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.
Many of my colleagues talk about what we are experiencing currently - how it is much harder than the first COVID wave. For me, this is certainly true. Yes, treatments are better, but as reflected in the daily death figures reported by the government, COVID is sadly still killing vast numbers of people. Every person who dies in our hospitals is someone my colleagues have fought hard to save… they give everything to care for their patients.
For me, like many staff across the NHS who work on critical care, the changing patterns of treatment have also made this harder. In the first wave most of our patients were ventilated and sedated. Now most are awake on high pressure oxygen therapy. This means we get to know our patients more; we bond with them. We learn about their families, their children, their grandchildren. We listen to their hopes, how they long to watch their children grow up and how they are scared to die.
With them we fight and we share their journey, even when we know what the journey is likely to be ahead, we never give up hoping and trying. Too many times however, COVID feels so much stronger than everything we have as a team and that really hurts. When you give everything, and somehow still lose.
Outside our Critical Care Unit (CCU) on our wards, I see so many poorly people with COVID and just like on CCU, the staff are tired and seem broken. They are overwhelmed with work, yet they still find that precious moment to stroke the head of a dying patient, tuck them in to keep them comfortable, so that they feel loved. Their care and compassion, even when exhausted, is immense.
It is truly painful to witness so many of my colleagues struggling, day to day. I utterly hate what the presence of this virus has done to them. This past week I have been on CCU and with each visit I have seen my colleagues crying, both junior and experienced members of staff. It is heart-breaking, as I know that the effects of this pandemic will be with us forever. The scars will be left on our hearts.
In many ways I think these weeks are perhaps the darkest for many of us so far. But, I also feel that in the darkest moments, the light of our staff shines the most brightly. The love that they give, the human presence and the human compassion that they offer, shines out now more than ever. Each day, they keep giving their love and their humanity, as well as their profession, even when they have nothing left.
One day this will end and one day Jasper, my Therapy Dog, will be out again visiting patients on the wards. We will laugh again, hug again, talk about holidays again. One day staff will not need the counselling sessions that I run each working day.
In the end, I really believe we will have made a difference, even to those we have lost. For those who have sadly passed, I do not believe our efforts have been in vain. Because for everyone, we have given the best care and love that we can and that matters, especially to the dying and their loved ones in those last moments.