A nurse who has cared for Covid-19 patients since the start of the pandemic has described the look of terror on their faces as they fight for their lives.
Joanne Mercer, deputy sister in one the Covid wards at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry, told how despite being overwhelmed, staff had pulled out all the stops to ensure patients were given the best care possible.
"I can't thank my staff enough for what they have done over all these months," she said.
"It doesn't matter how the patients die. What does matter is that they have the best death possible, so we stay with them until the end.
"We hold their hand so they know they aren't alone. Hopefully they can hear our voices and the voices of their loved ones over the phone.
"We do everything we can to make sure they are as comfortable as possible.
"Our patients know themselves when they are becoming very unwell.
"As much as we are trying to stay calm and keep our game faces on, they know themselves when they're working really hard to breathe that this isn't normal for them.
"The patients are scared. You can't mistake the look of fear in their eyes.
"It's harder for our younger patients, who are more aware of what is happening to them.
"Hopefully, those who are older and have dementia are blissfully unaware of how unwell they are.
"Sometimes, patients deteriorate so quickly that there is nothing we can do, except make them comfortable.
"When their bodies give up, we are there with them. We arrange for families to speak to their loved ones. The conversations are heart-wrenching.
"We all have mums, dads, grans, brothers and sisters. We can all find a connection with our patients and think of what it would be like if that was our loved one.
"Every patient has a story, a family, someone or something to live for. It is so, so sad, but I hope the families know that we are trying our very best.
"Our respiratory consultants are very honest about outcomes with the patients. They will tell them that the next 48 hours are critical and that if they aren't moved to intensive care, they will die.
"The conversations between the doctors and patients are awe-inspiring. I find a lot of the patients are very resilient about the outcomes.
"The staff are amazing. There is such a team spirit and there's no such thing as not doing something because a patient isn't yours.
"Ordinarily, when we are preparing a patient for the morgue, two of us would do it, but four of us go in now just in case someone has a wobble.
"We all look out for each other and help each other."
According to Joanne, staff have been overwhelmed by the number of seriously ill patients in recent months.
The deputy sister, who ordinarily works in the ambulatory care unit and emergency department at Altnagelvin, said: "We've seen people ranging from 18 to 100, but this time (the latest lockdown), I've definitely noticed the patients are younger and we're seeing a lot of people in their 50s and 60s.
"I think when people get Covid, they hope they will spend a few days in bed feeling bad, so quite often our patients tell us they never thought they would end up in hospital.
"The first time, it was exhausting because we were only learning about the virus. It was never exhausting because of the numbers of patients.
"This time has been different. I would say that during this wave, we have felt like things were completely out of control.
"I would refer to one day over the Christmas period where we had 11 names of patients in A&E who needed beds.
"It was very much one out, one in. When I came back into work the following day, we were still working through the list of patients who needed a bed."
Working on the ward for 12 hours a day in full personal protective equipment has been physically demanding, but the emotional toll on medics has been even more challenging.
"I've been nursing almost six years. In the last 11 months, I have seen more death than I have in those whole six years, which is quite startling," Joanne said.
"There are days when I walk in the door and I'm sure that my husband can tell from my face (that she has had a difficult day), but I'm lucky that I have a very good support network at home and at work."
Joanne, mum to 10-year-old Hudson and four-year-old Dempsey, caught Covid-19 early on in the pandemic but was fortunate to be able to treat the virus at home.
"I know some staff moved out of their houses, but I couldn't. I needed my family as my crutch," she said.
"I remember at the time there was a nurse in England who very sadly passed away from Covid who wasn't much older than me. I remember thinking 'Please don't let this happen to me'.
"I was scared, but I was more scared about giving it to my family.
"After about five days, I knew I was starting to feel better. Thankfully, no one else in my family got sick."