Nurse working on Covid-19 frontline had ‘virus symptoms’ that turned out to be leukaemia – iNews

Posted: August 27, 2020 at 11:55 am

When nurse Neri Pucci suddenly felt ill during a hospital shift his first thought was that hed picked up Covid-19.

Working long shifts on an A&E ward, the 28-year-oldpresumed being exposed to patients with the virus was the reason he was suffering a fever, night sweats, a cough, a sore throat, breathlessness and a headache.

But several tests for coronavirus were negative and blood analysis showed his white blood cells had sky rocketed.

Medics quickly determined he had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a cancer that progresses quickly and aggressively and requires immediate treatment.

And so instead of finishing the shift he was due to work, the Italian, who has worked for the NHS for five years, was kept in hospital as an in-patient.

Hes been undergoing gruelling chemotherapy over the last 12 weeks and remains isolated in a room with restricted visitors.

Because Neri took a career break and returned as temporary staff, he is not entitled to NHS sick pay. His colleague has set up a GoFundMe appeal to support him which has so far raised more than 9,400.

Ive had a lot of love and support from family, friends, colleagues and people around the world, its fantastic, said Neri.

Neri has worked at Londons The Royal Free Hospital A&E since 2014 and last year, for a change of scene, took a post as a nurse on a cruise ship. He returned to the hospital in June and took ill after just six weeks.

I knew my colleagues were struggling during the pandemic and I felt I should come back and help, he said. Wearing full PPE for a 12-hour shift is quite exhausting, it makes you hot and sweaty. I had seen patients who had Covid, and of course took all precautions. So when I got ill I thought it must be the virus. I felt dizzy, short of breath and my heart was racing and then my knees went purple.

It was a lot to take in when they said it was leukaemia and I needed to stay in hospital.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is rare, with around 790 people diagnosed with the condition each year in the UK, according to the NHS. Most cases develop in children, teenagers and young adults.

The disease is caused by a genetic mutation in the stem cells, although why this happens is not yet fully understood but there are certain risk factors.

Symptoms of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

The disease usually starts slowly before rapidly becoming severe. Symptoms listed by the NHS are pale skin, feeling tired and breathless, repeated infections over a short time, unusual and frequent bleeding, such as bleeding gums or nosebleeds, high temperature and night sweats.

Sufferers can also get bone and joint pain, easily bruised skin, swollen lymph nodes, tummy pain) caused by a swollen liver or spleen, unintentional weight loss and a purple skin rash.

In some cases, the affected cells can spread from your bloodstream into your central nervous system. This can cause neurological symptoms, including headaches, seizures or fits, being sick, blurred vision and dizziness.

Neri was transferred to University College Hospital and his parents left their home town of Florence to stay in London to support their only child.

He has suffered side effects from the chemotherapy including nausea, fatigue, numb fingers and headaches and says hes found isolation difficult.

Im extremely vulnerable to infections and even more so with Covid around, he said. Im in a side room and there is strict visitation.Im allowed one visitor a week for just two hours, so that means only my mum can come one week and then my dad the next. Its very hard. The nurses have been so kind and I feel very well looked after.

Neri is now waiting on a bone marrow transplant, which will leave him immunocompromised for months. He will likely need at least a year off work, depending on how soon he has the procedure.

His friend who set up the fundraising appeal, Miguel Montenegro, wrote: The funds we raise will be used to support his accommodations costs and bills so that he can carry on focusing on his recovery and can remain in the country to obtain the best care possible.

He is looking forward to getting better as soon as possible as he wishes to return to work promptly and continue providing people with the best care he is capable of.

Do you have a real life story? Email claudia.tanner@inews.co.uk.

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Nurse working on Covid-19 frontline had 'virus symptoms' that turned out to be leukaemia - iNews

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