16 May 2020 | Watford, UK [Moira Surridge/tedNEWS]
“These are as far from normal times as I have ever experienced in 40 years working for the NHS!”
Moira Surridge has a career in the UK’s National Health Service that has spanned four decades and eleven different hospitals. Much of that has been working in Intensive care units, though more recently she has taken on an educational role, teaching and training on sepsis. However, with the COIVD-19 crisis she made the brave choice to return to ICU and work with critically ill patients.
She says, “I found myself facing new challenges I never believed possible in my lifetime.” This is her story:
Watch her video story
Read her reflection
Social distancing in the UK started on 23 March and, for most of us, that was the end of life as we knew it. For me that moment came on 24 March at 7:30 am when I started my first shift back in ICU. It was with very mixed emotions I returned to the Unit I had previously worked in for ten years and had left in 2007!
After a break of nearly three years in ICU, I was back in the thick of it.
Under normal circumstances, nurses care for one ventilated patient at a time. Within days I was looking after three ventilated patients. These were as far from normal times as I have ever experienced in 40 years working for the NHS!
To begin with, I found wearing the Personal Protective Equipment [PPE] constricting, claustrophobic, hot and oppressive. I knew beyond any doubt that I was entering a COVID-19 hot spot. Was I ready for that? How was I going to tell my family, my mum and dad, that I had offered to work in the thick of this nightmare?
Be under no illusion COVID-19 is a nightmare, an invisible enemy. It brings devastation to people’s lives; it is not fussy who it attacks, and it kills quickly and certainly. The culmination of my first four weeks was on Friday 17 April, when one of our own nurses, along with two other patients, passed away. The sadness for us all was raw, palpable, and unforgettable. Many of us shed tears that day.
Over the weeks we have sadly lost many patients to COVID-19, marking many harrowing days. However, no one has died on their own, despite the fact family members often could not be present, and the Unit has been busier than ever before.
I have held the hands of two patients as they died, speaking of their loved ones and happier times. Absolutely heart wrenching and unforgettable moments, but events that shape the nurses we are all proud to be.
So why am I now sharing this after weeks of exhaustion, tears, and nights when all I dream about are the patients I have looked after all day and wish I could forget?
It is because I have never felt so uplifted by moments of pure kindness and professionalism which others have shown around me.
We have had nurses from all over our Hospital Trust sent to work supporting us in ICU. I can only imagine the terror they must have felt, being catapulted into such an utterly alien environment. These nurses have inspired me, supported me, and humbled me, and I thank them each and every one. We could never have managed without their support.
On those difficult shifts when it all seemed too much to bear, kind and supportive words from my colleagues, with smiles and gestures of understanding, have given me the strength to go on.
My wonderful family, without whom I would never have got through shift after shift, have sent supportive texts, cards, flowers and goody-bags. At every homecoming, I have been greeted with freshly baked goodies, cups of tea, and acceptance that all I want to do is have a shower and go to bed.
Writing this, and especially sharing this video, has brought back sad moments and terrifying feelings, but most of all, I now know how precious kind words, the best colleagues, family, and friends are, and most importantly, how precious life is. Never forget the wonderful gift of life that God has given us, and the hope we all have in a future with Him.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4 [NIV]
This story was first told in the 8 May 2020 edition of Messenger, Journal of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the UK & Ireland. Our thanks and prayers are with Moira and the many thousands of others who are providing support and care during this difficult period.
tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
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