Last week I started working in a COVID-19 positive ward, where patients have either been rescued or transferred from care facilities around Victoria.
My mum took this photo of me through an inch wide window, in a door separating the COVID ward from the theatre department where she works. Seeing me in full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), through a locked door that’s been sealed with hazard tape (and all other COVID things going on), was all too much.
She is proud of me, but she is scared. Naturally, I tried to smile under my mask, give the thumbs up and show her I’m okay. But as I see the tears roll down her face, the seriousness of the situation hits home and I find myself tearing up too.
I want to rip off my gown and mask, jump through the door and hug her to make her feel better. Instead I put my hand to the glass, and she does the same, as more tears roll down her face. I hold back my own because in this area, you don’t dare touch your face at any point.
I also know that for me, this period of not being with my family has an end date. For some of the people I’m caring for, they haven’t physically seen or touched a family member since February, and some may not get that chance again. These people have been kept isolated in their rooms for months, they’ve only seen masks and gowns, only touched gloves, and only heard their loved ones' voices through devices for a few minutes a day.
It’s heartbreaking to hold their hand while they cry and see their daily struggle, so I won’t shed a tear for my situation, because in this PPE I can’t even shed a tear for theirs.
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The PPE is horrible; the plastic gowns are hot and sweaty and they stick to your skin. I have pressure sores in between my thumbs and index fingers from where the thumb holes have been pulling because the arm lengths are too short. But as soon as you take one gown off after being with a patient, you’re not comfortable again until you’ve put a fresh gown back on and feel protected again.