In many respects, the last thing I should be doing now – that is, 20 to 5 on Saturday Morning (21/3/20) is blogging. Yet, it feels necessary.
For many of us this will be our first crisis. Our first experience of living through history. Seeing the world change.
It is frightening. Terrifying. Exhilarating.
In the past week I have seen my world transform.
Seven days ago, I posted on Facebook, a photo of the waiting room in our surgery; (on our site that has changed it name twice in five days) (www.facebook.com/ManorFieldMaltby/)we had cleared-out the seats. Then a few people joked that it appeared odd – where would everyone sit? Over the following days, as patients got the message, the numbers of people arriving at the surgery dropped-off. We now call this ‘footfall’.
In just one week we have transformed how we work.
You might wonder why I said exhilarating.
virtual ward round
Well, just as this is my first crisis, it is my first experience of living, I suppose you would call it, Quality Improvement.
This is actually where my blog began five years ago – first an attempt to share the word about how we can make care safer and second, well, I will come back to that.
Quality Improvement in healthcare, a technical term which I describe as simply, ‘making things better’ became my purpose this week.
Change has happened at a pace and rate faster than ever before.
Ways of working, practices, approaches have changed dramatically.
I barely saw any patients face to face. Almost all of it was done over the phone.
I spoke to a terminally ill woman by Facetime. She understood.
No one knows whether what they do is right or wrong; all we are doing is what we believe to be right.
Acting in good faith.
This, we have communicated to our staff.
Fear of doing the wrong thing is a fundamental of quality improvement. If you are afraid to act because people might call you out or think you stupid, you won’t do anything, and the quality won’t improve. It won’t necessarily deteriorate either, yet, in times of radical change, that is worse.
Act in good faith using the knowledge and information that you have at that time.
That is what led to us clearing-out the waiting-room, deciding only to see patients with ‘PPE’ – personal protective equipment; facemask, plastic apron and gloves. Ironic and flimsy as they may seem, many doctors, nurses and carers have even struggled to get hold of these this week.
I won’t go into all the changes we have made, suffice it to say, when people return to work on Monday, if they have been off for a week or two, they will find a different world, which of course it is.
I said there was another reason I wrote my blog.
It had to do with dying.
For whatever reason, five or so years ago I got it in my head that I might die unexpectedly. Most likely I figured would be massive heart attack, maybe whilst out with the dog. These things happen.
I don’t have any major risk factors, or a family history of sudden death, it was just one of those thoughts that kept circulating in my subconscious.
Well, to date, I am still here.
I started the blog as a repository of who I am; my thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears. My almonds and emotions.
Not so much ‘for the world’ – there is nothing profound in what I write, more, for my kids.
My kids don’t tend to read my blogs. They are only 13 and 16 years old. I don’t really expect it; yet, those words, thoughts, feelings, impressions are all there. Sitting, waiting.
Both my parents died many years ago.
Yes, I am young to be an orphan in today’s world. Yet, this week I have felt relieved somehow that they haven’t had to experience Covid, they have not had to have the fear. I know this sounds strange, yet for me it was reassuring.
My son last night went to a friend’s house.
I know he won’t be social distancing. My first thought was to keep him home, yet, on reflection, as he is 16 and his year has been screwed-up so much already (no Killers in concert, no Leeds Festival, no summer trip to Mongolia) I weighed up the pros and cons and potential risks and took him round.
Arab Strap, the Glasgow band have a song called, ‘The last big weekend of the summer’ – I guess this was his last big weekend, not that he will get up to much, yet, it seemed reasonable.
The grandparents were over on Friday, again, this seemed proportionate, none of us quite knowing how close or far-apart to stand.
Sunday is Mother’s Day. That will surely be odd.
My daughter stayed at home.
What effect will all this have on her; emotionally, psychologically?
Much of this is conjecture and worry.
One thing is for sure, worrying doesn’t get you anywhere.
Three weeks ago, was anyone worrying that there would be empty supermarket shelves, that doctors and nurses would be desperately seeking basic surgical masks to keep themselves safe?
And, oh, the information. And with all its inaccuracies and half-truths.
Last Friday in the surgery we had a patient with a new dry cough. We locked-down; the cleaners came-in. An ambulance outside had people figuring that something bad had happened.
It was half-truth and invention.
The guy was fine, over-reaction.
Were the same thing to have happened yesterday, Friday the 20th, we would have praised the actions of the team for stepping-up and doing what was appropriate.
I should be in bed.
It is too early – particularly on a Saturday to take Maisie on a walk; yet, I might just. This, to minimise social contact even more than my usual 5.30 weekday walkies.
My head is spinning.
The government continues to release information, the more there is, the more my head turns.
What should I convey as my parting message?
Well, I’d say to people to remain calm, do what you are advised by the government or your doctor, although, probably above everything else, use your own initiative. Work out what will work for you and your family; be creative, determine how best to do what you have always done, how to maintain distancing, how to buy bread and milk, how to call on the kindness of others.
Look after the children.
Look after the old.
Look after the doctor, nurses and other health and social care workers whose wellbeing is critical to that of others.
The next three, six or twelve months will bring-out the very best (and likely, the worst) in all of us. It is a time of test, trial and challenge. A call-out to our resilience and stoicism.
In 12 months, which of us will not be here?
Will this blog continue?
Remember, five years ago I didn’t think or plan to be in the middle of a pandemic.
Stop worrying or, worry, but tell yourself the only thing that works is action and, when you can’t act, do something to take your mind off the present.
Be well everyone.
This has been a week filled with love and hope and magic.