Coronavirus: ‘Desperately ill and struggling to breathe’ – Inside Spanish ICU treating COVID-19 patients

Doctors at a hospital in Barcelona have told Sky News the coronavirus outbreak is like a “natural disaster” that happens everyday.

We witnessed the life and death battles in the intensive care units in the Hospital del Mar.

The director of the hospital, Julio Pascual, told me that they’ve had to convert the operating theatres into more critical care beds to deal with the sheer number of patients.

He says more than 75% of the hospital’s capacity is now taken up dealing with COVID-19.

One entire month, every day, 60, 70 patients with severe conditions arrive.

Every doctor here, even the surgeons, the neurologists, the ophthalmologists, have been taking care of respiratory patients.

Even medical students are being recruited to take care of these patients.

On the wards, as soon as a bed becomes free, another patient arrives.

They all look the same; desperately ill with each breath a struggle.

The only sound is the urgent movement of the medical teams and the bleeping of the machines keeping the patients alive.

All the medical staff are dressed from head to toe in protective gowns, masks and goggles.

It is a surreal sight and is the reality of the deepening crisis Spain is facing.

Spain watched in horror at what was happening in Italy but is now following in that country’s sickly footsteps.

In fact, the outbreak may soon be even worse. Already more people are infected with the virus.

And according to the latest data, one in 10 coronavirus patients here has now died of the disease – a very high mortality rate.

In the last 24 hours, health officials recorded another 683 deaths, bringing the total in the country to 15,238.

Spain now has a total of 152,446 cases of coronavirus.

Many of the patients in the intensive care units are unconscious and have been turned on their front to improve their chances of survival.

In each bed the battle for life is played out. Lonely wars with no loved ones by the bedside.

The infectiousness of the novel coronavirus makes sure of that.

Doctors do their best but even something as simple as the human touch is difficult in these conditions.

The head of ICU, Dr Roman Adalia, says personal protective equipment (PPE) makes simple tasks much more difficult.

“If you need all of these clothes for management of patients, if you need intubation, if you need to put in a catheter or for any manoeuvres, complicated manoeuvres, it’s very difficult to work in these clothes,” he says.

A good outcome is down to the skill of the clinicians, but they also admit that when dealing with a virus that was unknown to the world just a few months ago, luck also plays its part.

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