AN ELDERLY Covid-19 survivor has spoken of the horror of the virus and the pain of believing she would never see her family again.

Remarkably Ella Cullen, a former nurse and current president of the Royal College of Nursing Cumbrian branch, not only survived, but did so after choosing not to go into hospital.

“I have a faulty left ventricle and felt that if I was put on a ventilator I would not survive,” she admitted.

So the nearly 88-year-old stayed at home, but does not make light of what she suffered.

“I felt - and still feel occasionally - as though I had a heavy brick on my chest. It was an awful feeling - like nothing I have experienced before.”

But the worst part was believing she might die.

Mrs Cullen, of George Street. Whitehaven, said: “My daughter and her family live in the north east. I never said it to them, but I was very scared I would never see them again.

“I admit I was mostly afraid about that. I cried a lot.”

She said she was only able to stay at home on condition that she truly self-isolated which meant not even having any window open.

Mrs Cullen, who has survived two strokes, said the virus should not be minimised - describing it as unlike anything she had ever experienced before, or would ever want to again.

As a former senior nurse, she paid tribute to all those working in the NHS.

“I trained at Whitehaven Hospital but did not qualify because I got married,” she said. “Trainee nurses were not allowed to have male friends in those days.”

She later returned to her training and became a senior nurse.

The scale of the pandemic is one Mrs Cullen says she never faced during her career, and she praised the frontline staff for what they must all be going through.

That was why she was on her doorstep, her Royal College president’s badge proudly displayed, to applaud them all on the 72nd birthday of the NHS - and on every Thursday she was well enough prior to that even though still weakened by the virus.

Her applause was also for the medical staff and her neighbours who who helped her.

Mrs Cullen is still feeling the effects of the virus but she says there is a simple reason that she has survived.

“I don’t drink. I don’t smoke - but I do know a few expletives - and I have used a few of them during this illness.

“Looking back, I think I am still here because the Good Lord and the devil are still arguing about who is going to get me.”