Social distancing in the United Kingdom started on March 23. I started my first shift back in the intensive-care unit (ICU) on March 24 at 7:30 a.m. With mixed emotions I returned to the unit I had previously worked in for 10 years and had left in 2007. I was back in the thick of it.
I found wearing the personal protective equipment (PPE) constricting, claustrophobic, hot, and oppressive. I knew that I was entering a COVID-19 hot spot. How was I going to tell my family, my mother and father, that I had offered to work in the thick of this nightmare?
Be under no illusion: COVID-19 is a nightmare, an invisible enemy. The culmination of my first four weeks was on Friday, April 17, when one of our own nurses, along with two patients, passed away. The sadness for us all was raw, palpable, and unforgettable. Many of us shed tears that day.
Over the weeks we lost many patients to COVID-19, marking many harrowing days. No one, however, has died alone, despite the fact that family members could often not be present. I held the hands of two patients as they died, speaking of their loved ones and happier times. They were absolutely heart-wrenching and unforgettable moments.
So why am I now sharing this after weeks of exhaustion and tears? It’s because I’ve never felt so uplifted by moments of pure kindness and professionalism that others around me have shown. We’ve had nurses from all over our hospital sent to support us in the ICU. I can only imagine the terror they must have felt, being catapulted into such an utterly alien environment. These nurses inspired me, supported me, and humbled me. We could never have managed without their support.
My wonderful family, without whom I would never have gotten through shift after shift, sent supportive texts, cards, flowers, and goody bags. At every homecoming I was greeted with freshly baked goodies, cups of tea, accepting the fact that all I wanted was to have a shower and go to bed.
I now know how precious kind words, the best colleagues, family, and friends are; most important, how precious life is. Never forget the wonderful gift of life that God has given us, and the hope we all have in a future with Him.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:3, 4, NIV).
Serves as a nurse in the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. This story is adapted from the May 8, 2020, edition of Messenger, journal of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the United Kingdom and Ireland.