Battling through feelings of helplessness: Indian-origin UK doctor speaks out about COVID-19 hospital shifts

The doctor also praised all the nurses, who are stretched more than he has ever seen before but manage to carry on calmly.

Published: 17th April 2020 09:56 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th April 2020 09:56 AM   |  A+A-

London Ambulance staff, police officers and firefighters take part in the weekly 'clap for our carers' as they stand on Westminster Bridge in London, during the lockdown to try and stop the spread of coronavirus, Thursday, April 16, 2020. (Photo | AP)


LONDON: An Indian-origin doctor on regular shifts within the intensive care unit (ICU) of a hospital in the east of England during the coronavirus pandemic has said that while he and his team battle through feelings of 'helplessness', they have no choice but to 'keep calm and carry on'.

Dr Chinmay Patvardhan, from Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, also praised the hard work of colleagues from around the world working within the National Health Service (NHS).

"Because of the sheer number of patients needing intensive care there is a much higher demand than normal for medicines and equipment. It is especially hard because Covid-19 is such a new disease so there is no known cure, no magic bullet," Patvardhan writes in 'The Sun'.

"Every now and then I just get this feeling of helplessness, and that takes its toll. But I feel really proud of the junior doctors on shift. They come from all over the world and have stepped up to being intensive care doctors, whatever their speciality," he said.

The doctor also praised all the nurses, who are stretched more than he has ever seen before but manage to carry on calmly.

"No aspect of basic nursing care is being compromised," he notes.

ALSO READ | UK extends COVID-19 lockdown till May 7 as death toll climb to 13,755; cases surge past 104,134

The hospital is one of only five extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) centres across England and therefore has vehicles and staff on call 24/7 to pick up patients from other hospitals when ECMO is their only chance of survival.

"We are basically their last hope," says Patvardhan, as he highlights the importance of the technique called "proning" for serious COVID-19 patients requiring assistance with their breathing once they are brought to an ECMO.

"They work day and night to put patients in the 'proning' position, laying them on their front to improve oxygenation. This seems to be particularly helpful to patients with COVID-19," he said.

The regular night-long shifts last a typical 12 and a half hours and by then all those on duty have marks on our faces from the masks they have to wear throughout.

"It's not easy, but there's such a fantastic sense of teamwork in the unit at the moment, we're all in this together. After a hectic 12 and a half hours, I'm exhausted, but still smiling," he notes.

The UK remains in lockdown to try and curb the number of patients requiring hospitalisation and keeping the pressure on the state-funded NHS manageable during the pandemic, which has claimed over 12,000 lives in the country.


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