I’m sat in my car. The engine is running to recharge the battery as I wait for my wife to come out of the shop. It’s a Saturday and I’ve just finished work absorbing and interpreting the latest update to advice on PPE, arranging for patients to be correctly placed, arranging testing for staff and providing general support and advice across the Trust.
Recharge. Its something I tell my team to do at the end of every day. You’ve done your best. Go home and be with your family. Recharge. Trouble is I’m not sure how to do it myself anymore.
I came home Thursday of this week empty. Not an ounce of energy left to talk or be nice, be Dad a husband anything. All I could manage was to sit, mute and then try to sleep. I’ve run ultra marathons, I’ve trained hard for ironman events and helped to bring up 2 children. This is a whole new tiredness I’ve never felt before.
I think I’m also grieving. I’m grieving for all that has changed. For missing friends, family and colleagues. Planned futures and dreams. I’m sad for my children and all that they are not able to do and for my wife, for all that she has given up to try to be Mum, wife, teacher and councellor to all of us.
I’ve gone through the disbelief stage. The denial of this impacting on us the way it has with admissions, deaths, running out of beds, equipment, drugs…and basic equipment to use.
Disbelief has slowly shifted to the next issue that I was sure we would not be affected by. Each one has slowly, but steadily arose become truth and then become accepted as fact. This is what we do now. This is what we will do from now onwards.
A critical care tripled in size. Patients and staff tested at a rate of over 40 a day. Trust guidance changing to reflect the ever growing impact of this virus on our population.
I’m lucky in the job I do. I still have one to go to every day. I haven’t had any of the emotional exposure colleagues have from seeing friends admitted to hospital. But, emotionally I’m worn out and I’m beginning to shift from disbelief to anger.
Angry we are in this situation. Not that this is in anyway aimed at anyone in particular. I just feel cross. I need to be sure that this does not affect my role but that in itself is hard to achieve in a high pressure environment.
I miss time to be silly and unwind. I miss long quiet runs with nothing to interupt my thoughts any scarier than…am I lost???? I know full well that there are many people in much worse situations, I know that I should be grateful for health… Family… A stable job..but aren’t we always told what we feel is what we feel? That how you are affected by a situation is very different to anyone else. I look to colleagues who are much stronger than I, or at least appear to be and wonder how they doing it, when I am struggling.
I’m tired of interpreting various non PHE guidance and separating fact from fiction. Evidence from opinion. Looking at pictures of PPE from other countries and defending why we are not doing the same. Alongside this comes the absorption of everyone’s anxiety, crossness, challenge upset. This is a full time job in its own right. And we have been doing this since January.
Three months. In my opinion we are no nearer an end than we were when we started. We are just at the beginning of what will become a new normal. Some of this is positive. There was always a need for more critical care beds, less patients unable to discharge because of a lack of community beds, more nurses, more respect for what the NHS delivers. We were always doing amazing things, with less money, less interest, less praise and less beds. But these positives seem small beans compared to the toll I see this taking.
I’ve held onto too many thoughts. I’ve woken in the night convinced I’m on a ventilator (common dream amongst all critical care nurses I think, many of us have vowed to each other what we do and don’t want to be done if we were ever admitted). I go to bed anxious. I wake up anxious. I cry at the simplest offer of kindness, feel drowned by the depth of emotion that floods me each time I stop to think.
There is a a great support network in my Trust. I have a brilliant team around me and the support of wonderful senior colleagues. I know there is support for me and I will access it. I’ve dropped my hours to help cope. I’m back running and hooked back up with my favourite Podcasts (Danny Bakers Tree House is a wonderful escape). As a family we avoid the news, play games together and make the most of the quiet area we live in and I have the best wife and fantastic team alongside me…but I don’t know what to do next. This feels deeper. Darker. Has physical pain associated with it.
Three days later after writing this I’m posting the blog. It helped to write it. Get it off my chest. I am useless at talking. Ask my wife. My colleagues. Just can’t access it easily. Writing works for me.
Thank you for reading this.