A Belfast nurse has shared the reality of working on the ICU as beds fill up with the second wave of seriously-ill Covid-19 patients.
Mum-of-three Louise Evans has been redeployed for a second time from her role as an endoscopy nurse at Belfast City Hospital to help staff in the ICU caring for patients with coronavirus.
In a bid to make the public understand the seriousness of the situation hospital staff are facing once again, the 37-year-old took to Facebook to urge people to follow the restrictions.
Speaking to Belfast Live, Louise said she was blown away by the reaction to her post, which went viral, and she all she wanted was to help people understand the serious situation hospital staff were facing.
“For me, walking in as a non ICU nurse, if you have not been in that situation it is really quite overwhelming, you are taken right out of your comfort zone,” she said.
“These patients have so many different drugs going into them to keep them alive. For someone who has not worked in that environment you can imagine how challenging it is to walk in to.”
“It is quite stark, I do not think the public realise how sick these patients are,” she added.
“When I hear people say it is like a cold or flu, no big deal, I just don’t think they understand. There is probably someone lying in there who thought exactly the same, it’s like the flu you’ll be grand.
“Now I understand it, I do not want my children or husband to get it because no one knows how they are going to be affected. It does not think, oh you are 38 and have three kids I am going to go easy on you.”
Louise said this time as well as staffing ICU, staff were working even harder across the Trust to keep other essential services, such as diagnostics where she normally works, running.
“No one wants to see patients not getting treated for other non-Covid conditions, for that to happen people need to heed the advice in order to slow the numbers of patients being admitted with Covid, “she said.
Louise said one of the most challenging aspects of her role in caring for these patients, was the lack of contact with their family.
Instead of being able to develop a relationship and provide the next level of care, staff are dressed in full PPE and may make patients anxious when they wake.
“The most difficult bit is for the first time ever in my career, we are looking after patients with absolutely no input from their families,” she said.
“Normally when we look after any patient you get to know the family and their history. It is amazing how much you tell a patient about your family by the end of your care.
“Now family can not even visit them, you don’t get a lot of history to talk to this patient, you can not discuss their family when they start to come round. We are in full PPE so they don’t see us.
“We can not take that away. Everything in our nature tells us to care and for patients not to be frightened but it is difficult for us to do that now.”
Louise added that the fact no one apart from medical staff can see how sick these patients means she thinks the public may not understand the severity of the current situation.
She said: “Normally when a patient is very sick the family can come in but they are not seeing this, the only people seeing these patients are the doctors and nurses. People do not seem to believe what we are seeing and that’s what is so disheartening.”
Louise said she understood people had Covid fatigue and were keen for a return to normal but she said there were “bigger fish to fry”.
“I miss going out for meals and nights out in Belfast with friends but I will sacrifice it for the next year or so if I have to,” she added
“At the end of the day it could be any of our relatives in there.
“Life will go back to normal one day but only if we change something now.
“I never want anyone to see their family how I see those patients but at the same time I know we need that hard-hitting shock factor to hit home and make people realise.”
You can read Louise’s Facebook post in full below:
“I’ve debated whether to post this or not but after a friend recently said because you don’t see the front line anymore it’s easy to forget it’s all still going on. So this is my public service announcement.
“I wish it wasn’t true but COVID hasn’t gone away. It didn’t get less dangerous. It didn’t become a nicer virus. It doesn’t hide in a dark place during the day or wait at the door of Tesco so you can do your shopping without being annoyed by it. It’s still very much out there. We can’t see it but it’s there.
“You might be fit and healthy and not be worried. You figure you’ll be fine even if you get it. Unfortunately none of us know that for sure. I get that you’re annoyed it’s upset your plans. I’m with you! (We should be on our once in lifetime trip to Florida right now!) I know it’s frustrating we can’t go for dinner, or a night out, or a fancy holiday. It’s a right pain but please bear with me and read on….
“I’ve just finished another night shift in The Nightingale Hospital and I can tell you it’s here and it’s just as bad as it was before. Actually the facts tell us that there are more patients in hospital than there were at the height of the last wave.
“Patients are sick. They need ventilators. They need nurses, doctors and support staff just like they did before. But this time it’s different. There’s no free food in the canteens, no free car parking. There’s no purpose built shower blocks. There aren’t donations of food and toiletries to help nurses through the 13 hours shifts. There aren’t people offering applause and praise on the streets. Oh and if we want to avail of staying in a hotel to protect our family HMRC will make sure we pay the 40% tax on that as it’s apparently ‘a payment in kind!’
“You know what though, we can manage without all that if there are enough staff. ICU nurses are specially trained but there aren’t enough of them to look after the increased patient numbers and also allow for breaks (you need breaks from the PPE trust me). As a result staff like myself have been redeployed to try support the best we can but we are all still learning.
“Many nurses have been looking after COVID patients for weeks now. Under the radar. There just doesn’t seem to be the coverage of how difficult it is this time. No acknowledgment of how hard it is to be in full PPE all day or night. No mention of how much pressure lies on their shoulders as they try to care for all the patients and help the non ICU nurses to learn.
“Many nurses are still traumatised and fatigued from the last wave. Also remember, if all the beds fill up with patients with COVID where do you go if you need a bed for something else? If there’s a car crash where do those people go? If we open more beds where will the staff come from to look after those patients?
“So please, go out for walks. Enjoy the autumn days with your family. Spend time in your bubble. But please be careful. Protect those at risk. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance.
“You might not be worried, but we are. Do it for your family. Do it for every nurse who is working to look after these extremely sick patients. Do it for the nurses working hard to keep all the other services going. They are trying so hard to keep essential services going so patients can get their investigations, diagnosis and treatment.
“So, if you’re wondering “Where did all the heroes go?” They are still there. This time just incognito hiding in the bat cave (aka the hospital). Rant over!”
-- to www.belfastlive.co.uk