A CANCER nurse who said her final goodbyes has told of her joy after beating Covid-19 and returning to work. 

Pauline McIlroy nearly lost her life at the start of the pandemic and spent more than two weeks on a ventilator. 

The mother-of-one, who has worked at the Beatson for 34 years, took unwell days before the first lockdown last March and went a month without seeing her family as she battled the virus. 

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A year on from the ordeal at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, she has now told of her experience to mark the anniversary. 

The 57-year-old said: “It was in the very early days and we knew very little about the virus at that time. I was at work and only felt tired. 

"We had been working really hard to re-arrange clinics because of the situation, so I just put it down to that. I had no other symptoms.

“I became very ill, very quickly. Suddenly I had tightness in my chest; I thought I was having a heart attack.”

Colleagues stepped in with oxygen before Pauline was rushed by ambulance to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital just a few miles away. 

She was admitted and a series of tests began.

She said: “Soon it was clear it was Covid. My chest x-ray was awful – it was pneumonia caused by Covid. I continued to deteriorate over the next few days and was taken to ICU, where I was put on the ventilator.”

Pauline spent the next 16 days there, literally fighting for her life. Doctors attempted to take her off it, but their first attempt failed.

Pauline said: “When they were able to extubate me I was transferred to a respiratory ward, where I spent another week. I was still very weak and couldn’t talk.

“The Queen Elizabeth staff were amazing throughout.

"While scared, I trusted them completely and they were also so good at keeping my family updated on how I was doing." 

She added: "Panicking a little, I wanted to speak to my husband Ian and daughter Rhona, as I knew realistically there was a chance it could be the last time.

"I also phoned my twin for her to tell my other siblings. 

Glasgow Times: Pauline was treated at the QEUH Pauline was treated at the QEUH

"It was in the early days of the pandemic and the stories coming out of Italy were terrible.”

As well as speaking to her family, Pauline sent a heartfelt text to her team at the West End hub.

She said: “It went along the lines of ‘if I don’t survive this, I want you all to know how proud I’ve been to work with you.’

"I’ve been a nurse since I was 22 and worked at the Beatson since then. I have never wanted to work anywhere else and I felt I had to tell them that.”

Pauline’s recovery has been slow, and only recently has she been able to return to the job she loves at the Beatson.

“I’ve been back about six weeks and on a phased return," she said. "It’s taken me so long to get fit again, mentally and physically. My colleagues have been second to none.

"Many of my patients, current and past, have sent messages which have been lovely and very humbling.

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“Throughout this whole thing they have been patient with me and given me the time I needed to get strong. Maureen Grant is my manager and she’s been amazing. Not having to worry about work or having any pressure to return quickly has really helped me. It’s a great team at the Beatson and they’ve been so fantastic with me.

“I couldn’t wait to get back. I know people were pessimistic about my chance of returning and at times I was too but equally I was determined to try, but here I am to tell the tale! I am so happy to be back, caring for my patients. I owe it to so many people.”

Myra Campbell, interim general manager at the Beatson, said: “We are delighted to have Pauline back at work. Pauline is a valued member of our team who cares deeply about our patients. Pauline’s dedication in returning to work is no surprise to us.”