Generally, we’ve found the following to be a regular occurrence. (Timelines and locations are an approximation for scale)
9.00am: Think about crisis.
9.01am: Try not to get overwhelmed at grim reality.
9.04am: Successfully suppress feelings of anxiety.
1.43pm: Go to Lidl.
1.45:pm: Find out there’re no eggs.
1.46pm: Burst into uncontrollable tears.
And that’s a good day. But, we are mere laypeople; we walk around in the earth bumping into things and knocking stuff over and think we have it hard. We’re essentially idiots in an idiot soup. However, the croutons in this soup, the ones making the REAL difference, are the frontline healthworkers.
To put things lightly, we are stanning HARD on every single frontline member of the healthcare profession right now. We’re pretty sure if we put the face of Big T-Hol (Dr Tony Holohan, Head of Ireland’s Health Service Executive) on giant posters and put them online, they’d sell out quicker than hand sanitiser. We’d defo hang one in most rooms in our house, like a picture of the sacred heart in the home of a turbo Catholic grandmother.
And, who hasn’t gone online during an FB stream from your national health service update and just repeatedly jackhammered the heart emoji button in gratitude like they're trying to get a hole in one on Tiger Woods Golf on the PS4 circa 2008?
In all seriousness though, the love and awe are strong for the nurses and doctors at the moment and we wanted to chat to a few of them, but instead of grilling them about what we already know is an unimaginable situation, we thought we’d let them tell us what’s helping them stay afloat, and the things that are making them feel good when they’re living through the biggest health crisis in living memory.
“We don’t always get time to get a proper meal, but early into this, huge deliveries of food started coming into the hospital paid for by the public. We weren’t expecting it and I was absolutely starving at the time the first one came in. The mixture of surprise, gratitude and hunger being satisfied when I started eating got me very emotional with gratitude.” Steven, 32
“Anything to turn off the brain for a while in the snippets that I’m off. Sometimes I just rest but I dipped into Netfilx and ended up bingeing for the day. It’s great to switch off.” Sally, 26
“I wanted to stay within 2km of my house on my day off but keep it varied I’ve managed to find bits of nature that I hadn’t found and I felt like I was discovering a new country.” Steven.
“You might think I’m awful for this is terrible, but cigarette breaks are crucial for me. That feeling really calms me. I really should know better. But now’s not really the time to be putting myself through trying to quit.” Sally.
“The first glass of red wine when I’m off. Bliss.” Emma, 29.
“Seeing my friends and family crack up at home really makes me feel lucky to have somewhere to go during the day. It might seem counterintuitive, but at a time like this being able to feel like I have a purpose and can help in any way at all is something I find really heartening.” Niall, 21.
“Patients’ attitudes in the hospital have been really surprising. I have found that there is a really great level of understanding of the pressures staff are under. It feels like there has been a change from sometimes negative undertones to a more positive feeling towards staff and the services we’re providing. It’s really great to see and I hope it continues.” Niall.
“I’m living with my sister at the moment because I was looking for a new place when the lockdown happened, and her kids are a breath of fresh air. They have this magical way of looking at the world and it’s impossible not to be happy around them.” Emma.
“I suppose it’s obvious really, but the team I work with are amazing, and camaraderie is higher than ever. What we’re experiencing isn’t a laughing matter, and people tend not to know what to say, but my colleagues are going through it too so the shared experience is a relief.” Liam. 30.
Mates and Family
“I feel really lucky to have great friends and being able to do a video quiz and just have the craic or just like we would in person is great. It’s when my family gets involved and I’m trying to explain to my granny over the phone how to join a Zoom meeting, that’s when the laughs really start.” Niall.
“A really hot shower. The kind where you get a bit dizzy. You can only really think about cooling down and not fainting. It’s nicely distracting.” Steven.
“It seems obvious but the recoveries from the virus are incredibly heartening. It the whole reason we’re here and makes it all worthwhile.” Liam.
“It’s becoming apparent that the public has done what they were asked and from our point of view, that realisation genuinely brings a tear to my eye. We’re not out of the woods yet, but knowing that what could have happened, didn’t because of the public staying put and making this massive joint effort, that’s incredibly humbling.” Liam.
“I definitely feel like after this is all over we will look at our health service and realise the neglect it’s suffered for however many years is not something we will tolerate anymore. This crisis has gone to show that when we want to we can reach full staffing levels and create a working environment people want to work in, so I hope that by the time I graduate as a doctor Ireland will have a health service that I will want to work in.” Niall.
So that’s it, from the heroes themselves. We spoke to frontline health workers from Ireland, the UK and Australia for this piece and they were uniformly self-effacing about their situation and generous with their time responding to this, during the worst period of their professional lives. The true croutons in the soup. We can only hope that they do get a health service that treats them like they should be when this is all over. (And that someone will be willing to buy 10,000 surplus giant posters of a senior Irish health official.
We made a donation to Mater Hospital Foundation to assist frontline workers in Ireland. If you would like to do so, please click here.
Here is a list of ways you can donate to the NHS
Here are some ways to help the Australian Health Service
Alternatively, search the health service donations in your region and please give generously.