Voices from the frontline

Some of us you know well, some of us you see regularly, some of us you never see. We are the nurses, team leaders, care assistants, chefs, activity coordinators, receptionists, laundry assistants, cooks, cleaners, admins, those behind the scenes, the voices of the frontlines. These are our day to day and our extraordinary experiences.

Hello, my name is Zoe, I am 39 years old, I have a 22-year-old daughter, and I have been a carer since I left school.

The best part of this job is seeing my ladies and gentlemen thriving, that’s just the best, you know. You build up relationships with them over the years, so they are like your family, you know when they are having a good or bad day without them having to tell you. Especially for those without any families we become their families, and that is a big responsibility and a great honour as well.

The bad days are when someone is poorly, and there is nothing you can do for them. I hate to see anyone suffering or in pain, yes, it’s part of the job, but in the past few months, it’s been really hard with the pandemic, really hard. We are all professionals here, but I have never seen anything like this before, I don’t mind telling you I was worried and then I got sick myself.

Scary indeed

It happened pretty quickly on Monday I was working and felt a bit tired and groggy, and by the Friday I felt terrible. I rang my manager, and she said I sounded shocking and advised me to call 111, who told me to speak to my GP. The GP prescribed antibiotics, it felt like a really bad cold or flu to beginning with, my nose was bunged up, I couldn’t taste or smell, and I had aches and pains, diarrhoea. Then the cough started and the dreadful headaches, it felt like someone was driving a metal pole through my skull.  By the time I realised it was probably coronavirus I was told it was too late to be tested and to self-isolate. I was exhausted all the time, I couldn’t sleep because the cough and headaches kept me awake, it took me three weeks to feel normal again. I didn’t have the weird tightening around the chest people talk about. My daughter lives with me, she’s a student aerospace engineer, and she showed almost exactly the same symptoms within days of me and had to self-isolate as well, thankfully she wasn’t as bad, but it was really scary how quickly we went from healthy to very poorly, very scary indeed.

Spreading like wildfire!

I was fearful about getting the virus because obviously, I work care home, and we look after vulnerable people, I was scared for the ladies and gentlemen, myself, my daughter, and my colleagues.  Even after I had recovered, I was still worried about going back because no one knows if you can get it again. I was also worried about what I would be going back to, how many people would have been affected while I had been off sick, would we have lost people. The media were reporting that it was spreading in care homes like wildfire and I was frightened of what that meant for us, it made me really anxious and afraid to come back, but you have to don’t you and I wanted to, I love my job, and I wanted to get back to it.

Together

I thought the clap for the NHS was good at the start. Our manager said it should be for all key workers. I thought it was nice that Towerview Care encouraged everyone to clap for key workers every week on Facebook.  My manager Sharon and the whole team at Loxley Court have been fantastic. We have worked so well together, looking out for and taking care of each other. It’s been frightening at times, it’s also been incredibly comforting as well to have this team of people around me. They know what I’m going through, they know how it feels, what the risks we are all taking are and why.

Almost broke me

On the whole, though I don’t think people realise that our staff have put not just themselves at risk, but their families as well. Some of our staff have not seen their families since the start of this, others go through complicated routines when they get home to keep their families safe. Everyone talks about the NHS all the time about their sacrifice about what they have done but very little has been said about us care workers. We’ve had to deal with more death and suffering than we’ve ever dealt with before, and we are one of the lucky companies, we have had a counselling company brought in. But still, it’s almost broken me.

Keep it together

One day before we were allowed to let families see their relatives at the end of life, one family asked if we could have a priest stand at the window and give the last rites. The family member afterwards held my hand and thanked me for organising this and ‘all I could think was it just wasn’t right, that they had had to die alone, like that’ and was all I could do to keep it together for the family. Afterwards, I had to ask myself can I keep doing this, I will never forget that moment, ever, I was mentally and emotionally drained. I went home, went to bed, got up, put my face on and came back to work because we are a family, we are their family, and we are stronger together.

Stronger togther