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Lessons of hope from the COVID front line

22 Apr 2020 by Sonya Lovell
Lessons of hope from the COVID front line

We all consume the social media posts, watch daily news reports, and try our best to avoid the hysterical headlines written to attract clicks and shares – it’s hard to escape the horror that is COVID-19.

Yet, for our healthcare workers who continue to show up to their job each and every day, there is literally no escape. They are the heroes through all of this – our doctors, nurses, paramedics, cleaning teams, hospital-based therapists and all the thousands of others working in our healthcare system.

In May 2017 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and for the first time in my adult life, other than for the births of my two boys, I required hospitalisation, surgery and regular hospital-based treatments. And while I had a brilliant team of doctors heading up my treatment plan, it was the nurses, orderlies, volunteers and allied health team that got me through it. One of my fondest memories from this time was the day of my surgery.

I was gifted the most beautiful man as my porter that morning, he was calm, funny and such a gentle soul, he immediately put my husband and me at ease, not an easy task when you are both super stressed, and your surgery is delayed by a number of hours.

The team that was waiting for me when I was finally wheeled through to the operating room were equally wonderful – I even remember telling them all that as I drifted off to sleep in their capable and caring hands. And my memory of coming around as the anaesthetic wore off in the recovery ward was to the team talking about it being someone’s birthday, my first words were… “it’s my birthday next week,” and they abruptly launched into a hearty rendition of Happy Birthday. How lucky was I to have felt so supported and cared for, by people I’d never met before, on one of the most stressful days of my life.

So at this time where we are all doing our bit to defeat COVID-19, which for me and most likely you is staying at home, these everyday heroes get up, put on their uniforms and risk their own health to look after those that so desperately need them right now.

As a way of shining a light on, and showing our gratitude to these incredible people, the team at Pink Hope trust that you will find the following stories engaging, filled with hope and perhaps they will inspire you to do your part in supporting our most valuable caregivers.

Julie – General Practice Clinic Nurse

frontline nurse

“How have I coped with being at the front line of managing a global pandemic? I am fortunate enough to work with an incredibly small team in general practice. When the pandemic was announced it was the unknown.

Life as we knew it was changing so I guess for me, like I did with carrying the BRCA1 mutation, I had two options. I could either take a bad situation and let it get the better of me, or I could take it and run with it. I’m not going to lie and say I am bulletproof. I am far from it. There are days when I just need to take a step back and remind myself that I’ve got this, but I wouldn’t have my life any other way than helping others. I’m a ‘go get em’ kind of woman who likes to look a challenge dead in the eye and give it a wink.”

“My job now is something I have had to adapt to, we have been closely watching the pandemic unfold and at the end of March our little clinic decided to close its doors for the staff and for our patients. Some of our GPs even working remotely. Using telehealth completely. We hardly see any patients face-to-face, which has its own challenges, but it has showed me how resilient others are and in times of need we’re there for everyone. Running a drive-through clinic for flu vaccines is something we never would have dreamt of before all of this, but I could not be prouder of the team I am so fortunate to work with.”

“Making time for me is my way of looking after myself during this time. It’s so incredibly hard working on the forefront to switch off after work. But I leave work at work. And I find solitude in spending time with my sisters over FaceTime.”

“My message of hope is that I am not just a nurse. If you look you will see. I am the one who still holds your hand at the end of the day. I am there when you need someone for hope. A smile or a laugh is what you need most. I care for those from all walks of life. In times of despair you know I will be there for hope is the last thing ever lost.” 

One of the biggest things you can do is if you know a health care worker just reach out to them… sometimes a simple, “I’m here for you” is all we need.

Gisele – Public Hospital Occupational Therapist

“How can the public help health care workers right now? I have had frequent reports and experiences of animosity towards people wearing their health uniforms. This needs to stop! I recently heard a story where a friend tried to purchase a pair of shoes and the business would not let her try the shoes on or to return the shoes if they did not fit due to the fact that she worked at the hospital. What a terrible way to treat someone. I have also experienced people moving away from me when I am wearing my uniform.
I can reassure people that we are washing our hands, wearing PPE and changing scrubs at the hospital, there is no need to move away from us when seeing us in uniform in the community.

“Most of all, please – stay at home.

“My job is different now as at the start of each shift we are all asked if we experienced any symptoms including fever, sore throat, cough or shortness of breath… At times I think my mind would play tricks on me and I would feel some of these symptoms for a short period of time, but I know that is just the worry and I work hard to overcome it.

Treating patients and keeping social distancing for me is impossible. In my job I do upper limb assessments, vision assessments, functional assessments, and self-care assessments. I have a strong fear of getting the virus, being asymptomatic and then passing it on to one of my patients, it crosses my mind daily.”

“I am seeing challenges with patients not seeing their family members due to visitor restrictions and experiencing increased isolation when they go home. The ability to discharge patients from the hospital and set up appropriate on-going community care is very difficult as many facilities are not providing these services anymore due to increased risk of spreading the infection and staff/patient safety. And with the people I work with I see fear, anxiety and stress increasing. The fear of uncertainty is always evident. Partners who have lost jobs, businesses going under and the inability to do all the activities that ground us, have increased stressors and fears amongst friends and colleagues. I also see regularly, the fear of getting infected and passing it on to family, especially for those who have children at home.”

 

healthcare

 

“I am looking after myself by creating a new routine that involves me moving for at least one hour per day with my husband, involving various exercises, time outdoors and soaking up the sun. I have started exploring healthy recipes and spent a fair bit of time in my kitchen making delicious meals and treats. I also make sure that I limit my screen time and exposure to the news. I have a very supportive husband and family who I can talk to anytime. I FaceTime my Mum every day and she is a healthcare worker too, so she is extremely understanding of my thoughts, feelings and emotions in this stressful time.”

“The message of hope that I would like to share is that we are all in this together. Try and focus on the positives. Create a new routine, slow down and spend time with loved ones who are near and far away, write a letter to someone who may be isolated, start a new hobby and make the most of this period where we are forced to slow down. Remember this too shall pass.”  

I can reassure people that we are washing our hands, wearing PPE and changing scrubs at the hospital, there is no need to move away from us when seeing us in uniform in the community.

Emma – Public Hospital recovery Nurse

“I work in Recovery at a Public Hospital, so while we are not so ‘front line’ – we still have to be prepared for how to manage a COVID-19 patient who needs surgery. There has been lots of changes in practice and lots of policy change. With all but emergency surgeries being cancelled, we have fewer patients coming through and although this means my job is quieter, we’re doing a lot more training, as we’re going to be the ICU overflow if needed.”

 

covid hospital team

 

“It’s tough watching the impacts of COVID on those I work with. There’s been lots of anxiety, lots of questions and not too many answers. I think we’ve all been expecting to see numbers like Italy and Spain, but not seeing those cases here has kind of left us in limbo. In terms of our patients, they are fantastic. They’re very grateful for the care they are receiving in this time. Just because there is a global pandemic doesn’t mean people don’t still have accidents and break bones, need cancer treatment or other life-saving surgeries.”

“How can the public help right now other than through social distancing? I’ve heard many stories of Healthcare worker abuse. This absolutely breaks my heart. Nurses, doctors, paramedics, allied healthcare workers need to be protected. We don’t need any special treatment – but we certainly don’t need to be abused!

And please stop wearing gloves to the shops – just wash your hands regularly!!! Keep exercising, cook new dishes, watch funny movies, have driveway drinks with your neighbours. Stay healthy so you don’t have to see us professionally.”

“How have I been personally looking after myself? I have four kids, 9, 7 and 3-year-old twins. It’s been tough honestly, wondering if I keep the kids at school, trying to support my husband with his business, home school and entertain toddlers. Including all the usual wife/mum duties. Plus having the judgement of others for decisions I make for my family has been fun. I try to work out when I can, I’ve put the big kids in vacation care for some sanity time in the holidays and to try and get through some of the reading for work. Lots of people are struggling right now, we all need to dig deep for patience and kindness.”

We’ve got you. We are here to help, to support you, to get you through this. Be safe, be kind, and wash your hands!

We would like to extend an enormous amount of gratitude to Julie, Gisele and Emma for sharing their stories and the images used in this story with us. We would also like to acknowledge and honor the front line healthcare workers across Australia and around the world who go about their work each day with pride, grace and an unwavering desire to look after those that need their help during this crisis.

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