On the frontline: “We’ve all been scared and overwhelmed, but we’re nurses”

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.

Cara Cooper is a Clinical Nurse Specialist at Trinity Hospice in Blackpool, currently working at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. Here she tells ehospice about her experience caring for patients who are dying before their time due to Covid-19.

Having worked in an acute hospital setting for 30+ years, I had been adjusting over the last 16 months to become a specialist palliative care nurse for Trinity Hospice within the teaching hospital at Blackpool; a different pace from what I was used to.

Then Covid-19 hit. If I’m honest a little part of me was looking forward to what might be ahead… I still love the rush and fast pace, (please don’t take that as I don’t care, because I do very much). I’m one of those nurses who loves to be in the thick of things, so when I was asked to review my first Covid-19 positive patient, I thought, ‘great, no problem’, and off I went.

What I found initially took me by surprise. Patients sitting up in bed, chatting away, eating and drinking, on 15L oxygen via a non-rebreathe face mask, with oxygen saturations in the 70s.  They didn’t look like they were going to die… yet the next day, they unfortunately had. But how come, when they didn’t look sick?

In truth I felt like I had failed some of them, because I didn’t believe they would die; they just didn’t look like they were dying.

My first traumatic Covid-19 patient was one who had been trialled on CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), but unfortunately this was not working and they could not tolerate wearing the face mask. The face mask is very tight and feels like putting your head out of a car window at 200 miles per hour – so hard for anyone to tolerate, never mind someone with Covid-19.

This patient was very frightened and agitated, and the ward was intense, so I felt I needed to stay and help.  I sat alongside the patient until they passed away two and a half hours later.

In those two and half hours, I made the first phone call to the family. It was time to say goodbye. I removed the patient’s face mask and listened as they said how much they loved each other, and to be strong to support their children. But then the patient couldn’t speak any more so I replaced the mask for a while and made two calls to the children.

I could hear the heartbreak and the sadness in their voices as they said their last goodbyes: “love you so much, love you so much”. It broke my heart too, and I’ll never forget hearing those words.

It’s just one of many similar encounters that my hospice colleagues and I have dealt with at the hospital over the last couple of months. On a daily basis we are supporting patients, staff and families throughout these uncertain times, often without thought to our own and our families’ health and wellbeing.

Don’t get me wrong, we have all been scared at times, and overwhelmed by the enormity of it all, but we are nurses, we have a duty to care, and we want to care. I am so proud of all that we are currently achieving and am privileged to work with such an amazing team.

For more information visit Trinity Hospice

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