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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 1-2

My experience of the Corona Pandemic in London

Masters in General Medicine, General Practice Specialty Trainee, Department of Internal Medicine, Watford General Hospital, Watford, London

Date of Submission15-Oct-2020
Date of Acceptance17-Nov-2020
Date of Web Publication29-Jan-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Priya Modi
Department of Internal Medicine, Watford General Hospital, Watford
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijmo.ijmo_9_20

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How to cite this article:
Modi P. My experience of the Corona Pandemic in London. Int J Med Oral Res 2020;5:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Modi P. My experience of the Corona Pandemic in London. Int J Med Oral Res [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Apr 10];5:1-2. Available from: http://www.ijmorweb.com/text.asp?2020/5/2/1/308281

”This is a sea of unknown.” That's what I remember going through my head when I saw my first patient on the frontline. I have been working in Accident and Emergency in a Greater London Hospital this COVID-19 pandemic and it has been one of the most challenging times I have experienced.

It all started in February 2020, where the rumors of the “Wuhan virus” were spreading but no one had actually encountered a positive patient yet. The doom of what was to come was building and through everyone's eyes, it was evident there was a sense of worry, even though no words were expressed. When the first patient testing positive for COVID-19 arrived, everyone was ready but no one quite knew if what he or she were doing was right. It was a lady that had recently returned from Japan and had mild symptoms of cough, fever, and general malaise. She had suddenly become breathless and was brought into the emergency department. All other possible causes had been ruled out, which only left this COVID-19 virus. She quickly deteriorated and was taken to the Intensive Care Unit, where she spent many weeks with little improvement. This was the start of the wave. After this, hundreds of patients flooded in with symptoms of coronavirus. This quickly led to a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the national rules were constantly changing according to demand.

At this point, I was very anxious going into work every day. A myriad of concerns were running through my head: “Did I have the right PPE?” “What if I was to get infected?” “What are the chances I also end up in ITU?” The combination of these anxieties and the heartbreak of families on a daily basis were taking a toll on my mental health. This was just the start of the chaos.

I remember particularly a patient I saw quite late into my 12 h shift. There was a gentleman around 80 years old. He looked extremely scared and was barely able to catch his breath. I could see in his eyes he thought this was the end. We immediately started continuous positive airway pressure on him with the hope that he would show some improvement. He required close monitoring with regular measuring of his vital observations and hourly arterial blood gases. I was struggling to find the words to give him some emotional support, but I had to muster up everything I had to ensure he took some comfort. I could only imagine what he was going through. I tried numerous times to give him a warm smile but you forget the masks and visors cover everything to the point where everything felt inhumane. When you're feeling this unwell, people in scary masks is the last thing you want to see. Telling the patient his family could not visit was devastating. I called his family to inform them the status of his situation. I was accustomed to talking to families but without nonverbal communication, it made it so much harder. How are you supposed to explain to a family they are not allowed to see their loved one? This was a gut-wrenching experience, something I would not have envisaged doing in my career. By the end of my shift, he had deteriorated and was intubated in ITU. I remember going home that night emotionally and mentally shattered. That was the hardest shift I had done, I really did not want to go back the next day. On my next shift, he unfortunately passed away. I can still remember the exact feeling that went through my body when I had to tell the family. I am struggling to use the words to explain their devastation. That was my first COVID-19 tragedy little did I know there were many more to come.

Days turned into weeks and the country went into a lockdown. The country just came to a halt. From shops to gyms, everything was closed and we were all told to stay in our homes. The vulnerable and frail were told to quarantine for 12 weeks. The streets were empty; I had never seen London, one of the busiest cities in the world, so bare. These were unprecedented times and everyone was so frightened. The few people that were seen to be out were with masks, something we were to normalize. Terms such as pandemic and PPE were flooding the news every day. Death rates rose expeditiously, which led the country to a petrified state. It became evident that the UK was the worst hit in Europe.

The next research that was disclosed was that the virus seemed to favor the Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic, BAME. This added a new layer of apprehension. There was limited knowledge on this research, however I soon found myself filling out a BAME risk assessment to determine whether I was safe to work. I had a duty as a doctor to care for my patients but at what point was it deemed safe for me? It was difficult to make sense of this, but I knew I had to fulfill my duty as a doctor and continue to work through the pandemic.

The one thing that shone through every day was the energy at work. The NHS had managed to come together in harmony to tackle this virus. With the long arduous hours and the mental scars left after every shift, the support between nurses, doctors, domestic services staff, and all other health-care workers has been beyond belief. I think sharing that ambivalence and discomfort brought together a close community. The pandemic had taken over our lives and made the unordinary a new normal. Tears were shed together along with unforgettable smiles. I gained friends through this community and we have shared lifelong memories. I believe this sense of unity has also been reflected on a global scale.

I quickly realized how lucky I was being able to see people at work. There were many people that had gone weeks or even months without human contact. This had an enormous burden on mental health. As quarantine is being eased, and now I am based back in my own speciality of General Family Medicine, mental health has been the main complaint in my consultations. Not being able to hug your loved ones or celebrate with friends is something we have never endured. People have not known how to cope with this. I think this pandemic will leave residual mental wounds that we will have to face for years to come.

Personally, I have learnt a great deal about myself through this challenging period. I have discovered the art of perseverance and the remarkable ability to adapt both mentally and physically to situations that are foreign to me. I feel I have now embraced the change and feel more resilient to what lies ahead. Every country globally continues to tackle this virus. I believe this is the only time I will experience a unity like this in my lifetime. Health has been put at the forefront of our lives and has been made a priority. The COVID pandemic continues to bring highs and lows but we continue to grow and evolve along with it.

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There are no conflicts of interest.


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