Our Chief Medical Officer Magda Smith recently shared her reflections on the Covid-19 pandemic, a year on. Here, Rajesh Jain (pictured), our clinical lead for critical care (who took on the role just three months before the pandemic hit), reflects on his own experience.
“I’ll never forget the day the first Covid-19 patient died on our Intensive Care Unit, it was the day before my son’s birthday and our family had been planning to celebrate as normal. Of course we had heard the news about the pandemic, and everyone was anxious, however, I had no idea how it would pan out.
It very quickly became real and we started to look at the clinical evidence to plan how we would manage our patients. Multiple meetings were held to see how we could increase our critical care capacity.
After only a few months in my new role, I was already impressed by the team, however, the way they pulled together, coordinating how we would utilise everyone’s skills, and how everyone was willing to help, I was even more so.
It’s very difficult to explain my emotions as such a strange time, it could be frightening, and even a bit exciting – I think that came from seeing my team do their jobs so well, and being so willing to go above and beyond.
I felt very responsible so it was important to me to be visible; I didn’t take many days off and remained contactable. Everyone was anxious so we supported each other and found that communication was key.
Our critical care nursing staff went above and beyond, managing a workload more than double their usual and deserve recognition. They put in an incredible effort that made the difference. Redeployed staff were also hugely valuable – we couldn’t have expanded critical care without them.
My family were worried about me, however they were also very understanding. During lockdown I would hear a lot about families spending more time together, however, like a lot of us, I didn’t really have an opportunity to do that. Even when I was with them I wasn’t really mentally there. It was challenging as work had to come first. But it would not have been possible for me to do it without them (my wife and I have sons aged 14 and 20).
I felt more prepared when the second wave hit, however, the workload was higher as we had more Covid patients. It was exhausting for all of us. The peak of the second wave was the worst I’ve seen in my career.
There were times I felt helpless, when we would do everything we could for a patient and still couldn’t save them. I’ve had flashbacks and I think it will have a long-term effect on many of us. I also realised my own potential and have done things I would have thought impossible before.
Now, I feel we are in a better position as many people have had the vaccine. I’m exhausted, hoping for a holiday and mostly, I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and a better future.”