A critical care consultant at Wales’ largest hospital said it was a week away from being overrun by coronavirus.
Dr Chris Hingston said as people heeded “stay at home” advice, Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales just avoided breaching its critical care capacity at the pandemic’s peak.
The Intensive Care Unit is now gearing up for a second wave of infections.
Dr Hingston said “the really big fear” was that it may struggle to deal with a bigger peak.
“We were very much on the verge of not coping,” he added.
BBC Wales’ health correspondent Owain Clarke was given rare access to the unit, where 755 patients who have tested positive for the outbreak have been admitted and 228 have died.
While 477 patients have been discharged, the road to recovery can still be a long one.
‘My brother thought I was a goner’
Geoff Bodman, 56, from Tremorfa in Cardiff, spent eight-and-a-half weeks on the hospital’s intensive care unit.
He is now undergoing intensive rehabilitation therapy on the hospital’s step-down ward, re-learning basic skills such as walking and brushing his teeth, before going home to his family.
“I was on a ventilator. My brother thought I was a goner, bless him.
“I find it difficult to recall a lot of it and I find it quite embarrassing sometimes that I’m trying to recall information that I should know.
“The other day I wanted to write my name and I couldn’t even do that. I know they say it’s a long way to go and it’s going to take a hell of a journey.”
Mr Bodman, who runs his own painting and decorating business, said his illness affected his memory and he cannot remember being admitted to hospital.
“My last memory was going to Cheltenham races. I probably caught the damn thing there.
“That was the last memory I had, up until then it’s pretty much wiped.
“And that in itself is upsetting and frightening because those are memories that I’m going to have to try to claw back.”
Emma Thomas, a critical care research nurse who has been helping with some of the hospital’s most gravely ill patients, said the worst thing was seeing patients dying without their families by their side.
“I can’t say that any nurse hasn’t cried here.
“The worst thing is patients dying without families and knowing that [their] family’s at home longing to be with their dying relative and just not being allowed that.
“The only thing we have to fight the virus with at the moment is lockdown, there is no vaccine, that is our only defence.
“You can deal with something when you know what the plan is, there is no plan with Covid-19, it’s a brand new unprecedented virus that we just don’t know if it’ll end and when it’ll end.”