We provide high quality healthcare services primarily to the residents of East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen, which have a combined population in the region of 530,000.
This week our Critical Care Team received some encouraging news that lifted the spirits of many of us; the unit officially had no COVID patients. After such a difficult time, this seemed amazing. Indeed, standing on the expanded unit during a visit, seeing the empty beds, felt very strange.
Not so many months ago we were totally full, every space occupied, patients at one point even being moved out to other hospitals. Now the silence was moving; on the unit I could still see vividly the shadows from that time. In many ways it all seemed a different reality, but a reality that still seemed very close and only a step away. A world none of us wants to return to, ever.
Standing there in the stillness, I could still recall patients in the masks and hoods and on ventilators. The sound of the zoom calls taking place, the staff in the full PPE, their faces determined but tired and fearful.
Now that these wards are no longer needed for critical care, they will very soon be full of other patients, having operations and getting the care that they have patiently waited for. Many patients perhaps even pleased to be in these beds now.
Within the hospital, life is returning to normal. This week has also seen limited visitors return to some of the wards. It is lovely to see them – before when you saw the families you knew that they were only in for one reason – to visit end of life loved ones. Now they are back with their gifts, waiting excitedly for the doors to open after lunch, a sign of happier times.
Among the staff there are more smiles, although of course for some, behind those smiles there is still sadness. Indeed, Jasper and I are busier than ever supporting staff now. I wonder if it is a bit like grief. When we lose a loved one it is often after everything has settled down, when people go back to normal that we can feel the loneliest and are in need of the support; the presence of someone who remembers. Perhaps that is why so many staff are now seeking out for help.
Jasper, my therapy dog, continues to work alongside me. It is lovely to have him trotting back along the corridors and listening to the staff as they say good morning to him at the start of the day. His tail wagging as he dances along feeling loved and special. He continues to give cuddles to everyone unconditionally.
For many, the healing of the past year, will take time and it can’t be rushed. Perhaps, one of the greatest challenges now is that as we move forward, no one is left behind.
With best wishes,
David and Jasper.