The sound of fireworks and distant banging noises make me reach for my phone to check the time. It is exactly 8pm and for the second Thursday in a row the general public are applauding, supporting and thanking the health care staff. It is a humbling experience. I gather in Spain and Italy they have been doing it on a regular basis every evening. They are doing it in Paris too but I hear in France a feeling of distrust is fueling a tide of hatred against the health care workers.
On the way to work, advertising boards which once warned us to slow down are now encouraging us to hoot our horns for the NHS. Simple gestures that leave a heavy heart. On the radio a grown man is breaking down as he talks about his aunt who died after contracting the virus while in hospital. Food parcels and free pizzas await us each afternoon. Our hospital coffee shop is serving free hot drinks. Ernesta,my young neighbour, texts me to see if I need any shopping done. Leaflets are dropped through the letter box asking us if we need help with anything.
The fight is on to get rid of the unseen enemy. We wash our hands and try to make friends with the dreaded mask. There was a time when we looked for evidence to show that wearing masks in theatres was of no use. Now gloves and masks are our saviours. Wearing scrubs outside of theatres was frowned upon. People were encouraged to challenge us if they saw us walking around in scrubs. Now everybody wants one. Hospitals are running out of scrubs and a medical fetish site has donated their entire stock of disposable scrubs. I also read that designers have taken this opportunity to provide hospitals with theatre wear. Soon we will be wearing Gucci and Prada scrubs.
The spring sunshine usually brings with it a sense of hope and new life. The daffodils hang on for another day. The bluebells peak through the grassy meadows. The tulips and crocuses are slowly opening up wondering if they have seen the last of the early morning frost. The bare trees are bursting with tender leaves. Even the dandelions add an element of sparkle to the grass verges. In the midst of this a sinister enemy lurks. The siren of distant ambulances, the road users stopping to give you a wide berth as you walk past, the forgotten dead fox dragged and discarded behind the bushes tell a different story.
Unprecedented times they say. Times that are rewriting history. Who was right and who was wrong. Epidemiologists have been predicting this very scenario for years. Did no one listen? Hindsight and advice. Can anti malaralials, anti retrovirals or BCG be the answer? The race is on to find cures, vaccines, effective tests, produce simple effective ventilators, procure enough safety equipment, increase intensive care facilities and train enough staff. Stories of endotracheal tubes and oxygen running out bring reality to the picture. In the middle of all this, innovative ideas are flourishing, ideas which will change the way clinics will be run in the future amongst many others. Industries are also adapting to help manage the crisis. Everyone is doing their bit.
We wait for some good news and it arrives. People who were deemed beyond hope are getting better and leaving the hospital. A ray of sunshine. All is not lost and hope lives on.