Emotional pictures have revealed the heartbreaking moment the family of a teacher said their final goodbyes to her as she battled coronavirus in hospital.
The family of Annette Gardner, 58, feared they would never see her alive again after she was left on the brink of death with the deadly virus.
The images show her daughter Emma Kirby, 28, and brother David saying their final farewell over Skype on a mobile phone.
Kirby has recalled telling her mum “to keep fighting" as she struggled to breathe during their agonising chat – and incredibly Gardner did just that.
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Following a 17-day battle with the killer bug, Gardner incredibly managed to pull through and was this week discharged from intensive care.
The teacher was given a standing ovation by NHS staff as she left the intensive care unit at Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, Worcestershire.
Speaking from hospital, Gardner – who, in addition to two children, has three grandchildren – said: "I feel very strange. I thought I was going to die.
"I have now been put on a ward where they are trying to build up my muscle.
"I have never felt like this before in my life. This is one of the worst viruses anybody could ever go through.
"It was a very disturbing experience. I don't know how my family has coped – it's affected everybody.
"I really want to express how grateful I am to the NHS. They are doing such a wonderful job and they are putting themselves at risk every day."
Gardner, who works at Heart of Worcestershire College, was admitted to hospital on 26 March and was later put on a ventilator when her condition started to deteriorate.
The teacher had initially called an ambulance for her sister Sue Roberts – but they were both taken to hospital over fears for their health.
Tragically, just a day later, Gardner's father Vic, 89, died at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital after contracting the virus.
Her 83-year-old mother Margaret also tested positive for COVID-19, and while Margaret has fought off the disease, it has permanently damaged her lungs.
Kirby said: "Mum is slowly recovering. She's got to learn to do things again and she's been walking on a zimmerframe.
"The hospital is hoping to send her home in the coming days.
"When we were saying our last goodbyes, we told her she had to keep fighting. But when speaking to her we could hear she was really struggling to breathe.
"She was put on a ventilator and was in the intensive care unit for 17 days. She was made aware of what could have happened.
"We were told mum was the first one to come out of the intensive care unit in the Alexander Hospital.
"Four people in my family have suffered from the virus. My nan and grandad were the first to get ill and go into hospital. We lost my grandad Vic.
"Obviously none of us could be with him when he passed away. My poor nan has had to grieve on her own in hospital.
"My nan and grandad celebrated their wedding anniversary in hospital on March 22.
"It feels like a nightmare, the whole family feels like we need to wake up."
She added: "We cannot thank the staff at the Alexandra Hospital enough for what they have done.
“On behalf of my mum, she told me to thank even the cleaners, catering staff, just to everybody who’s involved in the hospitals."