Friday 18 February 2022

Front liner

 Looks like Coronarama is over?! I went to visit an old student in their place of work because I was in the neighbourhood. I masked up when I got out of the car, and (out of courtesy?) they pulled out a disposable mask and put that on. Nobody else inside the building was masked. That evening on the way home, the old chap in front of me in the line in the gas-station was unmasked and nobody chid him for it. Whatevs, I've had a very easy two years of it. I gave, and students endured, only a token handful of online classes before I was put out to grass. Literally; almost every day I've been on the home place, either occupying the sofa, as now while I write, or wandering about the fields counting sheep or trimming hedges. The inheritance of privilege is that I never felt vulnerable to infection or worried about the outcome if that should come to pass. The Boy, and his family in England, seem to have copped a 'Rona from school but even that has passed off uneventfully-ish. ICU, intubation, full metal PPE, long-covid; all seem like distant drums.

It is, accordingly, salutary to hear from the coal face which I did last week audiobooking A Nurse's Story: My Life in A&E During the Covid Crisis by Louise Curtis and Sarah Johnson. Curtis is an APC [advanced clinical practitioner] working in an anonymous A&E unit in the North of England. Johnson is an interested journalist who knocked Curtis's diary into shape as a page-turner. An APC is like a power-nurse, whose expertise and training is recognised to the extent that she is authorized to write some prescriptions . . . but not to order up some classes of tests and interventions. For that, she needs the spotty youth, fresh out of medical school, because they have an MB.

It's a rather understated account of Curtis' experience at the coal-face of the pandemic. And this has attracted some adverse comment from people who wanted a different, angrier or bloodier presentation of the pandemic and its impact. The supply failure for PPE is not used to launch a polemic against the corruption and incompetence of the British government's response. If you are gowned up, as if for Ebola, then you need to pro-actively hydrate before your shift and you're better off with a really young bladder. Because taking a drink or a leak is a major and time-consuming faff and A&Es are in their nature busy places, needing all the Effectives in place.

One thing that comes over is that the staff in A&E have seen it all "I've seen more vaginas than I've had chocolate biscuits", so your peculiar issue [or discharge] is not going to phase or disgust them. The other fact is that a subset of society occupies a disproportionate amount of collective hospital time. Each unit will have their regulars, who come back, all banged up, again and again. Drugs, homelessness and domestic abuse are problems not really in the remit of the Emergency Room to solve. The Pandemic is the catalyst for getting this story written and published but it's not really about the pandemic. It's more about every day finding resilience, compassion and competence in a metier for which most of us would be self-declared unable. Hats off, scrubs on!

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