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Case study: “It feels like everyone is pulling together with research.”

As a nurse herself, Karen Delin was caring for others when she was struck with COVID-19 in November 2020.

As a nurse herself, Karen Delin was caring for others when she was struck with COVID-19 in November 2020.

She was admitted to Whipps Cross Hospital with double Covid-related pneumonia and moved to the acute respiratory ward, where she was invited to take part in the RECOVERY trial. She immediately grasped the opportunity and feels that her participation may have helped her leave hospital sooner than she might otherwise have done. She says:

“I said yes straight away. I wanted to take every opportunity as even if it didn’t benefit me, it might have benefited someone else.  Any information was desperately needed then.”  

Karen received several treatments on the trial, including dexamethasone, which was later shown to assist recovery and reduce deaths in patients who were ventilated or receiving oxygen. She remembers:

“I was very poorly and felt it could have gone either way, but in a short time began to make a fast recovery. It felt really good to be part of the research.

“It was such a scary time. No one really knew what to do about Covid then and I was very scared. It was a horrible feeling to know you are diagnosed with double pneumonia right in the middle of a pandemic but everyone on the trial was so positive. They said ‘we’ve learnt so much already, we’ll get you through this’.

“I thought previous trials have been going on to lead to this point and without those, we wouldn’t have made progress already. It made a lot of sense to help carry on and contribute more to the knowledge.”

Whilst the trial was searching for new treatments, Karen herself was not a stranger to research. Fifteen years ago, she had been diagnosed with a sarcoma (a rare form of cancer). As a result, she had already taken part in several trials into radiotherapy, genomics, and the effect of hormones on sarcomas. She has even been involved as an NIHR CRN patient representative for sarcoma studies, as well as contributing to patient reviews in cancer trial protocols.  

Karen was discharged from her COVID-19 admission at the beginning of December but was then affected by ‘Long-Covid’. She feels grateful not to have suffered with all possible symptoms, but her muscles were initially badly affected. As an avid walker, she had plans to stride 50km for charity this year but for some time, was struggling to walk to the door. It took a long time to recover her energy and her thinking and concentration were also affected.

Six months on, she is at last feeling better. Karen is walking again; can soon re-join her walking groups and is looking forward to returning to work. Finally, some good news too, as she is delighted to have been recently discharged after her 15 years of cancer.

With so much behind her now and with so much ahead to look forward to, Karen reflects on the important part that research has played for her.

“It feels so good to be walking again and back in the forest but I’m so glad I could be part of the research. No matter what the field, clinical trials are so essential in developing better patient care and to improving peoples’ outcomes.

“I’m just grateful. It feels like everyone is pulling together with research. Even if a trial shows a treatment isn’t working, it’s still good because we are learning what not to waste time on." 

When asked what message she’d give to others who are considering getting involved, she says:

“Don’t be scared of research. You could benefit directly yourself and so many other people as well. I would encourage anyone to take part in clinical trials. Without people taking part, we wouldn’t know what we know about treatments already.”