COVID-19 and Me: Denise Bradley
Released on - 19/02/2021
COVID-19 and Me: Denise Bradley
My name is Denise Bradley. I am a level-headed, pragmatic, 57 year old registered ODP with nearly 40 years experience in the NHS, particularly in perioperative departments.
I am also an avid reader and, like many people, follow the news. In January 2020, most of the information I was reading was about a virus called Corona.
As the first traces of the virus, entered the UK via Italy I became fixated on the news and started to find out more via the internet. My family and peers, many of whom are older than me, thought I was overreacting when I suggested they should get younger members of their family to do their shopping and that they should stay at home.
At the beginning of March, we had our first departmental meeting at work about aerosol generated procedures, donning and doffing and COVID- 19 (the new name for Coronavirus). There were many, many questions from anxious staff. The whirlwind of fear started to stir.
On the 14th March, just before the first national lockdown, I travelled 175 miles to my old trust in Essex to attend an AfPP study day, “We’ve come a long way, a vision of the future.” Although the study day was about advances in perioperative technology and how they have transformed practice, I was hoping I may also get some guidance and answers to the questions and concerns I had about Covid-19.
At this stage, we were only operating on urgent, emergency and trauma cases in Kingsmill Hospital, but we hadn’t got a SOP for the patient pathway from ward through the journey and back to the ward again. I was interested in finding out more about what surgical pathways other hospitals had put in place for Covid-19 patients who were coming to theatre.
However, many of the attendees at the study day hadn’t started any training within their trusts. I was surprised by how little guidance was available for the unfolding pandemic. AfPP tried to help and said they would provide general infection control points after the event and suggested referring to local trust policies.
Whilst I was in Essex, I did a whistle stop tour to see my family and friends. I took some selfies of us, socially distanced, even though we weren’t actually in lockdown at that point. I know they all thought I was acting weirdly and overreacting. No one was expecting me to knock on their door and it was fun, seeing everyone. However, there was more to it for me. The morose feeling I had, that I may never see these loved ones again, was overpowering and covering me like a dark veil.
It seemed as though the severity of the escalating pandemic wasn’t recognised outside of hospitals. I felt like I was a one-man band trying to save my world and those important to me. At times I felt so angry that I wasn't being listened to. I wasn’t able to have light-hearted, everyday conversations, instead I found myself going on and on about staying home and answering questions about PPE. I became an anxious, angry, fearful, obsessive bore. My poor husband seriously felt I was losing the plot when I told him we needed separate bedrooms and that I'd wash my clothes separately from his. The final insult was when I said he couldn't go into his mother's house on Mother's Day. I said that he had to drop her presents and shopping off at the door and stand well away. It was sound advice because just a few days later, we found out we both had the virus. Thankfully, we dealt with our symptoms and have both fully recovered.
It wasn’t just my home life that was affected, of course my work life was too. I’ve been an agency ODP for the last seven years, post redundancy from the NHS, and I wasn’t sure if I'd have work with so many elective lists cancelled.
As an agency ODP, my role is to fill in the gaps, so one day I may be working in trauma, the next emergency theatres. It’s been challenging working during a pandemic, with different groups of people who don’t really know you. My two favourite words have always been “be kind” and it’s important to remember that we probably all share the same concerns and anxieties. However, during the first few months I sometime found myself crying in a corner, feeling as though no one else felt like me or understood my concerns, at work. Little did I know! Many colleagues masked their feelings too. Every day there were changes to the way we worked the day before. Tensions were high.
There is a lot of mental health support for NHS staff but I didn’t think it would include an agency ODP, like myself. For those first few months I soldiered on alone, but looking back I realise that there was help available and someone to talk to. My concern was, I’d be taken off the rota and not be rebooked, if I wasn't coping. I wish I’d realised at the time that help was there, when needed.
I noticed that another agency ODP was struggling too and I spoke to her. We shared our thoughts, opinions and concerns, and found that they were the same, in so many ways. A problem shared is, indeed, a problem halved. It made life so much more bearable for me. I felt it was helpful to talk to a colleague, working in the same area as me, because theatres are so different to any other speciality and it meant that she understood the whole picture.
This time last year, I was trying so hard to warn friends and family, via social media and by talking to them on the phone, of the imminent crisis that the pandemic would cause. I feel as if the penny dropped when the first lockdown was announced and the government and scientists began to warn us of the seriousness of the situation. I felt as though my personal battle to be listened to and to save those I loved was over and I experienced a sense of calm.
I feel now that many people think that life will go back to normal once they’re vaccinated. I believe there is a lack of understanding that until everyone has been vaccinated, real freedom is still a long way off. I found myself angry at social media and the news. I’d challenge a TV news reporter, out loud, who couldn’t hear me. They never got the true picture. I now choose not to watch it and I’ve dropped off social media for my own sanity.
Mentally, I feel far more settled, this busy time around. We fostered a dog in June 2020 and the isolated walks through the amazing Derbyshire countryside we are surrounded by, along with my passion for photography, have distracted me. We all need distractions at a time like this.