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An unsteady hand suddenly grabbed the phone from me and I could see and feel the joy on my patient’s face as she swiftly moved the phone towards her left ear.
I witnessed the glimpse of joy as she listened to the voice of her family, and as she saw images of her grandchildren and other family members on FaceTime; this is an elderly lady, dying of Covid-19 in hospital.
“We can no longer support our patients and their family members as we used to do”
This is the day to day reality of Covid-19, which has taken away the human touch. The normal way of showing compassion and caring as a nurse is no longer possible.
We can no longer support our patients and their family members as we used to do; the smiles that once brightened the day of patients and greeted work colleagues is now hidden under mysterious suffocating face masks.
After my shift I leave work emotionally drained and mentally dissatisfied. As a nurse, I do not have control of the epidemiology of the Covid-19,
I do not have control over the news in the media and the daily announcements of numbers of Covid-19 victims, neither do I have any control on the raging polarised debate on availability or otherwise of PPE.
The fear of the unknown is taking its toll on me. I shake and stumble whenever I hear the name of another health professional succumbing to Covid-19. Each day I shudder as I go to work to do the same job I have done for years, only now I receive messages of support from my family and friends, thinking of me and praying for me.
The appreciation and recognition from the public, the smiley eyes of patients who nod thank you even as they struggle to breath behind masks has been heartbreaking, yet this tragedy has engendered a sense of unity in the workforce, which I have witnessed daily in the kind and encouraging words from other healthcare workers.
So are there any positives? Is it OK to think that perhaps the coronavirus with its little red spikes has come to symbolise a new type of collaboration, togetherness and collectiveness? We fear the unknown, yet we are all in this together as one team and one family, with a common goal.
We can make a difference as professionals by connecting patients to their loved ones using available technology such as Facetime and WhatsApp video calls from NHS devices.
It is within our gift to contact relatives and give them daily updates about the care of their loved ones. We can say hello to people we meet in the corridor and ask them how their working day has been.
We can say “have a nice day” to people in the lift as we leave, and we can continue the togetherness that has started as a result of Covid-19.
Like the colours of the rainbow, we derive strength and courage from our diverse experience, and will continue to steer the NHS until this crisis is over and the world begins to smile again.
It will not be easy, but with unity, perseverance and hard work, we shall overcome and in the brighter days ahead, we shall continue to hold aloft a perpetual flame, to the memory of all our colleagues and members of the general public who sadly left us along the way.
Evelyn Gyesi-Appiah is a Matron at the University Hospitals of Leicester