Last year, Mandy from our In-Patient Unit began a secondment working in our hospital team just as the Covid pandemic struck. He partner moved out to keep himself safe as she worked on the front line, supporting Covid patients as they approached the end of their lives.
Now, as the country continues its recovery from a challenging 12 months, she has shared her reflections.
This is her story.
12th January: it is official – I have a permanent position as a Clinical Assistant within the Hospital Team.
My first day working with the team at Blackpool Victoria Hospital was 30th March 2020. We had just entered the lockdown.
The sadness I have experienced has been overwhelming at times, both in work and in my personal life. There have been so many challenges and so much change to adapt to without the support of work colleges, friends and family to see me through it.
4th July: My partner Ted had moved back home. We were feeling positive that soon all this would be behind us and we would resume the normal everyday things as a family. We decided to book a 5-day break to the Lakes, understanding there would be social distancing in place.
Our team at the hospital was going onto the wards and supporting staff, offering them time out to have a chat on how they were feeling. They were tired and exhausted, but still very frightened.
Then the second wave was heading our way again; the wards were busy and our referrals were vast, yet we carried on as usual.
One day I got bleeped to see if I could go to a ward to sit with a man with Covid who was reaching the end of his life. He was very scared and the c-pap – the high intensity oxygen treatment – had not worked for him. He had no family, and he was scared to die alone.
I sat there with my PPE on. I had never met this gentleman, he was not conscious and his breathing was very rapid; he was fighting to breathe. His hands were restless. I sat at his bedside and spoke gently to him. I told him he was not on his own; that I would stay with him until the end.
He didn’t respond, but slowly he became more settled and his breathing became shallow. The whole time I was there I was speaking to him and holding his hand. I was at his bed side for an hour. Then his breathing changed again. He opened his eyes for the first time, looked straight at me, then closed his eyes and peacefully died.
The staff on the ward asked me if I was OK. As I always did, I said I was. But inside I was crying. My heart was pounding. All I wanted was a hug, but I wasn’t allowed. I walked slowly back to the office and I carried on with my day, still trying to process my morning.
October: I returned home from work one day and Ted wasn’t looking well. He had a temperature and my heart it sank. We’d been so careful and followed all the guidance, but after we both got tests the following day it was confirmed – Covid-19 was in our home. My test was negative, but Ted was positive.
After seeing what Covid had done to patients in the hospital, and hearing about friends’ experiences of it, I was watching as Ted developed symptoms. After two weeks, although he wasn’t fully recovered, Ted went back to work and I was able to return to the hospital after isolating. The Vic had starting swabbing staff, and although I felt completely well, the following day my test result came back positive for Covid.
I felt fine, so it was such a shock. I had to phone Ted and once again we were isolating together. After a few days I did start with a cough and heaviness in my chest, and I developed what has become known as Covid fatigue. But it was all fairly mild.
But at the same time, we learned someone close to us had also developed Covid and was seriously unwell. He was only 45, but was in Intensive Care. Covid took him. And 8 days later it took his mum.
Back on the wards we were still doing a lot of face timing to help families spend time with each other, and making exceedingly difficult phone calls to families because they cannot visit their loved ones.
December: The hospital was becoming terribly busy and seemed very chaotic on some wards. Christmas was approaching and we are heading into another lockdown. Having to choose who to spend time with at Christmas was really difficult when you are an extended family.
Keeping up with my bereavement calls was becoming more difficult due to how busy it was getting. But I always checked in with relatives who were still needing support. I feel so privileged to do the job I am doing, and so thankful to Trinity for giving me the opportunity to grow with experience and wisdom over 29 years!
Now: There are still tears and wobbles some days, and it is hard to support everyone, but there is a lot of laughter in my family.
I know so many families have been affected, and we must go through our grief and loss. Some days it is hard to accept, and the thought of not able to see those who we have lost again.
The Covid pandemic has affected us all in different ways; babies have been born, surviving lockdown, sadly we’ve lost people to this awful virus, and not forgetting all those who have fought Covid and made it to the other side when it must have been the scariest place at times for then and their loved ones.