Life, genocide and amiability on a Covid-19 ward: ‘We suspicion we were ready. But we were overwhelmed’


For dual weeks I’ve been documenting a response to Covid-19 by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in 3 hospitals: Charing Cross, St Mary’s and Hammersmith. From AE to a laboratories, admin staff to complete caring section (ICU) nurses, a initial sentinel to be switched to a Covid-19 conspirator and heart surgery, I’ve seen a complex, multidiscipline response to this predicament by a NHS. 

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What strikes me many is a professionalism and patience and, many importantly, a clarity of being a group where any actor is crucial. After one assembly a helper pulls me aside and says, “Please make certain we request a work of a cleaners. They’ve been amazing,” after another, a youth doctor, asked me to make certain we concentration on a nurses. Everybody is full of regard for their colleagues. Again and again I’m told, “I usually got by this given of a support of my team.”

Staff during Charing Cross Hospital AE. At a change of any change a teams accumulate to share information. The response to Covid-19 is constantly elaborating and staff need to be wakeful of new procedures and protocols, 11 May 2020

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This devise has sold definition to me. Following an collision in 2011 – we stepped on an IED while out in Afghanistan operative as a photographer – we spent a year in hospital, many of that time in wards of a hospitals I’m now documenting. Some of a staff I’m now operative with were obliged for saving my life. Indeed, it was they who asked me to come and request a hospitals during this rare time. It was a 46 days we spent in an ICU, many of that time on a ventilator, that left a many dire memories and returning was not an easy decision. The nightmares from that time have never left me.

Staff on a night change during St Mary’s paediatric ICU (PICU) check a patient’s monitor, 8 May 2020

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To enter an complete caring section during night is to enter a place of ghosts. It is a place between life and death, where patients’ lives are confirmed by machines and drugs that take over many of a body’s functions. The doctors and nurses, like modern-day alchemists, control a ventilators, drips, PICC lines, feeding tubes, drugs and monitors that means life. It’s a routine that doesn’t stop; even via a night a patient’s bloods and vicious signs are available and analysed and adjustments are made. There is a consistent buzz of servos, bleeps and alarms; lights peep and monitors record a smallest change in vicious signs. 

Dr Sabeena Qureshi holds a palm of a ventilated studious in St Mary’s PICU, 8 May 2020

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This work was tough adequate before Covid-19 yet now a charge is a heartless earthy conflict for a ICU staff. Scrubs, gloves, apron, shoe covers, disposable apron, mask, visor, second gloves and afterwards fasten contingency all be donned before entering a unit. It’s unbearably prohibited and tough to breathe by a mask; even a simplest of tasks is exhausting. Like a Grand Prix driver, a staff are pushed to a boundary of continuation while carrying to stay alert, as a impulse of daze could infer vicious to a patient’s survival. As a PPE takes so prolonged to mislay it’s unfit to stop for a sip of H2O or to take a toilet break. The teams are operative 12-hour shifts, mostly with usually one break.

Emergency technical partner João Carlos Ruivo Alves stairs into the ‘red zone’ (for Covid-19-positive patients) during Charing Cross AE, 11 May 2020

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A Covid-19 complete caring section is brutal: a sheer environment, a earthy strains, a believe that some patients won’t survive. Yet, notwithstanding all this, what we find in these units is a biggest of humanity. The staff go about their work with professionalism and focus. They are a strongest of teams, all ancillary any other and, many movingly, they provide their patients with such care and dignity.  

At Charing Cross Hospital AE, staff helper Mhelody M Castillo prepares a studious for a bandage exam that will establish if he is Covid-19-positive, 11 May 2020

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As a doctors do their rounds, even yet many patients are in prompted comas and those unwavering are hardly responsive, they take their time and pronounce to their patients, reason their hands, comfort and encourage. The nurses, notwithstanding being underneath so many pressure, do a same, always explaining what they are doing, looking into a eyes of their patients as they inject drugs by a PICC lines or take some-more bloods.

The night change group in St Mary’s PICU plead a diagnosis of a ventilated patient, 8 May 2020

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One studious has been taken off a ventilator and is solemnly waking from his prompted coma. Confused and disorientated by a drugs still in his physique and incompetent to pronounce given of a tracheostomy, he taps on his phone. No personal equipment are authorised in ICU – a staff contingency leave their mobiles and even ID cards outward – yet a one difference is any studious has their phone with them. As no family members are authorised to visit, this is their usually tie to a outward universe and their desired ones. He taps a phone again and sister Amy Hunter picks it up. “You wish to pronounce with your family?” Hunter asks. The patient’s eyes widen, pleading silently. Sister Hunter tries to clear his phone yet is unable. The studious is still too diseased to do it himself, so a helper places it behind down beside him and squeezes his hand. “We’ll figure it out, we promise. Till afterwards I’m here.”

The ICU night change group during St Mary’s PICU dons PPE before entering a unit, 8 May 2020

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“This pestilence felt like a outrageous call that was going conflicting a universe and it was going to strike us like a tsunami. we consider that time watchful was a many terrifying thing for me,” explains Dr Sabeena Qureshi. Normally, she is a consultant paediatric anaesthetist during St Mary’s Hospital, yet as a Covid-19 spread, her sentinel was switched to an adult ICU. 

Cleaners Rene Molinga and Raj Ramgi purify one of a bays in Charing Cross Hospital AE, 11 May 2020

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“In a network we were conference of hospitals that were suddenly, overnight, impressed by patients that were intubated and put on ventilators and we knew it was going to happen. We were ready, we were set adult and afterwards it didn’t strike for about a week and we thought, ‘Maybe it’s not going to happen?’ But that was a ease before a charge – literally a waves going out before a tsunami hit. And afterwards it hit.

St Mary’s PICU, 8 May 2020

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“Although we had been told by a counterparts in other countries ‘these patients are unequivocally sick’, we don’t consider we unequivocally understood. Then a initial patients came and we knew. We knew as doctors and nurses that whatever we did these patients were removing worse. We were impressed by a number, how ill they were and that they all came in during a same time. We suspicion we were prepared and afterwards we realised we had no idea. we don’t consider we realised utterly how spreading a illness was and utterly how harmful it was.

Jacinto Mendoza, a cleaner, with staff helper Cora Cosmod during Charing Cross Hospital AE, 11 May 2020

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“It was extraordinary how a nurses coped, given they are a infancy of a staff in ICU. It was a really concurrent effort. And nonetheless things were changing fast day by day, we were prepared to adapt. In a morning a devise was maybe X-Y-Z; by a afternoon we’d be behind to a start of a alphabet and off again, rewriting a book.”

At St Mary’s PICU, lead helper Amy Hunter tries to clear a patient’s phone so his family can pronounce to him for a initial time given entrance off a ventilator, 8 May 2020

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This initial call did get tighten to strenuous a NHS. This pathogen is complex, assertive and still not entirely understood. And, for a teams, they are traffic with a realization that what started as a scurry is branch into a marathon. The analogy many used when describing it to me is a Aids epidemic; patients mostly benefaction with treacherous and singular symptoms. 

Emergency technical partner João Carlos Ruivo Alves holding bloods in a red section of Charing Cross AE, 11 May 2020

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In a misfortune cases it seems to be a body’s possess response to a pathogen that is proof fatal. The many critical cases are a nonplus that deeply hurdles a clinical staff. I’ve documented frontline hospitals in warzones, Ebola outbreaks and worked with medical NGOs in other charitable crises and this pathogen is deeply worrying. This is not a flu. An rash second call or a slight turn of a pathogen could be catastrophic. As for a intensity extinction it could means in building countries or packaged interloper camps, it’s unimaginable.

Cleta Ng, a comparison sister during Charing Cross Hospital AE, takes a call about an incoming ambulance with a suspected Covid-19 patient, 11 May 2020

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The infancy of a staff I’ve met operative on these wards are disturbed with a word “hero”. It is, of course, used with best intentions, yet they are disturbed there is a risk we forget that a staff are human. Cleaners, porters, nurses, doctors, admin teams, lab technicians – all a staff have been underneath outrageous earthy and romantic highlight these past months and many will need support in a months ahead. They also need us to do a partial in creation certain they are not again faced with a turn of vigour reached during a peak. 

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Politicians and media constantly use a analogy of this being a fight and a NHS staff being during a frontline. we have witnessed fight and we can tell we that this is a opposite. War is abandoned of humanity. It is inhumane and cold. What we see in these hospitals is all that is good in humanity. The sanatorium staff, notwithstanding all their hurdles and fears, go about their work with calmness, professionalism, care and dedication. They are a best of us and we feel shamed to have witnessed their work.

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