Warning! This a long one, nearly as many words the assignment that I should be writing instead has to be.
Monday 23rd March
Today was the start of the boys’ second week of home schooling. I must confess that I thought it would be hard work coaxing them to do their work but they/we have developed a routine. Get up at 08.00, brekkie, shower, dressed and straight into the books. Or the tablet/laptop/phone. While they did this, I spent some time on FaceTime with my Mum in NZ discussing their imminent lock down before chaining myself to the laptop for coursework. This ended up being 3 hours of remote working from home as the pressing need to organise more PPE training and Covid simulation scenarios took over. Monday is usually my day off and my ride home from the school drop off was always going to change with the whole social distancing thing. It feels like my new Monday routine will take the form of whatever the need for work is followed by some Dad chores and outdoor activity with the boys and dog followed by a ride on my bike if I can fit it in.
After lunch we took the dog for a 5.5 km walk, threw balls and sticks, climbed trees, wrapped knuckles playing light sabre fights. I think that we need to go to Jedi school. The Forest and Flitch were not as crowded as the weekend when it appeared that Britain was in the throes of a public holiday. While the Forest grounds are big, there were families and friends, dog walkers and couples wandering about like it was the Phoney war or something. I’ve never seen it so crowded. I felt like a modern day Orwell predicting the dark days ahead for them. Back home the boys got on with their school work while I rehearsed for my poster presentation that evening. Uni is closed so in order to complete this assessment, I had to present it digitally via video link. It went OK but would’ve preferred to do it in person to the rest of the class. I could’ve also deferred but wanted it out of the way to concentrate on my other assignment. Results next week.
I barely had enough time for a ride so popped up the Flitch for an errand. I wore “normal” clothes and made the most of the lengthening day to take my time over the 8km. It was cool but somehow the sunshine made it warmer. The forecast is dry for the week ahead so there would be plenty of opportunity to get a good distance in during the week. UK lock down was announced that evening with an underwhelming statement that lacked detail on who exactly the key workers are. We have to keep away from each other and work from home if practically possible…
Total UK deaths: 335
Tuesday 24th March
Day 1 of lock down, there was no discernible reduction in road traffic despite the school closures although I did go in later along the busiest roads. Seems that everyone thinks that they are a key workers because the Govt. statement was not explicit enough for people who think that it doesn’t apply to them. These roads provide the quickest route to work and I was in a hurry to get in. It was cool but sunny on the 19km journey. The moderate head wind made me work for it all the way and a couple of close passers also made sure that I knew my place. I had nothing planned as I was supposed to be at Uni to present my poster. But I kept myself busy with session planning and a couple of last minute “$H¡T! we need to train our staff for this crisis” requests. After an engaging and informative PPE session with the FY1s, I headed out the door determined to make use of the tail wind in the mild sun. Look Mum-2 layers! It wasn’t exactly a tailwind but it was good enough for me even if it was on the busy roads again.
The news that night was sobering and concentrated my mind on the oncoming calamity. A doctor at a Trust not a million miles away recounted her horrible weekend when 21 Covid +ve people died. It was heartbreaking to listen to her nearly sob on camera as she explained the difficulties of not having the time to discuss events properly with suddenly grieving families. She described it as like being in a war zone. This will be me in a few weeks I thought. This $H¡T is getting real. Scary.
Total UK deaths: 422
Wednesday 25th March
It was blue, still and -2°C this morning so I wore tights. My new shorts threshold is 0°C – sometimes you just have to force summer…On the same roads, I counted 32 cars in the first 10km, mostly private cars. Quiet by normal standards but I gave up counting to enjoy the sun and to talk my fingers into it feeling warm. I had a luxuriously warm shower in my newly sourced cycle change area. In February, when I complained at no re-provision, I was given the keys to one of the emergency accommodation flats to use the shower. It also has a kitchen, shower and bath. This could be a useful bolthole in the weeks to come methinks.
I helped with a PPE session in the Paediatric ED and made plans for an in-situ simulation for next week and then attended my clinical refresher for RNs session. I’ll be using lots of tech by the looks of it but at least giving IV drugs hasn’t changed. I returned to my desk to find the following message from a colleague via email, “...I’d like to say well done to you for rising to this enormous challenge… You’ve been a star!“. Did I say that I work with great people? It made me think that some people are made for stepping up during a crisis and maybe one of these people is me. I feel less scared, more positive and eager for the challenge of what this b@$T@rd virus throws at us. I know that I have a drinking problem so stopped throwing alcohol down my throat (again) a week before Lent and this has given me tremendous energy. I’ve also turned into a nicer person both at work and at home. It’s also allowed me to face my problems instead of drowning them in a bottle. Who’da thunk it?! I think of this whenever I want to raid the box of craft beers that is stored in the cupboard. It’s tempting sometimes but life is too busy and too good to be wasting on hangovers.
I held on to 7pm as I had offered an after work drop in session for people wanting PPE practice but no-one turned up. They either:
- all know how to do it (unlikely-there’s too much anxiety about it)
- can’t be bothered at the end of a working day (understandable)
- finished late (probable)
- “didn’t know it was on” (it’s their funeral…)
So off into the dark I went and into the cold, still air. Although it was 7pm, it felt later, more like 11pm except without the intoxicated drivers playing chicken with me. It was fantastic with less cars on the road-finally people are getting this essential travel only thing!
Total UK deaths: 463 (probably inaccurate-they’ve changed the reporting algorithms).
Thursday 26th March
I had a good 7 hours sleep but still felt knackered. Thursdays are normally my school run-drop the boys-head to work day so I took the dog out of a mile long excretion walk to loosen my legs up for the ride in. The boys have been fantastic with their school work and love the late starts to the morning. I only hope that this doesn’t affect their overall progress. I guess that everyone else is in the same boat. Master 12 in particular seems very focused and even rigorous in his approach, something I did not think I would see given that he doesn’t like school. Suspect that is more about the rules/boundaries and scrapes that he gets into more than being work shy (which he can at times be).
Another blue, dry, still, cool day, 1°C. I decided on a different route and counted only 10 moving cars in the first 10km. But with less cars on the road, the absence of congestion gave people the opportunity to treat their commute to something akin to Le Mans rather than keeping to the 30 & 40mph limits. This is something that has been recorded in London as well and there is talk of reducing all limits to 20mph in the city, but only to allow passage of the growing fleet of ambulances required. For the first time in a while, mainly because it has been wet, I hopped onto the dry river path and passed 8 dog walkers in the 3.5km. It’s never that busy and the narrow paths don’t allow for adequate social distancing but thankfully I was masked against the cold with my trusty merino scarf. Malfunctioning GPS robbed me of 8 km. I’m not sure why as my WiFi, data and GPS location are all on but it is consistently inconsistent of late.
I went straight into meetings to organise a couple of urgent inductions for medical student volunteers starting next week. I’m at a loss of how to use them as there are a number of restrictions placed on them. Nor am I sure how they will be adequately supervised. With the urgent rush to fast track nursing and medical students to temporary registration, I’m unclear how their practice will be governed in a practical sense. They have little experience-more bodies does not necessarily mean good care but we live in exceptional times. One thing is for sure, they’re going to learn quickly. Another PPE drop in session=0 so left early enough to start home with a blinkie on the front. The 25km home was delightfully quiet and arrived home to a text from a copper friend that he now has the powers to nick anyone not obeying the lock down or fine them £60 (£30 if paid within 14 days). While this may be aimed at younger people, it still isn’t hard enough. A speeding fine is more for crying out loud!
Total UK deaths: 578
TFI Friday 27th March
I couldn’t face a full commute this morning so drove the van to the cricket club and rode the remaining 9km, part of it along the river again. Spotted my 3rd Heron in two weeks. This one was swimming in the river rather than perching by the side waiting for brekkie. Again my phone GPS cocked up but not as bad as yesterday. I think that I have dropped it too many times. I was supposed help run an emergency C-section simulation in the Labour ward but it was delayed because of a real C-section and then I had to get back to the dept for other simulation sessions. So we did a “walk through” with a view to trying again next week. If you want to waste a frustrating hour of your time, get a bunch of midwives together and observe them talking through every detail of EVERY possible (but highly unlikely) scenario and agree on nothing.
There are a lot of good people with the right intentions but sometimes I get the feeling that we are the lions being led by donkeys. Its not like we didn’t see it coming weeks ago. But we didn’t have the equipment, logistics or the managerial fore-sight to organise it properly. As was mentioned on BBCQT(geo blocked outside the UK), it is a disgrace that the correct PPE was not supplied in time. The stockpiled equipment was close to expiry and the new masks require staff to be tested again creating further delay and danger for the very people whom our politicians state are valuable. The word on the street is that we in the UK are the least protected healthcare personnel in the world right now. *
Shortly before I hit the road again, I came across a leaked e-mail that was really a farewell from our medical director who is leaving to help plan and set up 3 field hospitals in the East of England. This is a real blow for the organisation and, along with the newly built 4,000 bed hospital in London is a sign of the devastation to come. So, fed up at the end of my tiring week and the empty but still dangerous roads, I opted for a summer off road route to clear my head and have a think. It had been dry so the trails up to the airfield and farmland beyond was an appealing choice. The wind was against me but it was refreshing to be out in the middle of nowhere with some space to sort my head out. I came up with the following plan:
- Focus on the things that I can change.
- Write my thoughts down-it might prevent negativity.
- Don’t drink-there’s no time for hangovers.
- Go home, enjoy my family.
- Be kind. This virus is no-ones fault.
- Don’t fall off! These rutted clay paths are dangerous!
I got to the van feeling that I have something to work with again.
Total UK deaths: 759
Saturday 28th March
Today was a day off riding and full on Covid house cleaning. The hospital feels like a petrie dish-I don’t want it near my boys. Door handles, light switches were wiped, toilets cleaned and the floors upstairs hoovered. Mrs B2W has volunteered her weekend to test staff for the new FFP3 masks so I did a chilli in the slow cooker and taught Master12 some life skills by baking flapjacks. Master15 was out of action having woken with a sore neck so me and Master12 took the dog out for intervals chasing sticks and balls trawling through flooded ditches and fertilising the floor of the woods. It was good to be out if only for an hour and great to have all of us around the table for dinner for a change.
Total UK deaths: 1019
Sunday 29th March
Today I woke to snow. Light snow that did not settle but it did delay my Dad chore garden plans. Which delayed my riding plans, dog walking plans and floor cleaning plans. So I decided to can the garden until Tuesday and when the sun decided to make an appearance rode up to the shop on an errand and a bit more. It wasn’t long before the northerly wind brought a torrent of hail that did its best to puncture my numb face like a nail gun…Imperial weekly ton ticked off, I took the dog out for a forest frolic. After about 2km, a forest warden asked me in his best incredulous policeman voice if I realised that the place was closed. “Yeah, but isn’t that just the buildings? It says that on the website”, I replied, lying. “No! The whole place is!!”, he boomed back, irritated. “But why?”, I asked trying to irritate him some more. “Because of the ‘Corvid’!!”, he replied as the steam drifted from his ears. “OK, thanks for that”, I smiled, remembering to never to argue with a man in uniform regardless of how much authority he doesn’t have. I turned around and headed back as he followed me in his buggy. “What am I, 16? I’m probably older than him”, I thought so I did what any 52 year old would do and cut through some woods so he couldn’t herd me out of the forest that had zero other people in it’s 1,000 acres.
I’m wrong, there was someone else. Another dog walker popped out of the woods while I was strolling along the Flitch on the way home. He was less than impressed at being told to sling his hook from the place where he has taken his dogs every day for years by the same SD agent. After cleaning the floor listening to the Number 10 presser, I ordered a new phone and bullet proof case, made dinner and once we were all home had another meal together. To remark on this again may seem a little strange to those isolating but at the moment these are events to treasure. We are both still working and often not at home at the same time. Sometimes over the last 2 weeks, it feels like we are the couple in Brassed Off who pass each other at home when he returns from his night-shift at the pit and she on her way to work. Ships passing in the night.
We caught up with some comedy on the box for the rest of the evening, escaping the events of the day. Nearly normal for a change…
Total UK deaths: 1228 (nearly 1,000 for the week & we’re only just starting)
*Emergent NHS England and Public Health England guidance dictates that what we are expected to wear is now adequate according to the WHO (below).
“Comparison with WHO guidelines
The UK recommends FFP3 respirators when caring for patients in areas where high
risk aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) are being performed. These should be fit
tested for all staff and not just fit-checked. The WHO recommends FFP2 respirators
for AGPs. If for any reason FFP3 masks are not available, we recommend using the
FFP2 masks as a safe alternative but please note these should also be fit-tested.
Consistent with the WHO guidelines, full sleeve gowns are recommended for high
risk procedures (e.g. during AGPs) or where there is a risk of extensive splashing of
blood and/or other body fluids. In all other settings, the UK has a longstanding bare
below the elbow policy as part of our long-term strategy to manage healthcare
associated infections. COVID-19 is not airborne, it is droplet carried. We know the
cross contamination from gowns for infection can be carried by the gown sleeves
and the advice therefore is bare below the elbows and you scrub your hands, your
wrists and your forearms.”