Four frontline NHS workers today revealed how coronavirus has left them feeling ‘terrified’ and is causing ‘heartbreaking loneliness’ to patients in Britain.
Doctors Janitha Gowribalan and Rosena Allin-Khan, paramedic Sarah Blanchard and nurse Richenda Browne all spoke out about their work fighting the pandemic.
They echoed Government calls for the public to ‘stay at home’ while they put themselves in danger to help patients, with 25,150 testing positive in the UK so far.
Dr Gowribalan told Grazia magazine there was a ‘sense of uncertainty’, and told of making quick ‘lifesaving’ decisions with one patient including inducing a coma.
The doctor at Whittington Hospital in Archway, North London, also told how she and colleagues were ‘dealing with something we don’t yet really know about’.
Meanwhile Dr Allin-Khan, who is also an MP, said she was ‘terrified of spreading the infection to the people I love’ and spoke of patients arriving ‘severely breathless’.
Ms Blanchard told of ‘watching a person struggle for air’, while Ms Browne called on the Government to ‘prioritise getting us more protective equipment’.
Grazia editor Hattie Brett said: ‘This week’s issue is our attempt to say thank you to the NHS and let their workers send a clear message to us all.
‘The cover shoot was like none I’ve ever worked on; shot in a matter of minutes in the car parks of NHS hospitals, maintaining social distancing.’
This is what the four medics had to say about their work on the NHS frontline:
DR ROSENA ALLIN-KHAN
Dr Rosena Allin-Khan is the Labour MP for Tooting in South London and an A&E doctor, who decided to return to healthcare when the coronavirus crisis began.
She is now juggling hospital shifts alongside her work as a full-time politician, and told Grazia: ‘I’m terrified of spreading the infection to the people I love.’
Dr Allin-Khan said she had seen a previously healthy 33-year-old man and a 42-year-old woman brought into her hospital – showing the virus can affect anyone.
Dr Rosena Allin-Khan is the Labour MP for Tooting in South London and an A&E doctor
Dr Allin-Khan was also pictured in hospital on the ITV programme Good Morning Britain today
She added: ‘More and more patients are arriving severely breathless and terrified. They can’t even have relatives by their side because the virus is so contagious.
‘One of the hardest things is having to tell loved ones to say goodbye at the door to A&E, because they could risk their own life by holding their partner or parent’s hand.’
Dr Allin-Khan also told how NHS workers are ‘worried’ about fast rises in the death rate, amid a ‘huge sense of sadness and trepidation’ among her colleagues.
DR JANITHA GOWRIBALAN
Dr Janitha Gowribalan, 35, is an anaesthetist and intensive care doctor at Whittington Hospital in Archway, North London.
She told Grazia how she got the bus in for her night shift at 7.45pm, and helped a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions who was struggling to breathe.
Dr Gowribalan said: ‘We have to quickly make lifesaving, unavoidable decisions to induce a coma and place him on a ventilator. He’s frightened and asking for us to ring his wife and children.
Dr Janitha Gowribalan, 35, is an anaesthetist and intensive care doctor at Whittington Hospital
‘He’s struggling to speak through his tight-fitted mask but, if he takes it off, his oxygen levels will plummet. It’s upsetting telling him it’s not possible for us to call his family now.’
She added that there was a ‘sense of uncertainty’ on the intensive care ward, and medics were ‘dealing with something we don’t yet really know about’.
Dr Gowribalan also said they had all the equipment they need, but it can take a team up to 20 minutes to put on gowns, hats, gloves, goggles and masks.
Richenda Browne, 29, is a senior staff nurse in the emergency department at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
She has urged the Government to prioritise getting NHS workers more protective equipment, saying: ‘Healthcare workers are the most precious commodity the country has right now.’
Ms Browne added that she is finding it upsetting to help families who cannot be together when one of them is dying, but must be blunt about the health risks.
Richenda Browne, 29, is a senior staff nurse at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
She told Grazia: ‘I stay strong for my patients at work, but at home, on rare days off, I process everything.
‘We need to think of innovative ways for people to communicate with patients in isolation, such as using video calls to say goodbye.
‘I’m also finding it challenging to show empathy through protective equipment and masks – I rely so heavily on my facial expressions.’
Sarah Blanchard, 27, is a paramedic in Essex, and told of her heartbreak after seeing previously healthy patients collapse and die.
She told Grazia: ‘I couldn’t sleep last night. My last call of the evening was a 43-year-old woman who, three days earlier, had been healthy.
‘After having a cold and a temperature for a few days, she collapsed. Her husband called 999 but, by the time we ran in, her heart had stopped and she had died.’
Sarah Blanchard, 27, is a paramedic in Essex, and told of her heartbreak at the coronavirus
Ms Blanchard said that seeing the loneliness the pandemic is causing is ‘almost as heart-breaking as watching a person struggle for air’.
She told how she is also finding it hard to keep her distance from ‘panic-stricken’ patients being taken to hospital in the back of an ambulance.
Ms Blanchard also revealed some elderly people are calling 999 amid fears they cannot breathe, but when paramedics arrive they are alone and too scared to leave the house.
The latest issue of Grazia is on sale today