This episode of Our Voices focuses on the experiences of Ellie, an occupational therapist who began working for the NHS in July 2020 during the height of the pandemic. Ellie describes her initial experiences of working in the NHS as being a long way from what she had envisioned. She relates being initially confronted with ill patients being ventilated on tubes: “it was really difficult seeing what covid had done to people”.
One of her greatest concerns was the lack of personal interaction she was able to achieve with patients while wearing her personal protective equipment: “These patients had no idea what the member of staff looked like… all they could see was eyes”. In order to try to provide a more personal touch and to help patients identify her, Ellie wrote her name on her visor.
There was a specific patient that Ellie recalls who she cared for early on in her new role. He was a patient in his 80s who had leukemia. Ellie recounts how she became particularly close to him. He would often talk about his wife, who slept in a separate bed to him so they could both get a comfortable night’s sleep. However, they would both get into the same bed before and after sleeping in order to read stories together. He also spoke of his cat, who he was particularly fond of.
Ellie wanted to discharge the patient so that he could spend time with his family; however, his condition was not stable enough for that to be an option. As he needed to be kept in hospital, his family were not able to visit. But they did send a photo album which showed all the wonderful trips and holidays the family had been on together.
Ellie read to her patient from the photo album but his responses had become minimal. It was clear that the patient was struggling. Eventually, he passed away as Ellie was reading to him. She took his hand during his final moments: “It was all really sad but I just felt that I was so lucky to be with him.”
The pain the family must have felt at losing their loved one without ever being able to visit is something Ellie can relate to. She lost her grandmother during the pandemic and was only able to see her through a window. Ellie talks about how frail her grandmother looked, how different to what she had looked like before.
As the pandemic wore on, Ellie describes having daily panic attacks: “I wasn’t myself, I couldn’t understand what was going on. I just felt like I wasn’t there, I felt really strange all the time.” Fortunately she sought the help she needed as was diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder. She was helped to understand that she had just been through too much over the last year and she needed time to process and recover from all that had happened.
Ellie now says that she feels much more like her old self and is on the way to feeling back to normal. Thankfully she has found the resilience to cope and begin to recover. With all the suffering so many of us have been facing throughout this pandemic, hopefully her story will help provide resilience to those who are listening also.
Also, if you’re a medical professional who is looking to work in the UK, and you need to pass either IELTS or OET, go to www.swooshenglish.com .