Submitted by Sarah
Palliative Care Support Worker
March 16 2020
I have been coming down with something for a couple of days now. On the bus to work, I was desperate not to need to cough as that is frowned upon currently. I am a little chesty and my voice resembles a Dalek. I’m sure it can’t be Covid as we have been told to look out for a temperature and continuous cough – I have neither. Left work a little earlier, hopefully to feel better tomorrow.
March 17 2020
Attended University virtually as unable to go onto campus as it’s been closed from this afternoon. Still unwell but no cough or temperature.
March 18 2020
Very chesty and given antibiotics over the phone by GP as unable to go into the surgery in person due to the outbreak. Told to self isolate (along with my husband and sons) for 2 weeks which just made me cry. The thought of not being there to help my colleagues, especially at the moment is too much! My manager made me feel better by saying there will be plenty of work for me to do once I can go back and that the expected surge has not yet happened.
March 23 2020
We have gone into lockdown, people are being advised to work from home, only go out for essential shopping one person at a time from a household. The government are putting things in place to arrange shopping deliveries to the most vulnerable and financial assistance to those that are unable to work and the businesses at risk from the lockdown. All pubs, bars, restaurants and virtually everything else has been shut.
March 26 2020
I finished my antibiotics yesterday and already overnight, my chest feels tight and full of fluid. There is a crackle when I breathe. GP put me straight onto stronger antibiotics to treat suspected pneumonia. Tonight was the first clap for NHS and Keyworkers at 8pm. Most of my neighbours stood at their doors clapping and banging saucepans with wooden spoons to show their appreciation at this time, there was even the odd firework. It was really touching and I managed to stand there and watch it all with a few tears of frustration that I wasn’t doing my part in this.
March 27 2020
For the last two days I have had the classic Covid 19 symptoms of temperature, cough, loss of taste and smell, nausea and exhaustion. I am unable to be tested to check if this is the case as the test has not been released yet and once it is released, will only be able to check for current Covid 19 rather than if I have had it. I’ll never know although it may not be of benefit as there is no proof it will come back.
During the 2 weeks I missed work, myself, my husband and my teenage boys were all in the house together. Not being able to go out was frustrating and boring but we did manage to find a way to all just live together calmly. My eldest was furloughed from his part-time job. He has autism and learning disabilities and the change to his routine has been awful for him. My husband was able to go back to work as a commercial window cleaner as he is able to socially distance at work. Once I was able to return to work, my youngest was offered a key worker placement at his school, much to his delight as all his friends are home! This included going to school during the Easter holidays when we should all have been in Turkey for a fortnight. He soon realised that he was actually one of the lucky ones as having the school day gave him structure and he was able to get support from his teachers and make new friends.
April 2, 2020
Back to work with the added bonus of free parking right by my office courtesy of the school next door. This is a relief as I have no need to use public transport to work. It was great to see my colleagues again and find out that things were busy but manageable while I was off. It was very tricky to try and stay two metres away from everyone while working but we tried our best. I proudly stood at my door for the clap for carers this evening knowing I was back to being able to play a part in the running of the hospital. Our way of working has changed and we are looking at ways to support the people we usually would, remotely instead of face to face.
Back in the swing of things, my routine is now work/home/work/home and so on with the odd trip to the supermarket thrown in. There are special times NHS workers can shop in store but to be honest, these are busier than other times so I avoid these. Queueing to get into a supermarket is strange and I try to avoid shopping at all costs.
Our way of working has continued to evolve – we are phoning relatives that can’t come in to the hospital to offer them much needed support. There is an email address set up for relatives to send in emails that we can print and deliver to their loved ones. Volunteers have been making little pairs of fabric hearts by the bag load – one for the patient and one for the relative to help them feel connected. We have been able to access Ipads donated by the parents of the school next door and use them so that patients and video call their families, in some cases to say a final goodbye.
The school have also been giving us snacks, toiletries and groceries each day as a thank you to the NHS and have set up a staff room with hot and cold drinks for us to use anytime we want to get away for a bit. The support from the community towards our hospital at this time has been overwhelming.
Although the spike in cases within the hospital is not as big as predicted, the amount of patients on our caseload is creeping up. People who were avoiding coming into hospital previously are starting to have no choice but to be admitted for urgent treatment.
Staff who were redeployed are starting to go back to their usual roles and the roads are getting busier each day with people needing to go to work.
Calls to families are not constant but most are in depth and take some time. Relatives are grateful to speak to someone and often they alone, unable to see their families and friends. I am in the lovely position of being able to spend my time listening to them and seeing where there may be opportunities for me to help or signpost for further support such as the community palliative care teams or GP’s. I feel privileged and proud when I am able to help in any way.
May 13 2020
Lockdown is being eased a little from today with some people able to return to work and people being able to exercise as much as they like during the day. The surge of cars on the road is incredible and I find myself leaving very early for work incase the roads have reverted back to their usual chaos. Although busy, I manage to arrive at work ridiculously early – a bit too organised this morning! There is talk of further lockdown if cases go up again so the next few weeks will be a bit uncertain with a wait and see approach.
A new development is that NHS staff are able to be tested to see if they have the Coronovirus antibodies, which would indicate we had been affected by Covid-19 previously.
Here is my test result: SARS-COV-2 antibody Total – DETECTED
Although I had suspected I had this in March when I fell ill, it is reassuring to know for definite. At the moment this doesn’t mean anything but hopefully as more research is carried out, there may be signs of whether the antibodies help with immunity to this condition. The recovery takes a long time and I have been given a steroid inhaler to use for a month as my lungs aren’t completely back to normal, hopefully this will give me the boost I need to fully recover.
Things have settled down for now…we are expecting a potential spike in cases later in the year. Currently very few people are being treated for Covid-19 within the hospital trust. Working part at home and part in the office has become part of the routine and has been fine. I am back on the wards supporting patients and their families as it should be. I feel so much better being able to add this clinical work to my role again. Families are still only able to visit at certain times and only one person visiting at a time but this is so much better than no visitors at all.
Shops, bars and restaurants are all mainly open again with new procedures in place to keep people safe and next week there will be a requirement for the public to wear masks in all shops. I have stocked up on bandana’s as a cheap version of a mask ready to make my family look like bandits whenever we need to do any shopping!
I am still suffering from the after effects of being unwell earlier in the year, in particular being breathless at times and extremely tired, especially towards the end of each week. I have been able to see some friends by them visiting my garden or me theirs which has been nice and feels a little more normal. I am still weary about too much contact with people and am verging on caution.