March 23 marked a year since the UK was plunged into lockdown after coronavirus spread rapidly across the country and cases started to rise.

A physiotherapist from Chesham has spoken to the Bucks Free Press about her time on Covid wards during that first lockdown after she was redeployed “literally overnight”, saying she “realised very quickly how important it was to have coping mechanisms”.

Claire Stainton told the BFP being on the Covid wards was “challenging, fast-paced and exciting all at the same time”.

She said: “Everything changed so quickly. All of a sudden, in the space of one day, all the trauma patients I was looking after were all being shipped out to other hospitals and literally overnight my ward became a Covid ward.

“So there was not much time to adjust. We just had to adapt and get straight in.

“I stayed on the same ward, but the ward was fully Covid positive patients.”

Ms Stainton, who is a trauma and orthopaedic physio, had a big role in ‘chest physio’ as part of her role before the pandemic struck, helping people to clear their chests – which came in useful while dealing with Covid patients.

She said: “We found very quickly with Covid that the patients’ energy reserves were so small compared to other patients. Even just sitting on the edge of the bed was taking up all their energy reserves.

“It was about training them to get stronger, to sit up in bed and then to get walking, and eventually get home.

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“As well as that, we would help out wherever else we could during our down time like doing tea rounds for patients, turning on the radio for them, making them comfortable.”

Bucks Free Press: PICTURED: Claire StaintonPICTURED: Claire Stainton

Ms Stainton, who worked at Watford General Hospital during her time on Covid wards, said they were “fortunate” because John Lewis donated iPads to the hospital for patients and staff to use.

She said: “It was so lovely to be able to FaceTime their families so they could see each other when they couldn’t physically be there.”

She also spoke about the challenges of working on the wards and during a pandemic, saying they lost a member of staff to Covid very early on, adding: “That really hit home the severity of the situation.

“A lot of staff were very emotional and finding it very tough, and a lot of staff themselves were in hospital with Covid, so that was really tough.

“It made us really realise the situation we were in and that maybe it could be us the next day, which was hard to handle.”

Ms Stainton praised the teamwork of the staff, saying the staff morale “carried everyone through”.

She added: “We were all in the same boat and we looked after each other. If we saw someone who was emotional or struggling, we all pitched in and helped each other, so that was really nice.”

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She also spoke about a particular heartwarming incident which prompted a message from Leanne Brown of UK garage band Sweet Female Attitude.

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Ms Stainton recalled: “One afternoon there was a rare moment of calm and quiet on the ward – all the patients were stable and comfortable which was lovely, as a lot of the time a lot of patients were very sick and deteriorating quickly.

“The radio was playing in the background – among all the sadness and chaos it was a comfort to have some background noise.

“I will never forget what happened next. A song came on the radio, Flowers by Sweet Female Attitude, a real club classic song.

“A patient with dementia then stood up and began to dance joyfully, waving his hands in the air and tapping his feet.

“It was beautiful. I asked him if he liked the song and he shouted, ‘It’s my favourite song’. At that moment another patient got out of bed and joined him in dancing in the bay.

“With agreement from the other patients, we turned the music up and I remember looking around at my colleagues, who were dotted around ward working hard, and even through our PPE, our goggles, our surgical gowns and our face masks, we all made an unspoken agreement that we just had to join in.

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“I put down my chart and we danced, and we sang and watched as the ward did the same – the patients in their hospital pyjamas, and the staff in our PPE.

“Some who were too poorly to stand, danced from their beds. And it was the best feeling. That moment melted my heart.”

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Ms Stainton shared the moment on her social media and it went viral, with Leanne Brown contacting her, saying she had read Ms Stainton’s story to her friends and family, including the person who had inspired the hit song, and they were all “moved to tears”.

She added: “[In that moment] We all forgot the horrendous situation we were in, we forgot the heartbreak and the sadness, the grief, the fear, and the exhaustion we were all feeling.

“I remember looking around the ward and thinking, although the Covid ward was a very scary place to be, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”