18th April 2020:
I have a group video chat with my fabulous 4 (well 3 if you don't include me!) as it's a birthday, and we link in as we always do, from Hertfordshire, Sussex, Hampshire and Tokyo. Two of the girls are GPs and I hear that the face of covid in the community is brutal: one of them has been doing remote video ward rounds of the patients in a local care home in Sussex, and it has been very saddening, as the loss escalates, and the residents on the ground floor (generally more physically mobile than the nursing residents and the dementia residents on the middle and top floors of the home respectively) are contracting the virus and dying in their multiples, with what she said was only 12-24 hours from symptoms. This culling of groups of humans assumed to be safe and sheltered in these places of care, and entrusted to them by many loving families, are suddenly becoming victims of a disease which seems to be working on human life something like a gas chamber. I can't imagine he impact this is having on families, carers, doctors, nursing staff, as numbers are being reported again as just that.
And some 50 hospital staff in UK, many from ethnic minority backgrounds, are have also died. The lack of PPE and lack of effective testing are still spinning around the country, many having no choice but to work without their armour and potentially sacrifice their lives in doing so. This can't continue, but how can there even be a dilemma of whether someone looks after themselves before being able to look after others? The oxygen mask on a plane analogy comes to mind, but planes have a mask for everyone, as every head can be predictably counted. Not for daily hospital admissions for covid. Not yet.
The Nightingale hospital has seen very few patients admitted there, yet this 4000 bed construction appears to be well equipped, so perhaps some supplies will be shared out if it isn't required in the volumes they were expecting.
So the uncertainty continues. I have been reflecting on the words of our well known and much respected BCC news anchorman George Alagiah, who has been battling bowel cancer since 2014, and recently spoke about contracting covid, thankfully only mildly. He said: "the very fact that we are living with cancer I think gives us an edge. We've confronted those difficult, dark moments in our life, And in some ways I think that we..are stronger because we kind of know what it is like to go into something where the outcomes are uncertain".
I have felt very similar to this about so many things I have confronted since having cancer, and sometimes I have reflected on the most difficult times back then, to get me through a difficult thing in front of me. Sometimes it works incredibly well. And I hope that George, and many others who have experienced ill health, grief, and difficult life events, can use their experiences to realise the strength they had to get through that, and that they were armed with invisible tools to get through the next thing that life throws at them. However I will admit that sometimes it doesn't work to do that, for me anyway. Because how you feel about something in any given time is related to all the circumstances around it, and whilst each event you pass through to the other side of gives you more of those invisible strengthening tools, you still know you are climbing seemingly insurmountable mountains to get through them. And until you do, it is hard to keep climbing. But you have to also trust in yourself that you will, and that when you do, you are armed with even more for what life might throw at you next. I hope that this is how patients and families and all the healthcare workers the world over can continue to take another step up that mountain each day, and get through this.
By Dr Sam Anthony
Survivor of a career in medicine, a career break from medicine, cancer, and blogging..join me in my quest to make us happier healthier individuals and doctors