The light on the horizon from a doctor on the NHS frontline - Rosie Baruah
Back in April, when we were in the middle of the first wave of Coronavirus infection, I was amazed at how different our ICU looked, how in a few short weeks it had transformed from an open ward with 24/7 visiting into a plastic-enclosed ‘bubble’, devoid of family visits, staffed by teams spending hours in full PPE, looking after patients with COVID-19 and multi organ failure.
Back then, we used to talk about what we would do when this was over. We even had a board in the coffee room, where we would sit and decompress during breaks, covered
in little cardboard bubbles where people had written the first thing they would do ‘after Covid’.
But we haven’t done any of those things, because Covid isn’t done with us yet. How are we? We are like everyone else living with the uncertainty of this strange new world. Tired
We had a brief period over summer when we had no Covid patients with us, when the plastic bubble sheeting came down, but it didn’t seem like long enough to rebuild our energy reserves. Now the numbers are picking up again and we are tired.
We thought back in March that this would be over in a few months. Now the only thing that is clear is that there is no clarity at all about what the future holds – for the way hospitals have to run, or for how our lives outside the hospital will be limited by Covid restrictions. Living on constantly shifting sands is really challenging.
The second wave has started to wash over us, but it isn’t clear how big it will be or how long it will last. We are also aware of how much of the hospital’s other activity shut down during the first wave and how we must, as much as possible, keep our regular services running. Sometimes it feels like we can’t split ourselves enough ways to cover it all.
But looking forwards towards the rest of 2020 and beyond, how do I feel?
We did this before, and we can do it again. We have clinical experience in dealing with Covid, and we have treatments for it – all of this as a result of work done during the first wave.
The first wave hit us all with what felt like little warning, but the teamwork and support within the ICU team and the wider hospital was the best example of teamwork I have ever experienced. I feel so supported by the rest of my team and we work hard to support each other – at an appropriate social distance!
We will get through this. It won’t last forever. I don’t think this is forced, unrealistic optimism. This year has been the hardest many of us will ever face, professionally and personally. We have got through it so far. We will get through it to the other side.
I look forward to the day when we all get to do the things we scribbled on those coloured bits of card, a rainbow coloured collection of post-Covid daydreams. We just have to keep our eyes on the light on the horizon and keep going.
Rosie Baruah is a BMA Scotland Consultant in Critical Care and Anaesthesia in Edinburgh
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