Heartbroken woman describes pain of losing mother to Covid as they both lay in ICU

3 January 2021, 14:59 | Updated: 3 January 2021, 15:18

By Joe Cook

A heartbroken woman has described the horrific experience of seeing her mother for the final time as they lay together in an ICU ward with Covid-19.

Anabel Sharma, 49, told LBC’s Tom Swarbrick that the virus quickly spread throughout her family after her 12-year-old son first developed symptoms following his return to school in September.

Soon after, her mother, Maria Rico, 79, fell seriously ill with the virus, followed by Ms Sharma.

“My mum started getting ill, I was the main carer for about two weeks but it got to the point where I was really struggling to breathe myself,” she said.

“I would be collapsing quite frequently and I now know due to lack of oxygen. That was when we were advised by 111 to call for an ambulance.”

Anabel Sharma and her mother, Maria Rico, were both taken into intensive care.
Anabel Sharma and her mother, Maria Rico, were both taken into intensive care. Picture: Anabel Sharma

The pair were both taken into critical care at Leicester Royal Infirmary, but Ms Rico's situation worsened and she signed a Do Not Resuscitate agreement.

“I was told that the medics had spoken to my mum and said to her that she was very ill,” Ms Sharma explained.

“Even if they were to put her into an induced coma to ventilate her that her chances of survival would be less than 20 percent and they couldn’t guarantee what her quality of life would be afterwards.”

Just 24 hours before Ms Rico’s death, the pair were brought together in the ICU ward and a photo was taken by one of the hospital staff.

Anabel Sharma and her mother, Maria Rico, were brought together for a final time in the ICU.
Anabel Sharma and her mother, Maria Rico, were brought together for a final time in the ICU. Picture: Anabel Sharma

An emotional Ms Sharma told LBC: “That photograph was when they brought her to where I was in my bay to tell me that she probably only had around 24 hours or so left to live.

“I asked them to take a photograph because that was the last one that I was going to have of her.”

She added: “In a way I can understand why mum made her decision...she told me she had had enough of the treatment.

“The treatment for Covid is really, really horrific and I really struggled with it.

“The hood is like sticking your head out of a car window when it is going at 30 miles an hour.

Anabel Sharma described the Covid-19 treatment as "really horrific".
Anabel Sharma described the Covid-19 treatment as "really horrific". Picture: Anabel Sharma

“It is really forcing the oxygen into your lungs, so it is really sort of hard to learn to breath with the hood.

“It is claustrophobic and you have to keep it on all the time, so I was quite sedated a lot of the time due to the fact I was really struggling to tolerate it.”

Ms Sharma is still on oxygen today after spending five weeks in hospital and said she hoped people would be “sensible and be safe” around the risks of the virus.

Despite the horrific experience and losing her mother, Ms Sharma said she is “not here to judge anybody” who breaks Covid rules, but that she would “hate for it to happen to anybody else”.

“I am 49. I need oxygen all the time. I get breathless just making the bed,” the mother-of-three explained.

Ms Sharma, 49, still has to use oxygen and says she gets "breathless just making the bed".
Ms Sharma, 49, still has to use oxygen and says she gets "breathless just making the bed". Picture: Anabel Sharma

“Prior to Covid I was a very keen kick-boxer and I would train for about six to seven hours a week. I was fit and active.”

“At the moment they don’t know what the long term effects will be. I now have permanent lung damage, whether I am going to be on oxygen for the long term is unknown and my life expectancy is also unknown at this stage.”