'We're now rushing a lot of younger patients into hospital'

In a devastating dispatch, one paramedic working in south-east England reveals the chilling reality of life on the Covid front line. 

As hospitals see a dramatic rise in younger patients needing treatment, medics are still having to deal with other emergencies, including heart attacks, births and accidents…

MONDAY: CANCER PATIENT IS SCARED TO GO TO HOSPITAL 

I've wanted to be a paramedic since I was seven years old but nothing could have prepared me for this. Every day is like New Year's Eve on steroids. 

Queues outside hospitals are now measured in hours instead of minutes. The word 'unprecedented' has almost become a cliche but we've really never seen scenes like this before.

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My 12-hour shift starts at 6.30am. While the driver, an ex-police officer, checks the lights, I give our equipment the once over: defibrillator, oxygen canisters, airway kit, canulas, drugs, stretcher, PPE and a grab bag filled with essentials.

In a devastating dispatch, one paramedic working in south-east England reveals the chilling reality of life on the Covid front line. Pictured: Paramedics outside the Royal London Hospital on January 11

In a devastating dispatch, one paramedic working in south-east England reveals the chilling reality of life on the Covid front line. Pictured: Paramedics outside the Royal London Hospital on January 11

Immediately, we're sent to relieve another crew who are attending an elderly woman at risk of a heart attack because of her extremely high blood pressure. 

It's easy to forget but coronavirus is not the only medical condition around.

People still suffer strokes, asthma attacks and accidents, but often leave it longer before seeking help because they are afraid of being exposed to the virus in hospital.

We wait in line outside the hospital for two hours, doing our best to keep her comfortable, before heading out on our next call.

A woman battling cancer has collapsed at home. She doesn't remember the fall but refuses our request to take her in. She is terrified she will catch the virus in hospital. I don't blame her.

'Baby has been born' flashes up on the monitor. When we arrive, the mother is cradling her healthy son on the bathroom floor.

I clamp the umbilical cord and allow the father to do the honours. A nice end to the day – even if we finish an hour late.

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TUESDAY: I CAN'T EVEN GIVE MY LITTLE BOY A HUG

I'm exhausted yet wake at 4am and clock-watch until I need to get up at 6am. The first two patients are eerily similar: men in their late 40s and early 50s with no underlying health conditions who have rapidly deteriorated ten days after testing positive for coronavirus.

It's the same every time – shortness of breath, fever, cough and extreme lethargy around eight to ten days after a positive test. Their oxygen levels plummet.

Unlike the first wave, when it was mostly elderly people, we are now rushing a lot of younger patients to hospital.

The 45-year-old's young son is still asleep. The man tells his wife not to wake him to say goodbye, refusing to contemplate the very real risk he might never come home.

The 54-year-old's wife is panicked, explaining her husband has never missed a day's work in his life.

Pictured: A patient is seen waiting in an ambulance outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel on January 20

Pictured: A patient is seen waiting in an ambulance outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel on January 20

I try to reassure her he's in safe hands but it's hard when you are head-to-toe in PPE. We are denied even the humanity of a smile.

That afternoon we attend a young woman

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