A COUPLE with a combined 40 years' experience as NHS staff are looking forward to their wedding after one-half overcame a coronavirus battle in critical care.

Paula Grocott is recuperating at home in Northwich after becoming the first ventilated Covid-19 patient at Leighton Hospital to be discharged.

The 50-year-old, an admin manager at the Northwich Community Care Hub, is now keeping everything crossed she can get married to Leighton nurse Bec Stott on July 24 as planned.

It was fiancee Bec who knew something was wrong with Paula after her temperature soared, a couple of days after first getting coronavirus symptoms.

She said: "I called NHS 111 and they advised that I take Paula to A&E at Leighton Hospital straight away. I took her in and that was the last time I saw her for 14 days.”

While Bec self-isolated at home, Paula was was then transferred to the critical care unit and placed on a ventilator for nine days after her condition suddenly deteriorated.

Paula told the Guardian: "I remember going into A&E and they quickly rushed me through and my partner had to leave me.

"I remember getting worse but it then happened so quickly. I remember being put to sleep and saying to the health care assistant 'please don't let me die'.

"I woke up nine says later, but very confused."

After waking up, Paula remained in critical care – suffering hallucinations from the medication she was taking.

But Leighton's caring team kept giving her reassurance and let her speak to Bec and daughter Katie on the phone.

Northwich Guardian:

From left: Katie, Paula and Bec

Bec said: “The situation was so frightening and for Paula to be on her own made it all the more difficult for us all.

“We would normally have been right there with her at every step but knowing how incredible everyone at Leighton Hospital is, I knew she was in the best possible place.

“Nothing was too much trouble for the staff in critical care and their support was amazing.”

Once Paula was well enough to be taken off the ventilator she was transferred to the very ward that her fiancée would ordinarily have been working on, where she was a familiar face.

And when she was able to leave Leighton on April 22, Paula was given a round of applause from the dedicated hospital staff.

She said: "I wasn't expecting the send-off that I got and it was so overwhelming to see the corridor full of staff clapping and cheering and to see some of the staff that had looked after me – it is something I will never forget.

"It felt quite surreal, but I was so excited to see Bec and Katie.

"It was overwhelming and we couldn't stop crying. To not see them for two weeks and me being as poorly as I was was so so hard for them both.

"They couldn't wait to get me home as they knew I would recover better at home."

Paula is grateful for the care she received, and is now looking forward to the future.

She said: "I am getting stronger each day but the slightest bit of exertion wipes me out for the day and I'm sleeping a lot. I'm suffering with flashbacks too.

"We cannot thank them enough for the exemplary care that I received. From start to finish I was treated amazingly well. The support that my family received too was vital and they are so grateful.

"I feel they went above and beyond and I will never be able to repay them for what they have done."

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Bec added: “It’s early days and Paula has a long road ahead of her but she’s doing well.

“It will take time for her to mentally process what she has been through and the hospital has been great in providing psychological support as we continue to support her recovery."

“The care we received has been outstanding and we can never repay everyone for what they have done – they have been magnificent. We have never been so proud to say we work for the trust.”