The independent London newspaper

Hospital volunteer owes her life to Royal Free after being saved from coronavirus

Dog therapy charity worker was 'touch and go' but is home safe after 11 days in Hampstead hospital

06 April, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Shiva Bernheim’s life was saved at the Royal Free Hospital

A ROYAL Free Charity worker has praised the Royal Free Hospital “heroes” who saved her from coronavirus.

Shiva Bernheim, from Hampstead, said she “owed her life” to the Hampstead hospital’s incredible NHS staff.

The 61-year-old is recovering at home with her rescue dog Rolo after 11 days at the hospital in Pond Street.

She has wanted to share her story in order to pay tribute to the staff who cared for her and encourage others to donate to hospital’s Emergency Appeal.

Ms Bernheim said: “From the consultants, the doctors and the nurses to the cleaners. They are all my heroes. I only remember a few names but I will never forget any of them.

“The way they laid their lives on the line for me was unbelievable. As far as I’m concerned I shouldn’t be here – it’s a miracle that I’m alive. A miracle.”

Ms Bernheim, who has volunteered twice a week on the hospital’s ward with her therapy dog Rolo for the past three years, said her condition had been “touch and go”.

She said: “I’ve been a regular visitor to the wards with Rolo, doing our best to raise morale but this time I was the patient.”


She has asthma and became unwell after returning from a skiing trip to Switzerland, the hospital said.

Her temperature shot up to 40 degrees and her breathing “was terrible”.

She said: “My situation deteriorated – by this point I was up on a ward. All the staff were simply amazing. They were professional, caring and lovely. I could see they were all trying their hardest and fighting for me.”

She said: “I was moved to a different ward and still kept a very close eye on. It wasn’t until I was able to breathe unaided without the help of the oxygen that I knew I’d reached a turning point.”

When she got home she said dog Rolo had seemed “subdued and didn’t jump up”, adding: “He could clearly sense how frail I was. Ever since I’ve been back home he doesn’t leave my side.”

“Now I’m in isolation but I can truly say it is the best feeling in the world to be at home and have the luxury of simply being here.

“When I’m recovered and when this is all over Rolo and I will be back volunteering again for the charity. I can’t wait.”

Details of how to help the Royal Free by donating to its Charity’s Covid-19 Emergency Fund or volunteering at the hospital can be found at

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