A London nurse, who used photography to cope with the stress of the pandemic, is set to show the stark reality of what life was like on Britain’s Covid wards as coronavirus hit.

Paediatric matron, Hannah Deller, from Bermondsey, transformed her children’s ward into an adult covid ward specialising in palliative care.

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She will display her dramatic portrayal of life in a London hospital at the height of the pandemic at this year’s The London Photo Show in November.

Hannah’s collection features her colleagues dressed in full PPE – showing the daily reality for staff at Paddington’s St Mary’s Hospital, London for more than 18 months.

Talking of how she came to start her pandemic photographic journey, Hannah explains: “I remember one day I was walking down the corridor and there in the doorway to ICU was one of my colleagues looking out of the window.

“It was a one-way system, and he was actually stuck at the door, dressed in full PPE.

“It looked like a scene from a scary movie.

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“I love taking photos, it’s a huge passion of mine. I trained as a photographer in New York, and now I mainly do it in and around my other passion - nursing.

“I just looked, and I was like, wow, that's a really good shot. I felt like I needed to take that picture.

"So, I asked his permission and he said, ‘yes, of course’. That was my first photograph.”

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From then, Hannah began to record daily life, both on the wards and on the streets around her local area.

Attendees at the exhibition at London’s Bargehouse Gallery in the Oxo Tower Wharf will be reminded of some of the bizarre sights that resulted from coronavirus restrictions.

Hannah added: “Looking back, I think the way I dealt with the stress was to take photographs.

“Right at the beginning, when we all started putting on PPE it was almost like dress up. It was really odd.

“I remember thinking ‘wow’, this is just bizarre.

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"I think that’s why there are so many shots of me and the other doctors and nurses in PPE, it was a way of helping me to process what was going on around me.

“I started to take photos not just on the wards but on my way home too, I remember seeing some swings in a park that had been cordoned off, they looked as if a huge spider had come and wrapped them in webs.

“It was a surreal time.”

The show is free to enter and is set to take place between November 11 and 14.

Hannah continued: “It was a very difficult time emotionally. We changed our children’s ICU and ward into Adult Covid Units overnight, and we were plunged straight into a kind of horror story.

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“Patients started to be admitted to the ward the same evening, one after another, a lot of whom were, sadly, palliative patients.

“I’d never experienced this level of sickness and death before and at times it was completely overwhelming.

“Aside from coping mentally, there were huge challenges for us as nurses.

"Relatives weren’t allowed to see the patients at that time and one of the most difficult things was talking to the families of the patients on Facetime and trying to reassure them that their loved ones were getting the best care possible.

As the second wave hit, almost immediately after the first, Hannah said many of the doctors and nurses would attend psychotherapy to help them process their experiences, which included losing colleagues to the disease.

For Hannah, photography was her solace, and she outlines that it helped her to remember some of the beautiful moments too.

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She said: “It sounds odd to say, but in contrast to the moments of extreme sadness and despair, there were some amazing experiences.

“Lots of people made it through and were sent home. Lots of people did survive. Lots of families were eventually allowed back to see their loved ones.

“It was deeply sad and terrifying but with truly, beautiful moments - they were experiences that you just can't really ever imagine having in your lifetime.

“I’m so grateful I was able to take photos to help me remember this time.”

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