Doing all we can to help one another

Dr Anna Horgan, SpR

I worked as a trainee in anaesthesia in the Mercy University Hospital during the height of the pandemic. We benefitted from some lag time between the arrival of the virus in Ireland and our first confirmed case. We spent that time planning the expansion of our five-bedded intensive care unit to accommodate what was, at the time, a potentially overwhelming surge in demand. In our morning meetings, before moving to video conferences, we spread ourselves out around a table and ran though potential scenarios as well as discussing the management of space and resources. Everyone was listened to. Regardless of the level of experience or seniority, we were all facing an
unprecedented situation. In a specialty that can be didactic at times, it was empowering for us trainees to be given a voice and a rare opportunity to help shape the environment that we work in on a daily basis.

I had the misfortune of being exposed to COVID 19 multiple times during the course of the pandemic. I had the same feeling each time it occurred. There was dread at the possibility that I may have contracted the poorly understood and potentially devastating virus, but also a huge sense of guilt. In medicine, there is an unspoken culture of denying our own illnesses and weakness, and “struggling on” so as not to overburden our already busy colleagues. To be forced to be absent from work when I felt perfectly well felt like I was betraying those still on the frontlines. That feeling was quickly dispelled by the actions of my colleagues and consultants at the Mercy. There wasn’t a single day of my self-isolation that I didn’t receive a text or phone-call to see how I was getting on, or a bag of groceries or chocolates (and the occasional bottle of wine!) left on my doorstep. It’s very easy to say “we’re all in this together” and not have your actions reflect that sentiment, but I felt real solidarity with my co-workers for how they treated me at that time.

My hope is that when this pandemic is over, we don’t forget the lessons we learned during it and that we remain a specialty that is conscientious, collaborative and kind.

Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine