I’m Sian, a Healthcare Assistant on Monkswell ward. We are a care of the elderly ward and the majority of our patients suffer from Dementia and/or other cognitive impairments. Caring for patients who are confused, wandering and sometimes aggressive can be a challenge at the best of times, without throwing a virus into the mix!
When we as a team found out that Covid-19 had hit Plymouth, we were all somewhat anxious as our patients were at high risk. For that reason, we started to distance ourselves from loved ones and public spaces before the official lockdown to minimise the risk to our patients as much as possible.
Sadly within a few weeks, a handful of our patients began showing symptoms and we were escalated to an ‘amber zone’. Any of our patients who had a positive swab result were transferred to be cared for by the wonderful Braunton team. However, with more patients displaying symptoms and more positive swab results, the decision was made to escalate us further to a ‘red zone’. Walking into work after a few days off and seeing ‘Red zone do not enter’ on the ward entrance was a surreal feeling. Being sent away for mask fit training, to then seeing everyone on the ward in full PPE and unable to recognise who was who, all I could think was ‘This is like watching the TV, surely this can’t be happening to us?!’
The first initial moment of walking onto the ward, donned in my PPE, was like walking into the unknown and everything had changed. We tried to keep things as normal as possible and lightened the mood in any way we could. If we had our own concerns or struggles, we would talk it out amongst ourselves away from the patients and support each other. We were still there to do the job we love, just with a few extra layers to wear!
Over time, members of our team became unwell with the virus. It was heart-breaking to see your friends become unwell and not being able to help. I began showing symptoms and was instructed to self-isolate. It was like no feeling I have ever experienced. Zero energy, burning skin, high temperature, aching joints, shortness of breath and constant chest pain were the worst symptoms. I became anxious that my fiancé, who has previously had respiratory issues, would become unwell and on top of not being able to see any family, I now had to stay away from him too. The whole situation made me feel very low.
The hardest part of working through Covid has been the patients being unable to see or hold their loved ones. On behalf of the patient’s families, we have been there to hold their hands, sing to them, stroke their hair, make them comfortable and quite honestly be whoever they have needed us to be. Those moments will be with me forever!
Things are slowly returning to normal with the ward now a ‘green zone’ again, and our team stronger than ever! But I think I can speak for the majority when I say the situations we have faced both in and out of work have had a lasting impact. There have been some days where I have just cried for a whole mixture of reasons and needed my family more than ever, then other days I have felt proud to be doing my bit during this awful time. Working with such a wonderful team has made things more bearable. We are like a little family on Monkswell and have supported each other amazingly.
I would like to finish with a huge virtual hug and big thank you to all the staff that were redeployed to us, mostly from Brent ward. Not only has it been amazing to work alongside people with all different skills, but I have had the pleasure of working with the nurses that cared for my late brother in law during his battle with cancer. I know he would be watching over us all!
Take care everyone.