Consultant physician, Dr Khin Nini, headed off to work at
Darlington Memorial Hospital on the morning of Thursday, 16 April,
as she does every working day. Little did she and her family
know that within days she would become desperately ill with
Covid-19 herself, later requiring admission to the intensive
Dr Nini is sharing her own experience as a reminder to us all to
take Covid-19 seriously and not be complacent about its
impact. She says, "Since early March I had been caring for
patients admitted with Covid-19. I know, both from my own
experience of being ill and from how very ill it made the patients
I cared for, that this isn't something you want you, or your loved
ones, to get. Although it seems to have a worse effect on
older people and those with some underlying health conditions, I
cared for people in their 30s and 40s who had been fit and healthy,
some of whom very sadly died. The distress this virus can cause
families, is something that will stay with me. Some younger people
have underlying health conditions they're unaware of so, as
infection rates increase, we should all be doing everything we can
to limit the spread.
"At home I was eating and sleeping in a separate part of the
house from my husband and daughter because, although we had PPE at
work, caring for Covid-19 patients was always going to put me at
"The first symptom I noticed was when I walked up the stairs at
work on 16th April, I was unusually breathless. I
checked my oxygen saturations - which were normal - so wondered if
I might just be tired.
"That night, however, I felt much worse, my temperature rose and
my whole body was in pain. As a clinician myself, I kept an
eye on my symptoms to see how they progressed.
"I stayed at home the following day, Friday 17th
April, apart from going for a Covid-19 test which, within a few
hours, came back positive. I felt very unwell and we got an oxygen
monitor so I could see how I was doing. My symptoms started
changing on Monday 20th April when I could smell a dog -
even though we don't have one! I also lost my appetite and
developed sickness and diarrhoea. My temperature became normal, but
rose again on Wednesday 22nd and remained very high.
"Although I started to stabilise, after a week my oxygen
saturations were staying worryingly low. As a clinician, I knew
that this means the blood isn't getting enough oxygen to carry
around the body - a bad sign in patients with Covid-19. My instinct
was not to come to hospital instantly and waste the time of my
already very busy colleagues but, fortunately, I did go in when my
oxygen saturation wasn't improving.
"I was admitted to Darlington Memorial Hospital - where I work -
just for overnight monitoring initially. A chest x-ray and
blood tests were normal but I was needing increasing amounts of
oxygen and paracetamol was not bringing my temperature down.
Around midnight on Saturday 25 April I became very unwell and was
taken to the intensive treatment unit (ITU) the next day, where I
was ventilated but not intubated. I know that hospital teams,
from medicine, ITU and others were caring for me and I'm immensely
grateful to them. At that point though, I knew the odds were
beginning to stack up against me.
"Having been the consultant caring for Covid-19 patients it felt
unreal to become one myself and the severity of my illness was a
surprise. As a specialist in care of the elderly, I am used
to dealing with life and death situations and, while I didn't for a
moment give up, I prepared myself for the possibility of
dying. By far the hardest part was the impact my situation
would be having on my husband and daughter - how distressed she
must be - and the fact they couldn't visit.
"After 12 days, I was discharged from ITU and, after two days on
a ward I was able to go home on Friday 8 May - VE Day - and
returned to work a month later. Many people seem to be
experiencing 'long Covid' where some symptoms persist, delaying
their recovery. I was one of the lucky ones.
"Since my recovery, my daughter has begun telling me just how
distressed and afraid she was. It's up to all of us to do all
we can to minimise transmission, so more families don't need to go
through what mine did. Up to 60% of people with
Covid-19 don't even have symptoms so spread it unwittingly.
Please wash your hands and really limit your social interactions
and wear a mask - in years to come will you be able to look back
and know you did the right thing?"
Published 14th October 2020
'Every aspect of my emergency care was dealt with quickly,
efficiently and professionally with full explanations and
compassion from all staff involved'.
Patient, Emergency Department, Darlington Memorial Hospital