A day in the life of a doctor on a coronavirus intensive care ward

Dr Steve Young rejoined the intensive care team at Morriston hospital to help the fight against Covid-19 at the beginning of the pandemic.

He has documented his shifts while caring for patients with coronavirus where he has witnessed death, recovery and remarkable acts of kindness.

Here is his account as a frontline worker just days before he developed symptoms himself.

Dr Steve Young has worked on the coronavirus ITU ward for more than a month. Credit: Dr Steve Young
7:45

Shift starts

  • Hopefully I'm going to have a slightly better day than yesterday

It's 7:45 and Dr Steve Young is preparing for another day on the coronavirus ITU ward.

Walking through the staff car park, Dr Young recalls the events of the previous day.

"Yesterday unfortunately we had a few deaths, so today I'm hoping that's not going to happen again. We extubated someone yesterday morning, so I'm hoping he's still ok now he's off the ventilator. "

It's the first thing he mentions in the video diary, the wellbeing of one of his patients who seemed to be improving yesterday.

In the last 24-hours, Dr Young has developed symptoms of coronavirus. Credit: Dr Steve Young

His next thought turns to personal protective equipment - or PPE. He says the hospital has ordered lots of new scrubs that come in a multitude of colours.

"They've got brown, pink, purple, lime green so I'm looking forward to seeing what combination I'm getting today."

By 8:25 Dr Young is fully kitted in his PPE along with his colleagues. Gown, gloves, goggles, hat, mask and visor ready for a morning of work on the ward.

Credit: Dr Steve Young
12:15

Break time

"Great news so far on this shift, absolutely fantastic. The chap that we took off the ventilator yesterday is still off the ventilator and this morning we took another two off the ventilator so hopefully they'll stay off the ventilator and it'll be a good day.

Unfortunately, we have already had one death of a chap that was put on the ventilator quite a few weeks ago so that's very sad. He's very much like everyone else, they don't feel that unwell before they go on the ventilator. Their oxygen levels are very low but they don't feel as breathless as you think they should do - and despite all our efforts he's died. It's incredibly sad as his family couldn't be with him."

His diary shows the emotional rollercoaster that comes as part of the territory of being a doctor.

After four hours of wearing his equipment, his face has clear marks of where his mask has been digging into his face.

Some of the marks left by the PPE equipment. Credit: Dr Steve Young

"So these are my covid marks, so quite sore on the nose and marks from the boobie style mask and this mask leaves these horrible marks on the cheeks."

16:25

Shift finishes

As Dr Young heads back to his car he recalls the highs and lows of the day.

"We did have another death today unfortunately, however we had some successes. I managed to make some lovely phone calls, I managed to tell some families that their loved ones were off the ventilator which is something I haven't been able to do before."

"Patients obviously can't have their relatives in but we had some messages from relatives. We've got this iPad where patients' relatives can send videos or audio messages which we can play to the patients which is really nice. It's nice for the patients to hear their relatives and it also means we get to know the patients a little better so when we speak to the family we know who we're looking after."

"A lot of the relatives are very grateful for what we're doing and it makes us feel a bit better for what is a difficult situation. So we're very happy when the relatives say how much they think we're doing a good thing and appreciate what we're doing. That's really nice to hear, I think without it would be very difficult without it. It's nice to have some connection with the relatives."

11:00

Following day

In the last 24 hours, Dr Young had had to take time off work and get tested after developing suspected coronavirus symptoms.

He is awaiting the results of a coronavirus test which will take 72 hours.

Dr Young has developed symptoms himself and has had to get tested

"Unfortunately, overnight I've developed symptoms. I've got a dry cough and also developed muscle aches so as a colleague had similar symptoms and has tested positive I've just got myself tested.

"I went down to the testing centre in Margam. I drove down, wound the window down and got swabbed. Apparently I find out in 72 hours so hopefully I'm negative. I'm hoping the symptoms aren't too bad and I'll be able to get back to work soon."

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