'Standing at the frontline fighting an enemy I can't see', Blog by NHS consultant Ola Abbas

Blog by Dr Ola Abbas, consultant in Critical Care and Acute Medicine at Royal Preston Hospital

I accepted the job offer to train in Intensive Care Medicine almost eight years ago. It has been exciting and demanding. But little did I know back then that one of the challenges that I will face as a newly appointed consultant is a global health threat, a vicious viral pandemic.

Just as I was feeling my way through the process of being a consultant and trying to get comfortable in my own skin I find myself in a war zone.

Going to work nowadays is akin to marching to war, standing at the frontline fighting an enemy I can't see.

New knowledge to acquire, new training drills to endure, and new equipment to fathom is only a small part of what we have had to go through in the past few weeks.

Plans to expand beds, to reconfigure infrastructure, to build new hospitals and to form new teams have occupied a big part of every day's work. Job descriptions and working patterns changed in a matter of hours, services reconfigured in an exceptionally short time frame.

Questions on whether we are going to have enough oxygen supply are flying about, I mean who thought that would ever be a question?

It's only been a few weeks since the pandemic arrived in the UK and most people I know already have someone they know infected or affected in a way by the disease.

Colleagues I work with on a daily basis have been infected and admitted to hospital. Others have family members whom they can't visit while they are being nursed in isolated hospital wards.

Relatives of a dying patient can't visit to hold their loved one's hand in their last hours, even more, they can't be at their graveside to bury them. What a cruel time to endure?

Every time I care for a patient I have a sinking feeling in my heart, would my personal protective equipment be enough, am I going to get infected despite my best attempts, am I going to be that patient, in that bay that I'm just about to walk into?

I hold my breath, try to stop myself thinking of the worse and go in to see the patient because that's my job. That's what I do.

I look after those in need, I try and make things and people better and I care for those who unfortunately are dying.

I summon the courage every day to play my part like all the other brave NHS workers battling against the unknown. A virus that knows no borders, no race, no gender, no age, no nothing. A force majeure sweeping through the world grinding life as we know it to a halt.

You don't think, or at least I didn't think, that I'd have to face such a challenge in my career or in my lifetime, some of the training prepares you for this, but most of what you face you have no preparation for it at all.

At times like this, I tell myself it's all right to be anxious or even scared and angry, to feel exhausted and shattered. It's all right to say I didn't choose this, no one got any choice in this at all.

But we're in it together and we have to do what we do best to find our way out of it.

It takes strength to be kind when the world is being cruel but it's the little things that matter the most.

Being kind is many things; keeping your team morale up and positive, checking on your friends and family with a text, taking time to disconnect from the news updates, immerse in hobbies (and blogging), drawing a hot bath, reading a book, reminding yourself that nothing is for granted, and eating that bar of chocolate because you are worth it!

Being kind means taking time to be grateful for what you have instead of thinking of what you've lost.

If there is a silver lining in everything, even in a pandemic. I am yet to get a full grasp of it, maybe it's spending more time on your own, maybe it's less travel and pollution around the world, maybe it's reminding us that there are more necessities to life than toilet roll, or maybe it's reminding us how strong we can be when we need to, even if you don't feel it - you are more powerful than you imagine.

I am ever so grateful for those sending me support messages, ringing to check on me while I'm living here. Grateful for the amazing colleagues I have, who fighting an arduous challenge seems like second nature to them.

I'm grateful for still being in good health.

Stay at home and save lives ...

#NHS #CriticalCare #WeAreCritical #Medic #Stayhome #InItTogether #COVID_19 @ICS_updates @Lancshospitals