Lisa works as a Housekeeper at St Clare Hospice, playing a vital role in ensuring the Hospice is clean and hygienic at all times. But she also works as a Nursing Assistant on the Inpatient Unit, and has been caring for patients throughout the Covid-19 outbreak.
Lisa has been on the real Frontline of our Hospice services throughout the pandemic, sometimes working two shifts back to back as a Housekeeper and Nursing Assistant – and working six days a week to ensure our patients are cared for.
Here Lisa speaks about the real challenges her, and her family, have faced through this unprecedented time.
Q: You have faced many challenges during this outbreak, including contracting coronavirus yourself. How are you feeling now?
A: “I had Covid back in early April and was really poorly, and I am still on inhalers now until my lungs fully recover. The tiredness has also been horrendous – that affected me for several weeks after I recovered. My sense of smell and taste still haven’t returned to normal after 10 weeks – it just takes time.”
“I cried when I found out that I had tested positive for Covid – I was just so shocked as I thought I wouldn’t have it. Three of my children also caught coronavirus – they recovered within a few days after they slept it off. But I became quite unwell and had to go into hospital with breathing problems. It felt like a foot pressing on my chest – I couldn’t fill my lungs properly. In hospital the doctors were asking me to tell my story – because they are still learning and trying to understand this new virus.”
“I was fortunate and recovered, and I came back to work after about two weeks – as soon as I was symptom free and it was safe to do so. I still want to keep working, throughout the pandemic. I am here for the patients, and I am here for the Hospice.”
“Having Covid hasn’t put me off. I love my job, and I have a passion for caring for people. If I won the lottery I would still do this job!”
Q: How has coronavirus changed your role at the Hospice?
A: “I have been working a lot during this outbreak – sometimes doing a housekeeping shift, then having a break, and doing a nursing assistant shift in the afternoon. I have been working 6 days a week and having 1 day off. We have been short of Housekeepers, and the increased cleaning regimes at the Hospice mean we have to have more staff on than before. I also haven’t turned down any Nursing Assistant shifts – so I have been really busy.”
“The Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) has been one of the biggest changes. After I had Covid and I came back to work, I found it really hard putting all the PPE on. Looking back, I wonder how we managed to make it through the heatwave we had, wearing all that kit – masks, visors, goggles, full length gown, aprons, gloves and shoe covers. It takes about 5 minutes to get the full PPE on before you can even enter a patient’s room.”
“The masks have to be so tight behind your ears. The constant washing and sanitising makes your hands so sore and dry. But you just have to follow the guidelines and get on with it.”
“It can be really hard speaking to patients through so many layers – two masks and a visor. But you try to make light of all the PPE and tell jokes to help them feel less scared.”
“I take my hat off to all my colleagues on the Inpatient Unit; I’ve only been working half the time on the Unit but other nursing staff were doing 12 hour shifts in the full PPE. Day after day. Everyone was working so hard, it was a real team effort.”
“Family members visiting the Hospice must find it hard as well. They have to enter through the patient’s patio doors and cannot leave the patient’s room – and there are no communal areas in use now. The unit looks very different with a big empty space in the middle.”
“I have been trying to make the patients smile throughout this time. There was one man in the unit, and I used to dance outside his room to make him laugh. Every morning I would dance to a different song as I went past his room in the morning.”
“When it comes to go home we have to get changed before we leave, and put our uniform in a bag ready to be washed. When I arrive home I get changed in the porch and go straight upstairs to shower. I have to tell my children not to touch me, or the bag of clothes, and then I put all the clothes in a hot wash. I’ve been doing this throughout the pandemic – so it has become routine now, and I’ve drummed it into my children!”
Q: What do you think you will remember most when this pandemic is over?
A: “I’ve been keeping a diary throughout the pandemic, and writing everything down in a book for my children. This time will all go down in history – they will be teaching children this period of time in school one day. Never in my lifetime did I think this would ever happen.”
“I remember sitting in my car one day crying, near the start of the outbreak, because I had just done a 12 hour shift and couldn’t find any toilet roll in the shop. They had all been bought up. During the time when we had caught covid, we had terrible headaches, but we couldn’t get paracetamol anywhere – and didn’t have any for two days. That was really hard.”
“Things all feel a lot calmer now, than they did in the early days. There have been lots of small acts of kindness and good things to come out of this time.”
“I read something lately, and it has really stuck with me – ‘when the world stayed apart, people came together’. It makes me really emotional, and I think it is lovely.”
“I think this situation has brought people together – there has been more kindness, compassion and understanding. People are talking with their neighbours more, and chatting to people in their communities. I was in a shop on VE Day and I managed to get the whole lot singing Vera Lynn – We’ll meet again! It was a special moment I will never forget.”