We're all in this together
Murray Connolly, SpR, Cork University Hospital
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Many of us have been living forwards recently. Out of necessity we have kept our heads down and powered on. There has been little chance for reflection in the last few months, but now is perhaps the first opportunity to look back and understand what we have been through. While it is impossible to comprehensively cover the experiences of over eighty anaesthesiologists during one of the most challenging periods in our careers, the few articles below speak volumes of the highs and lows that our department has journeyed through in the last six months.
The tales coming from Italy in February and March were frankly intimidating. Images of Intensive Care Units overrun to that degree, the rationing of ventilators and the physical and psychological toll it was taking on their staff were not something we had considered possible nor probable in developed countries until then. Would our department likewise have to refuse patients access to ICU based on crude measures like their age or presence of “underlying conditions”? We steeled ourselves to make these traumatic decisions. Some groups, particularly those manning the Intensive Care Unit rotas bore the brunt of the increased workload. Cognitive overload, information fatigue and physical exhaustion were common realities. Social Distancing became the new norm.
Some of us found wearing PPE isolating:
Others embraced it:
Our department, along with our fantastic theatre colleagues, approached the challenges we faced with exemplary proactivity and positivity. Throughout we strove to maintain our own wellbeing and to keep a sense of community and teamwork alive.
And yes, work got busy. Very busy. But we did not become overrun. We managed. And we are grateful to the people of Cork, Munster and Ireland for the sacrifices they have made so that we could cope.
As I write this in June, we are all relieved to move forward with some easing of restrictions, a return of elective anaesthesia work, and we are delighted with the opportunities to visit friends and family.
There are many apprehensions about our future. What will the “New Normal” look like both inside and outside work? What will winter bring? Can we cope with both the Flu and COVID? Will we be “locked down” again? Will we always have to wear PPE? Will our co-workers, friends and family be safe? Not even the great Tony Holohan has the answers to these questions. What I do know is that I am proud of what we have achieved thus far, both in CUH and across Ireland, and that we will continue to cope. We have to.
The articles below give a brief snapshot of our experiences. Enjoy.