COVID Stories 2 – Extraordinary tales of dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic

What extraordinary times we are living through.

A generation grown up learning about and studying stories about World Wars, Cold Wars and Great Depressions are now living through a catastrophe of global proportions decimating lives and communities.

Just like during previous catastrophes, it is individuals, and most definitely not governments – with a few exceptions of those run by women – who are at the forefront of the battle.

From the Tommies and brave nurses in the trenches of the Western Front to the 1970’s peace activists in English villages and border guards in 80’s Berlin, it has always been the ordinary men and women who have stepped up and made enormous sacrifices to help and alleviate suffering.

In Britain, ethnic minorities have been at the forefront of a vast effort played by the National Health Service.  Hundreds of thousands of individuals, from 111 call operators to surgeons have gone forth to fight an unknown and unseen enemy.

And many of those people have been women, including members of Indian Ladies in UK.

Savitha D’Souza is one such amazing individual.

“I work as a Senior Staff Nurse at the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit in London.  Given our level of expertise and experience, the hospital decided early on that our ICU would be converted to the treatment of Covid-19 patients. 

At the outset there was a huge amount of stress and panic, a situation exacerbated by the fact that we had little knowledge of the virus and limited staff and PPE resources.

Many staff members who had previous medical conditions – irrespective of severity – couldn’t work in the unit.  As a result we were severely short-staffed.  There were some shifts where we had just one nurse working with up to 4 ventilated patients, which is a very dangerous ratio.  On top of that we were universally short of PPE. 

We were reusing masks and gowns as well.  At one point some of our senior colleagues had to use their contacts in the medical equipment industry to get sponsors for visors, which were as precious as precious jewels.

Then there was a lack of information from the government, all of which made our life as frontline workers dangerous not just for ourselves but for our families as well.

My hospital didn’t initially expect to be flooded with patients but when it did, it was overwhelming.  Several wards were closed down or converted to ICU units.  So we had Level 3 COVID patients in 5 ICU’s.

Normally we have 3 adult ICU, out of which 1 ICU was spared for NON-COVID patients’ admission.

After 2 ICU’s reached full capacity, we had to convert 3 wards to ICU’s which then also ran at full capacity.  ICU staff was rostered to run these units, with the support of other Registered Nurses and Health Care Assistants.

All patients that were admitted had some background history of problems with heart, lungs or other organs.  Most of them had similar symptoms and X-rays or CT’s confirmed that.  After confirmation of Covid-19 with swabs patients were initially treated for whatever symptoms they exhibited, mostly with antibiotics – whether it was a fever or chest infection.  Heart failures need what’s called inotropes – medications that regulate heart contractions.  Those with kidney failure needed ‘filtration’ or ‘haemodialysis’. 

Without a treatment for the disease, all we were doing was treating the symptoms displayed by patients – and the symptoms were wide ranging. 

While this was unprecedented in terms of nature and scale, the government could have done a vastly better job of handling it. 

Lockdown restrictions were put in place too late, there was no quarantining of travellers coming into the UK which made the situation far worse than it should have been. 

Also, the concept of ‘Herd Immunity’ was utterly misguided as it was not evidence based.  And because of the lack of information and guidance, many of the victims initially were young taxi drivers or bus drivers who were very vulnerable because no measures had been put in place to protect them. 

I do understand that we need to ease lockdown restrictions, but it’s our responsibility to protect ourselves and our families, especially those who are vulnerable, so maintaining distance, practicing hand hygiene, wearing masks and avoiding social gatherings is the only way until we find a vaccine for this deadly disease.

Personally, it has had a huge impact on me and my family, as my husband has been made redundant from his job.  My son has been off school with little or no interaction or outdoor activities. 

I have had to live in a separate room which has been particularly difficult for my son who is just 5 years old.  But the NHS has been amazing.  Not only has it looked after this nation but it has – despite the lack of resources – looked after its own people. 

There has been a huge staff support system at work with counselling sessions, relaxation hubs put in place by the Trust and donations of all kinds from the community.

I hope that’s never forgotten.” 

Tags: Covid, lockdown, NHS, NHS Heroes

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