Looking after one another

By Vincent Wall, SpR

Albert Camus once said… “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”

Working as a doctor in training can often be isolating. You never fully unpack your suitcase, as you ferry from one county to another. There are days after a bad shift when all you want to do is sit in the park with your other half or visit your parents. But you can’t. You’re on call tonight and you are 200km from the place you otherwise call home.

Enter COVID 19. The anticipation was…bad. In early March, a number of staff members were in self-isolation awaiting swab results. We scrambled to cover shifts. From where we stood, the prospects seemed grim. We stood in awe and anxiety as we read testimonies from our Italian colleagues.  As cases of COVID began to arrive in CUH, we realized this would be a cruel, crippling disease for those affected.

Now, the distance from home is further compounded by this nightmare. Days at work have become filled with uncertainty, new ways of doing things, new equipment, social distancing, busier rosters and less time for coffee. All in the presence of a new and deadly disease, and continuing to manage heart-breaking clinical scenarios.

You would think this situation would be unbearable: holidays cancelled, rapidly changing rosters, frequent call, new drills and procedures to learn everyday, all in an effort to keep us safe.

Yet - nobody complained. ICU training sessions were organized. ICU booklets were written. Ventilation tutorials were given. Surgeons came to ICU to participate in proning training (turning patients to aid their breathing). We made quizzes to entertain ourselves. Baby photos were shared to laugh at our pudgy cheeks. Morning exercise sessions were arranged ‘wake up and shake up’. Everyone pitched in.

We are all getting on with it.  We are looking after each other. Doctors, nurses, porters, health care assistants, secretaries, radiographers, cleaning staff, all of those working on the frontline with us. There is a touching sense of community reaching across all disciplines. And so far…. it hasn’t been as bad as we thought it would be. Throughout this, I found the most remarkable source of strength was to look at the person beside you. Fingers crossed we hold firm.

Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine