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Patient story: Covid vaccine saved my life

Andrew Lingham was days away from having his third booster jab when he fell seriously ill with Covid and had to be admitted to Addenbrooke's Hospital.

Aged 53, fit, healthy and double vaccinated, Andrew didn't expect to find himself on a Covid ward.

When his family tested positive, they all self isolated and recovered quickly.

But for Andrew there was no improvement, and after 10 days he was struggling to breathe and told to go to hospital by his GP.

The doctor said to me you’re lucky to be double vaccinated, because you could have died

Andrew Lingham, CUH patient with Covid
Covid patient
Andrew Lingham is recovering on a Covid ward

Andrew said:

"I’m feeling exhausted, absolutely breathless the whole time.

"I’m having to rely on an oxygen mask to help me breathe, I can't walk more than five or ten steps before I’m really out of breath."

"I would advise everybody to get boosted and vaccinated as soon as they can because this is a dangerous disease.

"The doctor said to me you’re lucky to be double vaccinated, because you could have died."

Jane Olds
Jane Olds is a matron on the Covid intensive care ward

While Andrew recovers, on the Covid intensive care ward in Addenbrooke's staff are caring for the sickest patients.

There's a mix of patients, some vaccinated, some unvaccinated, old, young and with or without underlying health conditions.

Dr Andrew Johnston is an intensive care specialist at CUH and has been looking after Covid patients since the start of the pandemic. He said:

“We’re seeing patients in critical care despite being vaccinated, despite all the treatments we have available.

"At the moment 10 to 20 per cent of our intensive care beds are taken up with Covid patients and it's been like that for the last few months with between six to ten patients. We are really concerned that the new omicron variant will push these numbers up significantly."

We know what it was like in the first wave of the pandemic, we’re going into this with our eyes wide open

Jane Olds, intensive care matron, CUH

Jane Olds is a matron in intensive care and said:

"We know this new variant is so contagious, anything we can do to stop it spreading will really help us here in critical care.

"I’m very worried about the next few weeks. We know what it was like in the first wave of the pandemic, we’re going into this with our eyes wide open."

vaccine

About 80% of people admitted to CUH with Covid are unvaccinated

Dr Ewen Cameron, chief operating officer, CUH

Dr Ewen Cameron is chief operating office at CUH and leading teams as they prepare for a potential third wave of the pandemic. He said:

"There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment, but there is a pretty big likelihood that if we get an enormous surge of infections in the community that will translate to hospital admissions.

"The question none of us know the answer to is how many Covid patients that will be, but we have plans in place to ensure we’re able to cope with significant numbers."

He added

"About 80 per cent of the people admitted to Addenbrooke’s with Covid, to intensive care units and general Covid wards, are unvaccinated.

"It’s tragic when we see some of these people dying from Covid because we know it was probably avoidable."

Covid ICU
In January 2021 more than 100 patients were being treated for Covid at CUH

Scientists are very worried about the arrival of Omicron variant because of the speed with which it spreads and because two vaccine doses do not give people enough protection.

Professor Charlotte Summers is an intensive care specialist at CUH and leading research into Covid treatments. She said:

“I’m anxious about what the next few weeks are going to mean and I’m worried people aren’t taking this as seriously as we need them to

"I get that everyone is exhausted and we don’t want to have to live like this anymore, but whether we like it or not a very big wave of cases is likely to be appearing on our doorstep and denial is not a coping strategy.”

A third jab can restore protection from Covid to around 75%, with the NHS now focusing on a booster programme to offer a top up to all eligible adults by the end of the year.

Walk-ins vaccinations are available in some areas but booking a jab is the best option by going to nhs.uk/covidvaccine or calling the free 119 phone line.