Saturday 13th June 2020 : Reality Check

This week I’d quite like to get off the rollercoaster we’ve all been travelling over the last 16 weeks. I’ve had enough. I feel like my positivity has run out, the flame of hope extinguished, my ability to keep going faded away. I feel torn in so many directions. The need to not lose the covid momentum at work, and perhaps more importantly, the need to not let others and the organisation as a whole lose that momentum either. The need for the Trust to use these precious few weeks that we may have to prepare for whatever is going to come next, and then winter. The need to educate my children who would quite happily spend all day gaming in some mindless virtual world if I let them. The need to clean my house, walk the dog, exercise, eat more healthily. The absolute need to see people, to interact, converse, be with, touch, laugh with and cry with. The need to sleep at the right time of day. The need to not work. All conflicting. All present. All consuming.

I’ve probably had more time to think than usual; an enforced few days at home due to a high fever and possible covid symptoms. Seeing at a distance what’s been happening, but with limited ability to intervene. Maybe that’s been a good thing – overwhelming tiredness has meant I’ve had to stop for a while. But maybe this extra thinking time has been what’s made me feel the need to push the emergency stop button on all this, to mourn what’s been lost, to feel scared for the future. To allow myself to take off the face of positivity and professionalism.

Have I had Covid? The symptoms I’ve experienced this week definitely make that possible, even probable, but my swab test is negative. What does that mean? Should I believe it? Is it safe for my kids to go back to school? Am I taking a risk going back to work after 6 days rather than 7? I’m following the latest guidance to the letter; I feel better and have been fever free for over 48 hours, but is that guidance correct?

I’ve listened to the government daily briefings fairly consistently throughout these last few weeks and months. I’ve felt it’s important to know ‘the message’, be ready to give my opinion when asked. At times I’ve agreed with what has been said, at times I’ve shouted in despair at the screen. This week all I could muster was to laugh – it was either that or cry. If you haven’t yet discovered Michael Spicer in the back room, then please take a look; that’s all I could think about the last few days as I’ve listened to the latest government spin. And I question, why haven’t we seen Professor Van-Tam since he gave an honest answer to a genuine question about the importance of the lockdown applying to all. And where has the Chief Nurse been recently? Is it true that she is off the Number 10 guest since declining to agree to answer ‘on message’ if questioned by the media about Dominic Cummings?

Interestingly it seems that those who struggled at the beginning of this pandemic, in conceptualising the severity of the situation, and those who suffered mentally and emotionally from the lockdown world we came to inhabit, are less affected now than those who had no choice but to accept the situation, grasp it and plan extensively for it. The reality of what we were facing was too much for some in the early days of lockdown, but this group seemed to have found ways of managing, finding ways to come to terms with this different world. A look at my twitter feed however would suggest that others, like me, who were thrust into the mêlé, are now finding their energy fading. We’ve always said this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. The problem is there are very few that can run a marathon, and even fewer that are trained to thrive when facing an ultra marathon endurance event not of their choosing.

Covid-19 has not just been physically and emotionally exhausting, it is mentally draining and for some, damaging too. Not only are we trying to find ways to carry on keeping our patients, our families and each other safe, but we are constantly working below the surface on solving the complex riddle that accompanies this new reality. So many questions, so little certainty and very few answers.  How did the virus came about, how it is affecting and being managed in different countries, how should we decipher the code that seems to be the national and International figures and our own government’s “spin formation.” How can we continue to care for our patients in a socially distanced world, in hospitals that were already too small and overcrowded now that we need to separate everyone by two metres? How can we maintain safe staffing when we may lose multiple members of staff for 14 days of self isolation at any time? How can we ensure no more NHS and care workers become the newest statistics on the ever growing list of those who have died from COVID contracted on the job. No wonder so many of us are not sleeping; even after lights out we are still trying to find a way through the maze.

This week for me, reality bit. Having felt quite unwell and needing to navigate my way through the system as one who works within it and understands it, my usual survival mechanisms of action and focus paralysed by fever and exhaustion, I feel deflated and done. The emergency stop button needed to be pushed, even if just for a few short days.  Now that I have had a reality check, I wish the government would do the same. Wake up, recognise that all we want is honesty, openness and consultation. That would be a reality check worth having.