The spirit of the NHS

Dr Kiran Rahim, paediatric doctor, shares her experience of changing role to be an ICU assistant.

The spirit of the NHS

I am home from my first shift as an Intensive Care assistant. A role I have been re-deployed to help the nursing staff with their increasing work load. A role for which I hung up my doctor badge and put on a sticker, that simply said ‘Kiran ‘Helper’.

Last night I barely slept as I thought about today. I turned up, anxious, scared but willing to do what I could in the face of the chaos. I put on 3 layers of suffocating protective clothing, 3 pairs of gloves, a face mask that I could barely breathe in, and a face shield that made it impossible to know who I was. Despite all of this,  nothing could have prepared me for ITU.

The unit that once held 8-10 of the sickest patients in the hospital is now providing lifesaving care for 30. Every single one of them gripping on to the edges of life, sick, on a ventilator and mostly, unstable. Patients who weeks ago were well, probably walking around, sat in their homes, talking with their familys, laughing, smiling. People who were now completely unconscious with tubes breathing for them and machines and drugs supporting their heart and body. They lay there, silent and still. The air around them filled with noise from piercing alarms, medications beeps and hissing ventilators.

Today I cared for just two patients; one of whom is unlikely to make it. I prayed for both, silently, as I fought back tears. I prepared their medications, calculated their urine outputs, and wrote down their observations. I did what I could.

Today was hard and humbling.

But for me it was ONE day. I am in awe of the ITU staff who work day in day out , often on back breaking 13hour shifts. I have no idea how they are coping or how they are processing the trauma around them.

When I walk in my hospital, I find its corridors empty, its cleaners exhausted, its porters drained and its staff broken. But in that ICU today I felt the spirit of the NHS I love so dearly. A spirit that refuses to bow in the face of adversity and sees Herculean efforts from its bone-bear workforce. A spirit that catches the silver lining of very dark days and continues, with grit and grace, to provide compassionate care for all that walk through its doors.

For more reflections from those on the frontline, check out our Doctor Diaries.

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Kiran Rahim

aka The Munching Medic Paediatrician, Mama, Foodie

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