A nurse was surprised with a guard of honour and "thunderous applause" as she left Lewisham hospital after spending a month inside with Covid-19.

Zainab Deen, 56, has told of how she had developed symptoms along with her son, calling the NHS and struggling with the idea of going into hospital in case "I go and never come back."

A month later, the nurse was discharged on International Nurses Day in emotional scenes, after being treated by her own colleagues.

Zainab (Jeneba) said she had started to feel unwell on Saturday, April 4, after coming home from work and going straight to bed. 

She quickly developed a fever, and started self-isolating from her husband and two sons.

Unfortunately, Zainab's younger son also started feeling unwell, and the nurse grew progressively worse, leading to a positive test for Covid-19.

Initially advised to stay self-isolating, Mrs Deen's smyptons grew progressively worse and she became so breathless she couldn't talk.

She was hit by a number of other symptoms, including a high temperature, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, vomiting and breathlessness.

“In fact I became so breathless that I couldn’t talk, which was terrifying, so I called NHS 111 and, at 11pm on 13 April, I was taken to the emergency department at University Hospital Lewisham," Zainab said.

"I didn’t want to go – I kept thinking: “What if I go and never come back?”.  I was feeling really frightened, but I knew I didn’t want to go anywhere but Lewisham.

"I needed familiar people and familiar surroundings. I was so scared, but the nurse who assessed me in the emergency department was lovely.

"She could see I was nervous so she reached over, took my hands and said: “You will be OK”.  I am so grateful to that nurse for her reassuring words – they made all the difference."

An X-ray showed she had Covid-19 pneumonia in both longs, so she was transferred and put on intravenous antibiotics. 

Luckily, Zainab was transfered to the Juniper Ward, where a lot of her colleagues were working.

She said: "I knew most of the nurses there and I felt completely safe – it was so good to see them. They were regular visitors to my room and they did everything for me.

“I’m a joker when I’m at work and I always used to say to my colleagues: “I’ll give you hell if I ever become a patient” but to be honest I didn’t have the strength!

“The doctors were fantastic. Every time they came to see me they would use my phone to Facetime my family and keep them updated."

But Zainab said her breathing had continued to deteriorate, so she was quickly admitted to the high dependency unit and put on a machine to help her breathe.

She needed the machine 24/7 for two days at first, but was slowly eased off it and was transferred back to the Juniper Ward.

Suddenly, Zainab began feeling much better, and physiotherapists starting to get her moving again.

"At first they would help me get out of bed and sit in the chair, and then walk a little bit, and then walk to the toilet and back.

"Physio is so important to get you moving to clear your lungs - Physiotherapists play a vital role in helping people recover from Covid-19.

“Finally, I was well enough to go home – on International Nurses Day.

"As I was wheeled out of the ward I was completely taken by surprise to be given a guard of honour, with staff lining the corridors and clapping.

"It was so overwhelming and emotional. If I’d known I was going to get a round of applause I would have walked!"

Zainab added: “I’m feeling much better now and I’m continuing with the exercises I’ve been given to get back to full strength.

"I’m looking forward to getting back to work and seeing all my wonderful colleagues who cared for me with such professionalism. They are all marvellous and I’m so grateful.”