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  • Richard Cree

Mr Hasslehoff, Tear Down This Wall

Updated: Apr 25

Sunday March 29th 2020


COVID Figures for 28 March

UK Deaths 246 / Total 1019

James Cook Hospital Critical Care - 14 cases (3 suspected) / 11 ventilated

A cold bike ride into work today with flurries of snow en route. Lots of wildlife out and about, enjoying a world without humans – I saw two barn owls, four hares, many geese and a deer. At least the pandemic appears to be good news for the country’s wildlife, if not for the rest of us.

Today’s shift started well. I was reunited with the other members of A-Team (as I think we shall remain named) and I was allocated to the High Dependency Unit (HDU). We had a smattering of ‘regular’ patients who weren’t giving us too much trouble as well as 3 suspected COVID patients, awaiting test results. Once the suspected patients test positive they are transferred to one of the COVID ICUs or if they are negative they move out to the ‘regular ICU’s’ now housed in the Cardiothoracic ICU and the Post Anaesthetic Care Unit.

Unsurprisingly, we are seeing increasing numbers of COVID patients. The first was an asthmatic patient in their 50's who required intubation and ventilation shortly after arriving in A&E. The second was a gentleman in his late 70's who had deteriorated on the ward and was transferred to ICU for CPAP.

Our next call was from A&E again to ask us to see a young man who was unconscious. He’d overdosed on heroin and required critical care. We can currently accommodate him but it’s hard not to be judgemental - we could really do without this type of admission taking up valuable beds at the moment.

The strangest task I performed today was to remove the temporary partition that had been erected between the two ICU’s which is no longer needed now that both units are nearly full of COVID patients. Having the units connected increases the pool of staff available for when a patient deteriorates in a hurry and needs emergency attention.

So the partition had to go. It was essentially a timber frame with panels screwed to it and made airtight with sealant. Unfortunately, none of the maintenance staff had been tested for FFP3 facemasks and so could not enter either unit to perform the work. I offered to take the partition down but was amazed to find that no-one was able to provide me with a screwdriver. I improvised using a broken scalpel and a surgical arterial clamp but this was a protracted, laborious task made much worse by all the protective gear I was wearing. Once the panel was off and I had cut through the sealant, it was a case of wrestling the frame to the floor. Hot and bothered, I celebrated the reunification of the two intensive care units, much like David Hasselhoff in front of a fallen Berlin Wall. Only without the flashing leather jacket...


Shortly thereafter, someone handed me what I can only assume is the one screwdriver in the whole sodding hospital.

Whilst I was struggling with my manual labour, we received information that a member of the public had been arrested after vandalising multiple cars in the staff car park. Windscreens were smashed, tyres slashed and paintwork scratched and/or dented. Most of the cars belonged to the nursing staff who were working with me today. This sort of behaviour at this time is unfathomable. The nurses were all dreadfully upset and very, very angry. It’s a good job the police caught him before they did.

The evil bastard had better pray he doesn’t become ill and need ventilating…

Toward the end of the day we admitted another patient in their 50's from the ward and an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in a patient in their 40's. The patient had been suffering from a fever and a cough for a few days prior to the arrest. We suspect that this is due to coronavirus myocardarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle causing heart failure or a dangerous heart rhythm). We have seen a small but significant number of younger patients arrest at home since the outbreak began. These numbers are more than we would expect as, mercifully, cardiac arrest is very rare in this age group.

Got home late, tired and very hungry and realised that I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. Fortunately my son had been baking with Nicky today (this is far from usual) and there was a big slice of Mississippi Mud Pie waiting with my name on it. Sweet!

(Part of) the A-Team

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