So, we enter the fourth week of lockdown, and of working from home, something I find very difficult. The main problem I find is keeping focused and not being distracted by all the little mundane things of home.
I am locked down at home in River, just outside Dover. My partner is locked down in his home, 70 miles away! Why, you may ask, did we not decide to be locked down in the same place? That would have meant one of us leaving our house unoccupied for weeks on end during a national emergency, it just didn’t seem like a sensible thing to do. Also my partner grows much of our food on his allotment and we have chickens at his house that couldn’t be left. My home is close to where I work in Canterbury. ‘Ah’, I hear you cry; ‘you’re working from home, couldn’t you do that just as well from His house?’ Well, yes, of course I could, but for the aforementioned issue of not wanting to leave my house unoccupied for a prolonged period.
But, there is something else….
I am a nurse. I work full time as a nurse lecturer in a university, hence working from home. But, I am still a nurse, and a specialist in haemodialysis. As a nurse, I couldn’t sit by during a national emergency when I knew the service was struggling with many regular staff off sick or self-isolating, and that on top of pre-existing vacancies. I volunteered to help out in the Trust for whom I used to work, and that keeps me close to my home.
So, how does it feel? How do I feel? How does my partner feel?
I won’t lie, I’m a nurse, I get satisfaction from knowing that I am able to help, that I can put skills I learned over many years to use at a time of crisis. I like being back in the clinical environment, though not enough to consider returning full time and giving up on my academic career. To be honest, as a nurse, I don’t think I could have lived with myself if I hadn’t volunteered.
But, and it’s a big but, I am scared. I know that every time I go into work in the hospital I am increasing my chance of being exposed to COVID-19 and succumbing to the infection, possibly fatally. I tell myself I have a strong immune system, I’ve never had flu (as far as I know) and when it comes to colds and the like I’m rarely affected for more then 48 hours and then usually very mildly. But, of course, my immune system has been exposed to common cold and flu viruses for many years, this disease is new, my erstwhile fortress like immune system may have absolutely no defence against it at all. I’m scared too when I see the total lack of preparedness and kit for this pandemic in our beleaguered NHS. I see first hand the shortages of PPE, and the compromises being taken that put all us healthcare professionals at risk, and I find it frightening, perhaps to a degree I have never been frightened before, even when I mountain walking and fearing a thousand foot drop. And, like everyone else at the moment I am hating the effect the lockdown is having on my life, my work and my relationship. It is horrible, there is no other word.
And the effect on my partner? He knows as much as I do how much I am potentially putting myself in harms way. Oh we talk several times a day, even have meals ‘together’ through FaceTime, but I think he is even more frightened than I am. I guess I have some control, even in the hospital, I can weigh the risks I am taking, but he has no control, he is seventy miles away, and he is terrified that he may never see me again. And, of course, knowing how my partner feels makes it harder still for me to deal with the current situation because I know how much pain the whole thing is causing him.
So, where is God in all this? I’d like to say my spiritual and prayer life has been invigorated by the lockdown, that I have sought comfort and solace in my faith and in the Power of God to help me through it. The problem is, that wouldn’t be true. My prayer journal has lain untouched in a drawer for weeks, with my Bible atop it and equally unopened. It’s not that I’ve stopped believing, though I would lie if I didn’t admit to doubts, there are always doubts. I think I’m just a bit too overwhelmed at the moment focusing on the day to day. I have scribbled a few verses, a sort of prayer for me very often, and I have appreciated and found peace in the virtual services and virtual coffee that follows them. But otherwise, in faith terms, I am struggling. I know that is probably wrong, that I am trying to rely solely on my own meagre resources rather than those of God Almighty, but it is where I am. I hope and pray that I won’t be there much longer and can some fire back into my spiritual belly.
So, that is it. Very strange times indeed in which we live. I am frightened, as I have said, as is my partner, but every time I’m on the unit I see people far more frightened than me, and with good reason. Dialysis patients are at higher risk of contracting infections and at much greater risk of serious morbidity or of death when they do catch them. The recommendations are that our patients do not even leave their houses apart from for their treatment and in the current crisis the potential for escape from the torturous life that dialysis so often is through a kidney transplant is also greatly reduced.
At the end of the day, I am a nurse, I am proud to be a nurse and I am proud to be, even a small part, of our wonderful NHS. As I said before, I simply could not have lived with myself if I had simply stood by and not volunteered to help.
So, Keep clapping at 8 o’clock on a Thursday and keep praying.
Pray for all working in health and social care, pray for frightened patients and frightened staff, pray for our beleaguered NHS, pray for a cure or vaccine for this dreadful disease, pray that good positive changes to make our country and our world a better place may emerge from this crisis. And, yes, pray for me as I juggle two jobs and cope with a life being lived 70 miles from my partner and from all of you. God bless you all and may we back together sooner than we may dare believe in these very strange times.