The Basement is a community of over 100,000 people, all with different dreams, jobs, talents and aspirations. While some plan on publishing books, are training for the Olympics, or starting their own clothing line, others within our community are health carers. They are quietly going about their work with little of the recognition and fanfare of their peers in other industries.
It is impossible not to be moved by the bravery and heroism of all those working as doctors and nurses, ambulance drivers, carers, hospital cooks and cleaners during this time. Across the world, people are risking their lives daily to save those of others.
We asked some of The Basement community members who are currently working in frontline health services about their day to day experiences, how they were coping with the crisis, what they want the future to look like, and how we could help.
I’m holding up good, taking each day as it comes.
I am employed by LAS as an emergency ambulance crew. I.e I am on the emergency ambulances attending patients from low acuity to life threatening injuries/illnesses.
I drive an hour to and from work after a 12 hour shift (without a break) often let off late. The other day I finished my shift 4 hours late, meaning I worked 16 hours without a break. Yes, we get paid overtime but damn, sleep is good!
Coming home from work can be difficult as many of us try not to take work home with us. We try not to talk about what we’ve seen that day to our loved ones, as to be honest, it can be very graphic and not everyone has the stomach for it.
The biggest challenges are patients not understanding Covid-19 and the fact they really do need to stay at home unless they are severely unwell. Also, everyday patients calling up and us having to attend to them on blue lights because they slept on their shoulder funny – it’s just very frustrating to attend those jobs but it’s what we get paid to do.
Do stay at home, if you need to go out wash your hands as many times as possible, avoid seeing people out of your household. It’s not that you may get Covid-19, you might be carrying and giving it to someone who is immunocompromised or at high risk which can be fatal.
I’d like to see the world change their views and perspectives on the NHS and LAS/emergency services as we really are all batting for the same side and we all want to help each other. Yes, hospitals are extremely busy and overworked, as are the LAS but every morning we get up and attend patients, many who often don’t require an emergency ambulance and we just end up booking doctors appointments for them. So ideally if people could stop abusing the services at hand would be marvellous.
I think everyone is going about it the right way in regards to the clap for the NHS, amazing food/gift donations, all round support and lovely comments made when we’re parked up outside hospitals etc on shift, so other than that i’m not too sure, I just think if people keep doing what they are doing, our morale will stay boosted.
Many times I wonder how am I holding up myself. Its a combination of dedication and love for helping people what keep me going.
I find very hard sometimes to disconnect from everything that is going on. I am at work dealing with Covid-19 – family and friends worry about you and also ask about it, you open up social media or news and Covid-19 its there too… Disconnecting and not thinking about it is the hardest.
I am a charge nurse in an Infectious Diseases ward, based in an NHS hospital in North West London. Funnily enough, we started with all this Covid-19 around mid January, when everything was brewing in China. We were prepared to receive any patient returning from Wuhan area or certain areas in China, as we are the closest infectious diseases department to Heathrow airport.
We did have potential cases then but we did not see this situation coming, trust me.
Currently, we look after people who have been admitted to hospital with Covid-19 symptoms, we test them to determine if they are positive or negative and then move them to their definite area, unless they have another infectious disease as background, then they stay with us.
We do a lot, from giving medications to assist them with personal hygiene, going through feeding, wound care, vital signs monitoring, blood testing, phycological support, end of life care, etc.
We are also the only link between patients and family. Currently no one is allowed to visit their relatives admitted into hospital. There are a lot of patients that are not able to have a conversation on their own phone with their families so it is us who are there to give updates and support.
The psychological impact in families and patients is huge right now.
I wake up normally at 06:15, leave at 06:45 to take the tube and arrive around 07:15 at work. The Tube is calmer these days, but I still see more people than I would have thought travelling at this time. I wonder many times what they do if they are not key workers.
My shift starts at 07:30 with handover and at 08:00 we start seeing patients, giving medications, assisting with meals, vital signs monitoring, bed linen changes, repositioning, assisting with showers or washes and all sorts of nursing activities or tests that need to be done. In between, there are challenges, especially with Covid-19, patients deteriorate and become unwell very rapidly, and trust me, you need to run.
We are a big team, nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, healthcare assistants, non clinical staff (admins, domestics…) so there is a lot happening in between where the nurses need to help too. Not because I am a nurse but I honestly think that the function and day-to-day of a ward is run by nurses, 100%.
I normally finish at 20:00, but it is rare these days if I leave on time. There are always things to do. Physically it is tiring – imagine a 12 hour shift with 30 minute break during this time at a hospital. Then think about it 4-5 times a week. The hardest thing is mentally to be honest. We are seeing an increasing number of patients passing away these days and trust me, we try to do the best but unfortunately sometimes it is not enough. Although that is not the worst. Recently we haven seen a high number of colleagues becoming unwell with the virus, including some of them getting admitted into hospital. It’s very hard to see your friends in bed and you looking after them when the week before, they were with you, fighting against the virus. It makes you worry.
At the very beginning, it was very challenging and still is, to make people understand the importance of following rules and advice from the healthcare authorities. The fact that many people did not care about self isolation and staying at home, was and still is very frustrating. I will never forget the first two patients with Covid-19 that passed away with me. Both their son and daughter didn’t follow the advice of self isolation, they started with flu like symptoms, going to work as usual and they passed it on to their parents. Few days laters, their parents ended up in hospital and passed away. Literally.
The combination of lockdown and being first in the line of fighting the virus is challenging too. Everything, pretty much everyday is related to Covid-19. As I mentioned before it is hard to disconnect and not think about.
Also the amount of patients coming in and the impact of death or struggle of many. We see all sorts of people, but its especially hard to see those very young, becoming very unwell, the ones that impact me the most.
And last, probably the uncertainty of not knowing when all this is going to finish and we can go back to have a normal life.
The messages and support from the community and the strength shown by the team. There are a lot of people contributing and helping, providing food and materials to hospitals. But definitely the vibe of “we are all a team and we are in this together”, especially healthcare professionals, is very hopeful.
Look after yourselves and the people around you. Follow the advice from NHS 111 and if you feel a bit unwell, stay isolated.
We must learn from this and be thoughtful in the future. Assess the decisions made and not repeat the same errors in the future. I feel this is a very hard slap for all us, straight in the face. A slap to wake up and spread love, look after people that we love, look after the planet, be tolerant and respectful with everyone and stop worrying about things that are not important. In general, I want the world to be happier.
Also, as a healthcare professional, I want us to be respected and appreciated, not only when the struggle is here but always. Because we are constantly looking after people, we are constantly trying to make someone feel better and unfortunately I have experienced many times how people can be rude and disgraceful to someone who is offering time and energy in looking after them.
The positives messages help. When I walk down my road I see drawings and messages from the neighbourhood saying thank and praising the NHS. Also social media is a big weapon, spreading love and good messages.
I have been holding up fine, probably feeling the same as everyone else during this period of time.
I am currently working in Interventional Radiology at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. We cover procedures involving trauma, strokes, internal haemorrhages and putting lines in for patients who require dialysis. We also drain organs with potentially deadly infections due to different medical reasons.
Before this pandemic I used to work a 9-5pm shift from Monday-Friday with other nurses covering on-calls after hours of work and weekends. However due to the unforeseen circumstances of this pandemic, my new work times are 8-6pm and finishing time may vary due to traumas and emergencies where we may have to stay longer than our work hours. As soon as I walk into the hospital, I waste no time and head straight to my department as the whole hospital is exposed to this deadly virus. Everyone in the hospital has a duty and role in the hospital and nothing much has changed to our attitude workplace apart from being more cautious and careful when delivering care to patients. My department highly relies on X-Rays, CT scans and ultrasound scans and nothing has shocked me more than the fact that this deadly virus is visible to the naked eye through these images provided from the scans.
After work, I now have to travel and stay at my girlfriends place to avoid exposing my parents at home as I still currently live with them. The journey home is definitely quieter and you can see that the public has listened to the government and are doing their part for social distancing and reducing the spread of the virus. Work definitely drains me physically and mentally. I don’t even have time to go to the Gulag anymore.
The biggest challenge I am currently facing at work is that I have seen a massive increase in patients with Covid-19 which has affected the way we operate our theatres. We now have to bring down patients ourselves from the wards, wearing the right PPE of course as well as bringing them back up to their wards. This is just to avoid less exposure for other staff members. We also have to perform a deep clean in our theatres meaning instead of taking 10 minutes to clean after a procedure, it would take us at least an hour or more to make sure the theatre room is clean and safe to use again for another procedure. This would mean that we would have to delay other procedures as the whole process takes up a long time and although our department is the biggest in the UK I believe? We are now delaying the amount of procedures we can do per day which has a huge effect on patients waiting for a procedure.
I would say my friends and family who continuously show support to me and to the NHS. I like that the whole UK is showing so much support to the NHS and staff, the whole country working together as a nation to overcome this pandemic.
I would want to perceive the world change positively after this virus, however the trauma of thousands upon thousands of deaths once it’s safe to leave our homes will still be there. When it’s safe to come out, we will sure be different people in a different world. I would definitely want to feel that amazing 2016 Summer everyone experienced again. I also hope that everyone appreciates the time they spend with their friends and family. I would definitely want to see more preventative schemes and measures from the government, this could range from investing more into medical fields so that there would be more facilities and safety equipment for medical workers and other key workers too. So when (hope this does not happen again) another pandemic occurs, we as the whole world can be ready and somehow easily overcome this pandemic without the deaths of millions.
I don’t know how much Personal Protective Equipments each hospital and other workplaces receive but it would be great if there are people in the Basement that has access to manufacturing equipments, such as a 3D printer to produce a generous amount of PPE such as a face shields to be donated to local hospitals and other places that may require a protective piece of equipment. I know that this is easier said than done but it would be beneficial for medical workers and other key workers.