“It looks like your drip has tissued”, Molly tells me. I am scrubbed and ready to site my spinal block for the fourth Caesarean section of the day. She was not an easy patient to site a cannula. I ask Molly to call my colleagues to help me out. Even they have difficulty siting the intravenous access. The spinal on the other hand is quite straightforward. The patient has a melancholic and forlorn look. This is meant to be a happy occasion, why does she look so sad I wondered. We find out soon when the operation site is draped and we are about to send for her husband. He is not here, he is at home looking after the kids. We are her family for the time being. “We will look after you, don’t you worry”, we reassure her. I hold her hand and try to comfort her as she bursts into tears when the baby is born. She spent a sleepless night worrying she tells me. CV-19 is affecting everyone in different ways. Coming into hospital on your own to undergo a major emotional procedure is one of them. As soon as the procedure is over and we take her into recovery, I find her phone and hand it to her. She calls her husband to give him the happy news. Her face lights up. My job is done.
It is not just the patients or their relatives who are going through these emotional traumas. Those in the forefront, in the A&E department, the Covid wards and the intensive care units are traumatised by what they see and experience. The colleagues who are deployed to areas in the hospital unfamiliar to them and not their usual domains are finding it particularly difficult.
Then there are those of us who are covering other areas of the hospital which has to carry on regardless of a pandemic exploding around us. We are in a relatively safer area compared to our colleagues. Yet we still worry. I realise that my anxieties and worries are not mine alone. Those around me who appear stoic are hurting inside. The more I talk to them, I realise we are all the same. The waves of anxiety, the guilt trips, the helplessness, the willingness to contribute, we are all experiencing it.
“Please don’t feel like you are not doing your bit, you are already doing a lot by giving support to the new mums. They will feel safer knowing that you are not exposed to COVID patients, so less likely for you to pass it on”, I take comfort in Alcira’s explanation. She has a point.
Like most of my colleagues and friends we cannot be with our parents or family if they fall ill. We will have to rely on strangers to be there to hold their hands and comfort them if they end up in hospital. They say that when we do something, we should not expect anything in return but in this instance I know that for each hand we hold and comfort someone out there is reciprocating in kind. Even when I hear stories of oxygen and anaesthetic drugs running short, I know that in our hospitals and care homes there will never be a dearth of comforting hands.