Day 43: An Adventure Beyond The Front Garden

Contributor: Chris:

So week 7 of lockdown begins and I guess it’s time to reflect on the days gone by and the impact they have had on my psyche. I try not to count down the days until shielding may or may not end as it only causes frustration for myself and those closest to me that I miss seeing face to face.

The big news from week 6, I actually got to leave the house twice across two days… Hoorah!!!

Sadly not, the two day trips that I talk about were in fact visits to A&E at Leicester Royal, not the outings I would have chosen for a bid for freedom from Shielding but in hindsight a change of scenery anyway. Please don’t panic, I wasn’t there for anything Covid related thank goodness so no need to cast me off to the caves with the other lepers.

I wanted to talk today about my experience of my visit to A&E and how it left me feeling around both my own personal battle with health issues and also of the constant struggle that Key workers face day to day. The first difference from what was before was the initial contact at A&E, gone is the stroll up to the reception desk in the smart new £48 million unit. Instead I was guided by a multitude of signs and barriers to a portacabin in the area in front of A&E. I have to wait outside (luckily alone) as another person is already in the cabin being assessed, but after only a couple of minutes I am greeted by a HCA who takes some personal details. I am then led into the portacabin to be interrogated by a Nurse Practitioner around whether I have any symptoms of Covid-19 at all. The Nurse assessing me has a sense of relief that my issues are not Covid related and immediately the atmosphere changes from one of caution to friendly conversation in the blink of an eye. On questioning the nurse, she explains that the new A&E department is only for Covid admissions and is off limits to everyone not currently placed there. I am then directed to follow a series of yellow arrows spray painted on the floor and various signage which all takes me on a long walk over to the old A&E department in the Balmoral building.

On arrival at the reception in the old A&E, it is quite a shock to see all of the staff wearing so much PPE. All the nurses are wearing aprons, masks, goggles and gloves. The doctors go for the masks, goggles and gloves but instead go for white plain T-Shirts that can be changed and disposed of throughout their shifts. Prior to visiting I hoped that all staff would be properly protected but seeing this image in the flesh is very daunting and fills me with so much fear that I shouldn’t be in this environment. I ask the receptionist if I am allowed to take some photos of staff and the department for our Street Diary but my request is declined due to Data Protection Issues. The photos on here don’t involve the faces of any staff or patients.

2

Due to being high risk I am provided with a mask and gloves which gives me a minimal sense of comfort in this environment. The staff are constantly monitoring the Waiting Area to ensure that all patients are following social distancing, alas there are still many that don’t follow the guidelines and have to be directed like a young child on a school trip. It is frustrating to see the health professionals being pulled away from their duties to have to manage people in this manner and I witness numerous instances of ill feeling to the staff across my two visits around maintaining safe distancing (Humans can be such ignorant shits sometimes).

Upon my first visit on Monday, it was decided by a consultant that I require an ultrasound, but this can’t be completed due to it being late in the evening so I am booked to return on the following day. I had an awful sleep on Monday night and this was only down to the fear of having to return to the same setting again and putting myself in harms way. I also feel that I am burdening the staff in some way, they don’t have a choice whether they attend work or not and they are put in the firing line both physically and emotionally every day they step across the hospital threshold.

3

My return visit on Tuesday alas does not go to plan and due to some inter-department political issues, what should be a few hours there turns into a nightmare 7 hours. The staff are very positive throughout and keep me up to date as much as they can. One of the consultants made my case her own personal mission and she devoted so much of her time to ensure that my procedures were completed and I got the treatment needed. She was also very caring in regards to my Crohn’s and the need to eat and drink, there are no shops or cafes currently open at LRI so there is no option at all for patients to purchase food. Due to me being high risk, the consultant took the time to source water, crisps and biscuits all from newly opened packaging  – I don’t believe I have ever taken so much satisfaction from a bottle of mineral water and a packet of Skips.

4

On the Tuesday afternoon at 6pm there is loud applause coming from the end of the corridor and I can see many staff surrounding another staff member. I asked one of the staff what the applause was for thinking perhaps a birthday or leaving a role, but the staff member explains that the person being applauded is finally taking a day off after working 12 hour days for 12 days in a row – what more can I say around this other than dedication at its highest level.

Finally at 7pm on the Tuesday, after 7 long hours, I have been tested, diagnosed and treated and am finally allowed to escape. Leaving the hospital feels such a relief and I go home to reflect on the impact the two days have had on me. I understand now more than ever how important the NHS is not only to the nation but to me personally and how different my life would be without it.

Across my two days at the unit I have had the pleasure to come across such amazing doctors, nurses, cleaners and receptionists. They are working under such pressure due to the Covid beast but do they show any strain in front of the public? No, they are smiling, polite, energetic and dedicated more than ever to ensure that each and every one of us gets the best possible care from start to finish.

Today’s entry has not be political at all, only a huge shout out to the Backbone of our country now and hopefully many years into the future!!!

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