterly unaware of the nurse’s consideration.
All over the place there are indicators of this unit’s earlier specialism; cartoon motifs on the partitions and the ground and specifically commissioned paintwork to advertise therapeutic.
The final two kids needing intensive care have been transferred to Nice Ormond Road Hospital.
That is paediatric advisor Dr Simon Nadel’s unit. He tells me he is frightened kids’s care in London may very well be “compromised”.
“It is essential to understand we’re a kids’s intensive care unit and as you possibly can see we’re filled with grownup sufferers which demonstrates the quantity of strain the system is beneath,” he says.
“Individuals have mentioned this is not an issue for youngsters however the oblique impacts of this pandemic are affecting kids actually badly. The conventional healthcare system now we have for youngsters in London is severely affected.
“I would not say kids aren’t being handled correctly however clearly a few of their care is compromised due to the modifications we have needed to make to accommodate the adults.
Dr Nadel believes this winter wave was prone to go on longer than the primary.
“I feel that is worse than the primary wave. We all know from the numbers there are a lot of extra sufferers being admitted to hospital and there are a lot of extra sufferers being admitted to intensive care.
“The difficulty is that this peak, every time it comes, goes to take longer to dissipate whereas the primary wave was quick and sharp. This is happening for longer and there’s going to be the next peak.”
The healthcare workers on this unit are all educated to deal with very sick kids. Now they need to apply their life-saving abilities to very sick adults.
The physiotherapists usually deal with kids who weigh about 10kg however now they’re having to susceptible adults who can weigh10 occasions as a lot.
All of the paediatric workers have needed to adapt. Household liaison nurses Helen Avila and Jo Williams have the not possible process of appearing as the one hyperlink between these sufferers and their desperately frightened households.
COVID-19 is doubly merciless, taking away lives and any probability of a remaining goodbye.
“Nothing can put together you for seeing a beloved one in intensive care with all of the tubes and contours,” says Helen.
“It may be fairly scary so earlier than we do it now we have to arrange them. Very often they’re breaking down on the telephone and usually you’ll hug them and inform them we’re right here for you. We will not actually try this after we are on the opposite finish of a digicam.”
She goes on: “It is exhausting and the end-of-life scenario is the toughest after we could permit one member of the family to come back in – so the household must resolve which member of the family goes to come back in.
“They must put on full PPE and we would have a FaceTime digicam in order that different members of the family could be there just about.
“A 12 months in the past would we ever suppose that is regular to say goodbye to your mum on an iPhone or iPad? Now it is sadly occurring quite a bit.”
Her colleague Jo agrees. “We had been all hoping desperately that we would not must undergo this once more. However I feel we obtained via it the primary time and we’re hopefully we’ll get although it once more intact.”
The hospital’s paediatric ward is now additionally filled with adults with COVID-19. The emotional toll is starting to inform.
Paediatric matron Hannah Deller works on a kids’s ward that now has solely grownup COVID-19 sufferers. She says the shock and disappointment of shedding a affected person stays together with her for a very long time afterwards.
“There was one gentleman who simply so candy and we obtained to know fairly properly and he deteriorated in a single day and handed away.
“He was speaking about his boat and being on his boat. There have been footage of him on his boat. When he handed away we took his footage down and I broke down then.”
This lethal disaster that has gripped the nation exhibits no signal of easing. It’s actual. The sufferers right here would say the identical besides they’re too sick to talk.