Anabel Sharma, 49, and her mother Maria Rico, 76, were admitted to the ICU on the same day and put on oxygen a few beds away from each other in mid-October.
Around two weeks later, the pair were reunited when medics wheeled Anabel’s bed next to her mum’s. But she was told the devastating news that her mother had just days to live.
The final picture taken of the mother and daughter together shows them holding hands side-by-side in the ICU at Leicester Royal Infirmary. Just 24 hours later, Maria passed away on November 1.
Anabel told Metro.co.uk: ‘That photo was the first time I saw my mum since we had been admitted to intensive care. I couldn’t really hear what she was saying because she had a mask on and I had my helmet on.
‘The doctor had to relay what she was saying to me because whenever they took our hoods off to talk, the oxygen would go really low so we had to keep them on.
‘I could catch a few words like “cremation” and “funeral”… The doctor knelt beside me and said your mum is dying, she signed a Do Not Resuscitate order.
‘I remember begging her saying “please, why are you doing this, why have you signed this?”
‘The doctor said she had been assessed by three people and they were satisfied she knew what she was doing.’
Anabel, who has asthma, spent a total of five weeks in intensive care and had to watch her mother’s funeral alone through a screen in her hospital bed.
She has since been left with permanent lung damage and still needs oxygen to breathe.
The mother-of-three shared her story on the Humans of Covid-19 Facebook page, set up by London doctor Benji Rozen, to raise awareness of the devastating reality of coronavirus for many.
She said: ‘I feel it’s important not to tell people what to do but tell people what it is really like and hope it makes people think hard about their choices… and the staff that are trying to pick up all the pieces.’
Anabel, who works as a manager for the NHS’ Academy of Community Health Experts, had become the main carer in the house after her 12-year-old son Isaac developed Covid-19 symptoms.
Within days her two other sons Jacob, 22, and Noah, 10, got symptoms and husband Bharat, 47, and mum Maria, who had asthma and diabetes, became largely bed-bound.
But Anabel too became seriously unwell and began fainting while suffering with shortness of breath. She called 111 and was told to ring for an ambulance.
When the paramedics arrived, she was told her temperature was more than 40C and her oxygen was at a dangerously low level of 65%. Anything below 94% is considered low.
Worried about her mother, Anabel asked medics to check on her and they agreed that Maria should also be admitted.
When they arrived at Leicester Royal Infirmary, the mother and daughter were placed a few bays from one another – but they couldn’t see each other. She said ‘kind’ medics acted as messengers between the pair, and said it was ‘comforting’ to know her mother was nearby.
The day the mother and daughter were reunited, Anabel was so distressed at the news her mum was dying that she had to be sedated.
Anabel was awoken the following day and wheeled over to her mum where her sister was waiting in full PPE to say their goodbyes.
‘She said she wasn’t afraid to die, that she was really proud of us,’ said Anabel.
The mother has now been at home for several weeks, but suffers with night terrors and has been diagnosed with PTSD, which she said is common for people who spend a long time in intensive care.
A few weeks after returning home, she took gifts to the ICU medics who saved her life.
‘I wanted them to see me. Not the person in the bed,’ she added. ‘We all cried because they said they didn’t see many patients with Covid coming back.
‘I felt so sad because they were working so hard working seven days a week to save people. You could see it in their faces, how demoralised they felt.’
She added: ‘I just want people to really think about how hard it is for everybody but especially for them.’