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Meet Holly, 26, a sister on Ward 12, a respiratory support unit at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, Cramlington. She lives in Morpeth, with her partner, Michael, a type one diabetic.

Holly Turner

Holly's Diary

Working as a nurse on a respiratory support unit, Holly sees first hand just how devastating Covid-19 is.
As well as falling victim to Covid herself, Holly cares for those in hospital, living with the significant effects of Covid who need help with their breathing while they recover.
Holly wants to thank local people for doing their bit and urges everyone to keep following the rules to help beat Covid. 
Watch Holly’s video and find out more about her story.

25.02.21

“As a team, we do all we can to support families. In absence of hugs, we touch family members on their shoulder and stay with them until the end.”

26-year-old Holly Turner is a sister on Ward 12, a respiratory support unit at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, Cramlington, part of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. On the ward, she cares for those living with the significant effects of Covid. She lives in Morpeth, with her partner, Michael, a type one diabetic.

“Work has been steady this week. Things haven’t returned to pre-Covid levels of normal but the ward hasn’t felt as hectic as usual. Despite feeling on top of things, this week has been hard emotionally. Two patients in the Respiratory Support Unit (RSU) passed away within hours of each other. As a team, we were devastated.

My colleagues were looking after a father in the RSU. As soon as his condition deteriorated they contacted his family. His wife and daughter were able to join him in his last moments. In absence of hugs, we touch family members on their shoulder and stay with them until the end. As a team, we do all we can to support families.

After his family left, one of my colleagues broke down in tears. I took her aside to reassure her that she did everything she possibly could for her patient and his family. That she had done a good job and that his family will always remember their last moments with him.

On the same day one of my patients, a mum in RSU, also passed away. She was on 100% oxygen and in the morning explained that she wanted to take her mask off. She was tired and wanted to choose how she spent her final hours. I rang her daughters right away to let them know. I was worried as I knew one of them had Covid but it turned out that she had just finished her self-isolation.

Being in RSU can be very intense for family members. We are all wearing full PPE, the family included, and sometimes their loved ones don’t look as critically ill as they are sitting up in bed talking to them. After several hours of being by their mum’s side, I asked if they wanted to freshen-up and get some fresh air. I was on duty with a student nurse so one of us could be with their mum at all times in case anything changed.

They had just left the ward when their mum’s breathing changed. I ran to catch them and luckily they were able to be with her in her final moments.

It’s extremely hard dealing with emotional shifts like this but I have an amazingly supportive team. We always remind each other of what a good job we’re doing, that someone is always on hand to talk and we look out for each other.

I’ve seen in the news talk of approaching Covid like we do the flu and I agree. Moving forwards we need to learn how to effectively live with Covid. It is the best way to avoid future lockdowns. As a nurse, I also think that maintaining hands, face and space as part of our daily routine could help reduce the transmission of many other viruses. Which can only be a positive thing.

Coming back onto the ward after being on holiday has reminded me of just how many people are involved in caring for patients. Collectively the wider multidisciplinary team is made up of physiotherapists, doctors and consultants. We also work with dietitians to ensure patients are getting the right nutrients to support their recovery as well as the pharmacy which looks after each patients’ medication.

Then there’s the porters who are always on hand to help and the domestic team who ensure the whole ward is sanitised morning and night.

I’d like to give a special thanks to the Palliative Care team. We’ve lost so many patients’ and their guidance and support have been invaluable. Having them here on those hard days helps immensely. Not only do they support the ward but answer family members’ questions, explain things and most importantly, help to comfort them.

Every one of us plays a different role in providing high-quality care for our patients. Thanks to everyone working collaboratively as one big team, we have, and will continue to prevail no matter what happens.”

18.02.21

“The news that Captain Sir Tom Moore passed away with Covid has hit me hard. As a member of the NHS, I can’t thank him enough for his support. He was a truly inspiring gentleman.”

26-year-old Holly Turner is a sister on Ward 12, a respiratory support unit at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, Cramlington, part of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. On the ward, she cares for those living with the significant effects of Covid. She lives in Morpeth, with her partner, Michael, a type one diabetic.

“The news that Captain Sir Tom Moore passed away with Covid has hit me hard. As a member of the NHS, I can’t thank him enough for his support. He was a truly inspiring gentleman. On hearing the news I was devastated. My whole ward is heartbroken. His achievements aged 100 just goes to show we can do anything we put our minds to. Just like Captain Sir Tom Moore we can each help to make a difference.

I’ve been on annual leave this week before my holiday allowance refreshes in March. Michael and I have been busy renovating the kitchen into an open living-dining space. Next on the to-do list is carpets and the back garden later this year. While it’s good to unwind I find sometimes keeping busy helps me not to dwell on everything that’s going on right now. I want to continue to move forward and do what we can, rather than focus on what we can’t.

As well as both working full-time we are also landlords. Michael’s mum and dad got us into it as his dad is a builder and we both love working on projects. It helped us during lockdown to have something to work on together. After finishing renovating our latest two bedroom rental in spring last year we’ve been looking for our next project. We usually stick to smaller properties but this time we’re going to take on the challenge of renovating a house. So we’ve been to see quite a few this week (following all the guidelines of course) and there’s a couple we’re currently considering. We both enjoy getting stuck in ourselves and seeing the result but more than that we love giving someone a lovely home.

While Professor Chris Whitty has announced that the number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths are on a downward slope I am apprehensive about returning to work. It always takes a few weeks for the NHS to see the impact of a vaccine. On the ward, we’re currently seeing increased admissions and recently we’ve taken patients from hospitals in Cumbria putting increased pressure on bed capacity.

With each new wave, more people lose their lives. Just after I went on leave my ward was hit hard when several young people, in their mid to late 20s, passed away from Covid. Several people have had to take time off and our trust has put on counselling support for us all. For many, myself included, during the previous waves of the pandemic we thought patients could have been our grandparents, then our parents and now it’s hit home that patients are of all ages and backgrounds.

That’s why I’m so thankful that we do have the vaccine roll-out and hearing it’s now reached over 12million people is unbelievable. I was relieved to hear that all over 50s will be vaccinated by May as that will include my mum. After she was so ill with Covid last year, knowing she has had the vaccine will be a huge reassurance for my family.

I appreciate this February half term parents and carers will be enjoying a break from homeschooling as much as students but my plea to families is to stay vigilant. To stay home and when exercising outside to please stay local. I know kids will be eager to see their friends but they mustn’t mix to prevent the spread of Covid. We need to continue to work together by doing our bit; wearing a mask, washing our hands and keeping 2 meters apart. Thank you everyone for all you are doing.”

11.02.21

“I wish those spreading the Covid hoax messages could walk a day in my shoes.”

26-year-old Holly Turner is a sister on Ward 12, a respiratory support unit at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, Cramlington, part of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. On the ward, she cares for those living with the significant effects of Covid. She lives in Morpeth, with her partner, Michael, a type one diabetic.

“After a week off, I felt anxious returning to work. While the ward’s been busy this week I’ve been overwhelmed by the support from redeployed and returning NHS colleagues from all departments and professions.

Seeing new faces on the ward has given me and the team a huge boost. I’d like to thank all our colleagues who have joined us throughout the pandemic. Thanks to them, during intense periods we can continue to give the best possible care.

Welcoming new colleagues onto the ward has been an opportunity to remind ourselves of our Covid workplace procedures. Day-to-day we wash our hands, wear our masks, sanitise all surfaces and equipment as well as limit the number of people in break rooms to ensure we’re two metres apart. It’s crucial while at work to remain vigilant. To protect not only yourself but your colleagues and their families. Maintaining a safe distance and wearing your mask helps to reduce the spread of Covid. Please don’t let your guard down.

Increasingly on social media, I’m seeing posts claiming that Covid is a hoax. It’s heartbreaking. Those posting don’t know if people seeing their comments have lost a loved one to Covid. As a nurse, I find it demoralising. Day-in, day-out in unprecedented circumstances myself, my team and NHS colleagues across the UK are fighting to save lives. I wish those spreading the Covid hoax message could walk a day in my shoes.

While ward morale is still up, as a team we’re all feeling fatigued. It does come with the job but the extended periods of intense shifts that are both emotionally and physically draining take their toll. I’m lucky to have such a supportive team as we all look out for one another. There’s always someone on hand for a chat and some reassurance.

Remembering the kindness people have shown us over the pandemic helps lift us as a team. Most recently a relative of someone who passed away on the ward offered to make us individually wrapped cakes and treats. It’s heartwarming that even though she has suffered the loss of a loved one, she is thinking about us. We’re so grateful for her kindness.

I appreciate it’s not just us feeling tired. The North East and the country as a whole is feeling lockdown fatigue. Now one year on, with a vaccine roll-out and several new vaccines on the way, there is hope. It’s so important for everyone to continue following the rules to help us reduce the figures. Hands, face, space; we all know the drill and if we continue to stick with it we’ll come out of lockdown more quickly.”

04.02.2021

“All I can do is my best on each shift to help my patients and support my colleagues. Together we can and will continue to beat Covid.”

26-year-old Holly Turner is a sister on Ward 12, a respiratory support unit at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, Cramlington, part of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. On the ward, she cares for those living with the significant effects of Covid. She lives in Morpeth, with her partner, Michael, a type one diabetic.

“January is my birthday month. To celebrate I’ve been on annual leave this week. I’ve enjoyed Zoom quizzes with friends and family, a pizza night with Michael and lots of long walks with Lola and Lilly, our Bichon Frise and toy poodle.

It’s been great to have some time to rest and recharge but I do miss work. On the ward I get to see people, I’m active as I easily walk at least 15,000 steps a day and I love my job. I do however feel anxious about going back. Hearing that the

UK Covid variant maybe 30% more deadly is extremely worrying.

The pandemic has been relentless. So many lives have already been lost. Personally, it heightens anxiety at home as my fiancé is a type one diabetic. That’s why every time I come home I shower, wash my uniform and we’re both constantly washing our hands and disinfecting surfaces.

As a nurse, I know the numbers are important but what’s crucial is the care I provide. All I can do is my best on each shift to help my patients and support my colleagues. Together we can and will continue to beat Covid.

As well as taking lives, the virus also changes them. Patients often return to the ward following treatment with pneumonia. This is because the virus causes severe inflammation in patients' lungs. It can take weeks to come down and for the lungs to regain full capacity. We regularly hear discharged patients’ suffering from long-term loss of taste and smell, persistent coughing and shortness of breath.


While I have tried to relax on my time off, it’s also given me time to reflect on the past year at work. Something that struck me was the number of couples and siblings admitted onto my ward. Two sets of couples I’ll always remember.

Both couples in their 70s were admitted around the same time. Unfortunately, they were extremely ill. The whole team was devastated. As they were being treated separately we asked each couple if they wanted to be together. It was all we could do. One couple asked to be together, while the other didn’t want their last memories of each other to be of them severely ill. We all respected their wishes but it was horrendous. I don’t think we’ll ever forget them.


Patients’ kindness and positivity have also stayed with me. I have a keyring from a patient who recovered after being critically ill. We lined the corridor and clapped the day she was wheeled out of the ward. I was so happy. A few weeks later she sent keyrings for everyone on the ward as a thank you and each one said ‘You are my angels’ and we’ve all kept them as a good luck charm. It was such a thoughtful gift that helped to lift us all.

At home, we’ve been celebrating as a family as both my and Michael’s grandparents have received the vaccine. They are over the moon. My sister also got hers as she is a dental nurse and she is really happy. We were anxious, as you never know with vaccines if someone will have side effects but apart from the usual sore arm, they’re doing great.

I’ve been busy wedding planning this week while staying home. We are hoping come November, everything can go ahead as planned at the Le Petit Chateau, in Otterburn. Although, if it does have to be postponed I’m just thinking at least everything will be ready and it’s just a case of changing the date. I’ve just been making my way through my to-do list from ordering bridesmaids shoes, to Micheal and I creating our wedding invitations together. I’m loving it as everything is coming together. Every time I speak to my bridesmaids and family about the big day we all get so excited. I just can’t wait.”

21.01.21

“My message to the North East is you can’t underestimate this virus. Every one of us needs to take responsibility for our actions. The vaccine does offer hope, but please, keep following lockdown rules and hopefully, we won’t have to wait too much longer for a Covid free future.”

26-year-old Holly Turner is a sister on Ward 12, a respiratory support unit at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, Cramlington, part of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. On the ward, she cares for those living with the significant effects of Covid. She lives in Morpeth, with her partner, Michael, a type one diabetic.

Throughout the pandemic, my ward has been constantly busy. This new lockdown is no exception. What is different this time is the type of patients. During the first lockdown, patients were predominantly older men. Now many new admissions are a lot younger than you’d expect.

The majority of patients come in with extreme shortness of breath and feeling lethargic as well as suffering from a loss of taste and smell. Almost all of them have pre-existing health conditions. Extremely unwell patients are treated in the ward’s respiratory support unit (RSU). The remainder of the ward is made-up of normal beds for patients who need to receive non-invasive ventilation or oxygen therapy. Each day we are trying our best to help our patients but this virus is like no other.

The hardest part for me is that Covid patients can be sitting up in bed, making conversation the best they can through their mask and asking for a cuppa and yet be critically ill. So ill they’re 100% dependent on oxygen. They couldn’t survive without it.

It’s extremely hard for people to grasp how ill their loved ones are when they can see them sitting up and having a conversation. Every other day we lose patients to this cruel virus. Seeing a family member falling to pieces beside their loved one's bedside is heartbreaking but in those times I try to stay strong for them.

There are often times on the ward when I notice my colleagues need support and I take them aside for a cup of tea and a chat. My team is amazing and we all support each other. I always say to colleagues, it’s better to share how you feel than bottle it up. Personally, for me when I go home and reflect on my shift with my partner, I share how I’m feeling and if needs be I'll cry to let everything out. At the end of the day, we’re only human.

With each shift also comes positives. In the first lockdown, I was taken back by people’s generosity and support donating freshly made cakes and snacks, handmade wash bags for our uniforms and hand cream. People’s kindness made a huge difference.

In the third lockdown, team morale isn’t low at all. When the ward had to go into full lockdown, we all thought ‘not again’ but day-to-day, we keep each other’s spirits up. From giving recognition to colleagues who have gone above and beyond, to sharing a positive quote or even a joke during our morning team huddle.

What’s stuck with me over the pandemic is the patient's reactions to being admitted. I’ve had people say, ‘I didn’t think it’d be as bad as it has been’ or ‘I never thought I’d get it. I had no idea how poorly it would make me’. While others who have recovered from being severely ill have said, ‘I can’t believe my lungs are working again.’ My message to the North East is you can’t underestimate this virus. Every one of us needs to take responsibility for our actions. The vaccine does offer hope, but please, keep following lockdown rules and hopefully, we won’t have to wait too much longer for a Covid free future.

I was shocked when both my mum Colette and I caught Covid last year. While I had mild symptoms, just a dry throat and a constant headache, my mum’s condition deteriorated over a few days. Usually, she’s a fit and active 55-year-old who loves running but within days she couldn’t get out of bed, wasn’t eating and found it difficult to breathe. Thankfully she didn’t need to go to the hospital but it’s taken her a few months to feel like herself again.

Right now what’s keeping me going is the countdown to my wedding in November, fingers crossed, at the Le Petit Chateau, in Otterburn. We got engaged in August and have been able to rope in all of the bridesmaids and groomsmen to join me and my partner virtually in getting fit. There’s ten of us all working together to lose weight and keep fit each week.

It’s been great so far. We’re all sharing recipe ideas and it’s a real boost having more energy, working towards a goal and trying new things. In our first week between us, we’ve lost 3st 3lbs. It’s been great to put all our energy into something productive while staying at home. I’ve even started the NHS couch to 5k challenge and can’t believe how quickly I’ve progressed.

I can’t wait for the wedding but I’m also looking forward to the day I can just walk into my mum and dad’s house, sit down in the living room and enjoy a cuppa with them. It’s the small things I’m missing at the moment.”

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