Our fight on the coronavirus frontline as mum and daughter – from tearful calls to colleagues’ haunting deaths – The Sun

NHS worker Helen Walters's heart swelled with pride as she spotted the young nurse racing around A&E, her exhausted face just visible through her goggles and mask. 

It was the first time she'd seen her daughter Amy, 23, all week – yet instead of the warm, motherly hug she desperately longed to give her, she had to make do with a quick, affectionate 'elbow touch'.

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Hospitals ravaged by killer virus

Helen, 49, and eldest child Amy are both bravely working on the coronavirus frontline at Great Western Hospital in Swindon, Wiltshire – one of hundreds of NHS hospitals ravaged by the killer virus.

Over the past six weeks or so, they've been forced to confront unspeakable horrors – from 'fit and healthy' patients deteriorating in a matter of hours, to the death of one of their own hero colleagues.

It's a terrifying fate they both risk themselves every time they don their PPE (personal protective equipment) and go to work, not knowing which of their patients are harbouring COVID-19.

Yet the "tough cookie" mother and daughter team are determined to do "their part" in the fight against the disease, which has infected more than 165,000 and killed over 26,000 in the UK alone.

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"Amy works directly in A&E – some of the things she's seen already are horrendous," mum-of-three Helen, who also has daughter Megan, 20, and son Harry, 16, tells Sun Online.

"Every evening, she rings me and we have a bit of a debrief to discuss her day. She can get tearful. One of the ED [emergency department] doctors recently passed away from coronavirus.

"Everybody knew him so that was quite a shock.

One of our doctors recently passed away from coronavirus… everybody knew him so that was a shock

"I also assessed a lady a few weeks ago, who was doing really well. She was over 70 but normally fit and healthy – then I later found out she'd passed away.

"That was upsetting. The lady initially didn't seem like she was going to struggle that much. But with this illness, it seems to just go one way or another.

"Amy and I are pretty tough cookies, but we only lost my dad in December, so we've both been through quite a bit. We support each other as much as we can."

'Elbow hugs'

Because Helen and Amy, a trainee nursing associate (TNA), are living in separate homes, the only time they can see each other is at work – but even their contact there is restricted.

"I'm desperate to give her a hug but we can't do that, we have to be careful," adds Helen, who supports The Sun's Who Cares Wins Appeal to raise £1 million for NHS staff fighting on the frontline. 

"We just touch our elbows instead. When I get the chance, I make sure I pop down to see her or take her a Costa Coffee down or something. It's so busy in A&E, she's always rushed off her feet."


While Amy is working 12-and-a-half-hour shifts in the emergency department, former childminder and Post Office worker Helen is a physiotherapy assistant with the 'Front Door' team.

"I've been doing this role now for three years – I absolutely love it," she says.

"We assess patients within 36 hours of them coming into hospital.

"We're pretty hands-on, it's direct patient contact. My team covers the A&E department as well, so that's where my and Amy's roles cross and we get to work together sometimes.

"I can always tell who Amy is, despite her PPE. She wears her mask fastened behind her hair buns to give her ears some relief. I can easily recognise her down there with her hair!"

NHS staff on high alert

Like all of the 1.5 million NHS workers across Britain, the mum and daughter have seen their jobs change dramatically in recent weeks, as they deal with an influx of coronavirus cases.

"Hospitals are doing everything they can – ours has been amazing," says Helen.

"The emergency department is separated into normal A&E and the COVID assessment unit. Amy has done her bit on both, carrying out initial assessments and doing swabs.

"I've been working on the COVID wards. We've had to change a lot of things. We used to all sit together at lunchtime, but we've had to 'social distance' more and spread out.

"We've also been taught to treat every patient as if they may have the virus."

Colleague killed by virus

Earlier this month, Helen and Amy's colleague Dr Edmond Adedeji – a well-respected ED doctor – died aged 62 after testing positive for coronavirus, becoming one of dozens of NHS victims.

Understandably, Helen now fears for her daughter's safety at work.

"I do worry about Amy," she admits.

"We know people at work who have got it.

"Luckily, we've got enough PPE supplies. In A&E, you wear your mask all the time and have to change it after four hours. But if you've got patient contact, you change it after each time."

'I strip off in the porch after every shift'

Every night, before returning to the home she shares with husband Lee, also 49, and Megan and Harry, Helen strips off her clothes to ensure she doesn't bring COVID-19 in with her.

"Lee hangs my dressing gown in the porch," she says.

"I literally strip off and go straight up for a shower. My clothes go straight in the washing machine. I also spray and clean my shoes and make sure my glasses are cleaned down."

Daughter Amy – who lives just five minutes away, with her boyfriend – is doing the same.

"Her boyfriend was just about to start a new job in a pub so that's been put on hold," adds Helen.

"Amy's working extra hard at the moment, doing lots of shifts to bring in money.

"She's doing amazingly, really."

As well as daily calls, Helen regularly chats to Amy via FaceTime and text. On Easter Sunday, she even made sure her daughter felt included in the family's celebrations with a homemade meal.

"My husband dropped it off at their front door so they could have their Easter dinner," she says.

"He also took a bottle of wine and an Easter egg!"

We made Amy and her boyfriend an Easter dinner… my husband dropped it off at their front door with a bottle of wine and an Easter egg

Yet while both mum and daughter adore their frontline jobs – and say their NHS trust has been "amazing" – Helen has recently had to take a step back to protect middle child Megan.

"She suffers with chronic asthma and pneumonia, and has had a shielding letter from the NHS," says the mother.

"My role is a bit of a risk, working directly with COVID patients.

"They're looking at me going elsewhere for the time being. It's a shame because I love doing patient contact, but obviously I've got to think about my daughter."

'I'm so, so proud of Amy'

As for eldest daughter Amy, Helen has no doubt she will continue her training and spend many years in her dream career, despite the horrors she has witnessed in recent weeks.

"I'm so, so proud of Amy," she says.

"Far from making her rethink her career, the pandemic has probably made her more determined. We've both got a real passion for nursing, and she's really proud of what she's doing too.

"We'll absolutely continue to support each other."

And for Amy, this support is invaluable, as she continues to battle an unprecedented crisis.

"I'm so grateful Mum and I can relate to each other," Amy tells us.

"I can talk to someone who understands the emotional pressures of our jobs day in and out. It's a relief to talk to her after a stressful or emotional day, even more so now than ever.

"I am very lucky."


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