‘Contained in the hope for you’: loving a clinician during a pandemic
Alongside the challenge of isolating, how to manage when it is your child on the front line? Julie Browne, Honorary Editor at The BSDJ, shares her challenges, fears and hopes for her daughter, Rosie, who is a clinician on the front line.
COVID-19 has turned the world on its head.
The night my daughter was born, I held her close and whispered to her, “I promise to protect you and take care of you for as long as I live.” But a quarter of a century later, she is one of the host of young NHS staff who are all that stands between older people like me and one of the worst pandemics the world has seen in many decades. She is now the one protecting me, and people like me, and all I can do is stand by and watch.
"She is now the one protecting me"
As I write this, the hospital where Rosie works is still in the process of gearing up for a flood of desperately ill people. Rosie is a recovery nurse, currently spending her time helping to convert operating theatres and the recovery suite into ITUs ready to receive the casualties. All at the same time as looking after her regular patients. The staff are already beginning to feel the strain as numbers of new patients increase daily; but they know the worst is yet to come.
The last time I saw Rosie, three weeks ago, she hugged me and told me she would not be seeing me again for many weeks. So we are having to find new ways to maintain our relationship at a distance. I’m learning to let go a bit, and she’s learning how to help me understand what she’s going through.
These are the little things I’m grateful for right now as Rosie’s mum:
1. She keeps in touch. I don’t expect an hour’s video call every day but I really appreciate a short daily text to say she’s okay. I know she’s busy, but when she doesn’t contact me I start to panic.
2. She’s patient with the fact that I can’t understand. As a non-clinician, I have no idea what her working life is like unless she chooses to tell me. So if I ask stupid, selfish or insensitive questions, she’s gentle with my ignorance. She knows it’s only because I really want to imagine what it’s like for her.
3. She lets me do the little things for her that I can do. It’s not much, but I was so pleased to be able to arrange for a delivery of some small essentials that she didn’t have time to order herself. I don’t want to interfere - but I do want to help if I can, and I’m grateful she lets me.
4. She doesn’t try to pretend when things are not okay. When she’s had a bad day, a small text to say she’s not feeling up to talking right now is enough. I don’t want her to feel she has to tell me things are fine when they aren’t; she’ll tell me if she wants to, in her own good time.
5. She doesn’t over-dramatise. She doesn’t try to impress me with stories of thrilling life-and-death situations where she is alone against impossible odds, because she knows that it would only frighten me. She tells it as it is and never fails to remind me that she’s part of a team. She’s always a hero to me, whatever she does; and I hope she realises that.
Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University
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