It's Saturday 29 February 2020 and the RTÉ Nine News announces Ireland has its first case of Covid-19.

Less than two weeks later and the first Covid death here is confirmed.

Fast forward. It's now 110 days since that first death was announced. During that time, we have all become familiar with the nightly briefings by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan delivering the latest number of deaths and new cases.

The total number of deaths in the Republic of Ireland currently stands at 1,734 and the number of confirmed cases is more than 25,400.

Image - A patient arrives at the hospital's Emergency Department

A patient arrives at the hospital's Emergency Department

Significant numbers in any language. For many though that is all they are, numbers, statistics in news bulletins on our television screens. It's not that people don't care. It is more that we have grown accustomed to hearing about numbers, not people, just numbers.

The number in Intensive Care Units, the number on ventilators, the number of available hospital beds, the number of Covid-19 cases, the number of deaths.

But what lies behind those numbers? That's the question that spurred the RTÉ Investigates Team to look at putting faces to some of those numbers.

Image - Medical staff tend to a patient in the Covid ICU

Medical staff tend to a patient in the Covid ICU

Ordinarily, we undertake many different types of investigations, from going undercover to expose poor standards of care in crèches and nursing homes, to large data journalism projects analysing hundreds of thousands of records and millions of lines of data.

Occasionally we take a different approach where we focus solely on first person accounts, with people telling their own very personal stories - our look at the real impact of hospital waiting lists being a case in point.

Regardless, the central focus of all our projects is to reveal the true story of what is happening in Ireland - the reality behind the headlines. And that again is the aim of our new Covid-19 documentary series.

Image - RTÉ Investigates had up to 4 camera operators filming in the hospital for up to 12 hours a day

RTÉ Investigates had up to 4 camera operators filming in the hospital for up to 12 hours a day

During the months of May and June, RTÉ Investigates spent almost 30 days filming in St James's Hospital in Dublin. Every precaution was taken and before filming began the entire team had to undergo Biological Hazard Training provided by health and safety experts in the UK.

In addition, further Donning & Doffing Training, the procedure for correctly putting on and removing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), was provided by the St James's Hospital Infection Control Team.

To ensure we were not drawing on scarce resources, RTÉ Investigates delivered supplies of PPE to St James's Hospital to cover the protective equipment used by our teams during our time in the hospital.

With the full co-operation of staff, patients and families, RTÉ had up to four camera operators filming in the hospital for up to 12 hours a day.

Image - RTÉ spent almost 30 days filming in the hospital

RTÉ spent almost 30 days filming in the hospital

What resulted are powerful stories taking us behind the scenes of Ireland's battle with Covid-19. For the first time we see inside one of Ireland's busiest Intensive Care Units as the doctors and nurses of St James's Hospital fight to keep people alive.

We hear from young, student nurses who found themselves catapulted from the lecture halls of a nursing degree course to the frontline of a world pandemic, in less than 12 months.

In their own words, patients give us an insight to the rollercoaster ride that is Covid-19 - while families describe the anguish of not being able to visit their loved ones in hospital while sitting at home nervously waiting on the phone to ring with daily updates. For some, that call comes with the worst possible news.

We also hear stories of hope and triumph from patients who survived Covid-19 and returned to their families. Patients who come off a ventilator and leave Intensive Care often face a very long journey to recovery, sometimes spending days, weeks or even months rehabilitating from the virus. But their stories demonstrate that people can and do survive and with help and support get back to living the rest of their lives.

Image - A 'Get Well Soon' teddy sits by a patient's bed in ICU

A 'Get Well Soon' teddy sits by a patient's bed in ICU

RTÉ Investigates: Inside Ireland's Covid Battle

This story accompanies new documentaries from RTÉ Investigates going behind the scenes at St James's Hospital as it fights against Covid-19.

Read more stories from this series:
Behind the Mask
Inside One Dublin Hospital's Covid Battle
The last line of defence: Inside St James's ICU
A mirror to society: the Emergency Dept. at St James's during Covid
'The burden of death': Covid Inpatients at St James's

'Inside Ireland's Covid Battle' watch now on the RTÉ Player.

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