The Health Foundation supported a Channel 4 documentary, Surviving COVID, to enhance understanding of the impact of COVID-19.

Over the months ahead we’re releasing a series of four videos to accompany the documentary. These will draw from footage captured by the filmmakers Sandpaper Films as part of Surviving COVID, along with additional perspectives and experiences. The series aims to highlight the different ways that illness with COVID-19 has affected people, their families, health care workers and the health system.

Watch now

In the first video, Behind each statistic lies a human story, we share more deeply personal insights from the individuals and their families who have directly experienced the severe effects of the virus during this pandemic.

Please note that this film contains scenes that viewers may find upsetting.

Dr Dalia Sayed: It can be quite impersonal, you know, on intensive care, having wires and tubes everywhere and so I think it's really important not to forget, even when they are connected to the ventilator and they're really unwell, you can't forget that there's a human there that could be your father, your uncle, your brother.

Beatriz (in Spanish): Joaco, wake up. Joaquin. Joaco? I'm going to call your mum, OK? For you to say 'hello'.

Joaquin’s family (on the phone, in Spanish): Hello!

Beatriz (in Spanish): Blow some kisses to your mum

Joaquin’s family (on the phone, in Spanish): A kiss! Thank you my love, thank you. He's crying.

Beatriz (in Spanish): Blow some kisses to your mum and say goodbye. Well done Joaco.

Sophia: I regarded him as a brother. I mean, I can categorically say after my mum it is one of the hardest losses for us. I mean, it's never right to lose anybody but you know, he was only 47 and he touched so many lives. He was so compassionate, so giving. Yeah. It's very hard to process. It's just like playing around in my head all the time, constantly, constantly. And then there's people that think it's a joke and think it's a conspiracy and think all of these stupid things. Whatever, you know, whatever they want to think, the death rate is real, the sickness is real, the after effects are real.

Gill: Dave, I'm here. You keep fighting, love, you keep fighting. You gotta come back, ain't you?

Dr Tom Hurst: He's continuing to have problems with his ventilation because his lungs are very stiff and they're very badly damaged from the COVID.

Gill: But you've not stopped trying though, have you?

Dr Tom Hurst: No, we've not stopped trying.

Gill: And you won't, will you?

Dr Tom Hurst: And we're not at the point where we will stop trying. OK?

Gill: That's all I want to hear. Sounds silly and I know it's a long, long road. He's still fighting. Yeah?

Martin: I was just at home. My mother, who was 93, managed to pick up COVID. We weren't allowed to go with her into hospital. We had to call an ambulance and I somehow suspected that would probably be the last we might see of her, so we did say goodbye to her in the ambulance. She just said, 'I couldn't have wished for two better sons', because of everything we'd done in looking after her.

Martin: Doesn't seem right only those people there. I know that was the maximum you could have but it's a shame for her. I feel cheated. I should have been there. Should have been...

Melanie: He's very excited to come home and yeah, he calls me a million times a day. Hope he doesn't know about the surprise we have for him when he comes home. We thought it would be nice to get everyone out and just clap and just really celebrate his arrival back home.


During this pandemic we've become obsessed with statistics – the number of infections, deaths, ICU admissions. It's easy to forget that behind each statistic lies a human story. Those stories are crucial to understanding the true impact of COVID-19.
Dr Jennifer Dixon – Chief Executive, the Health Foundation


With thanks to everyone who shared their deeply personal experiences as part of Surviving COVID.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this video, find details of organisations that can offer help and support on the Channel 4 website:

Further reading


Surviving COVID: The impact of the pandemic on the mental health of NHS workers


This film illustrates the impact of the pandemic on the mental wellbeing of NHS workers and...


Surviving COVID: COVID-19 and the long road to recovery


This film explores the complex care needs of people who have been severely ill with COVID-19, many...


Surviving COVID


Surviving COVID is a Channel 4 documentary, and series of short films, supported by the Health...


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Interviews with experts and high-profile guests discussing the most important issues affecting the...

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