I am not afraid to admit I was naïve at the start of all this. I distinctly remember joking to my mum back in January, you will know it is bad if we get a patient with coronavirus in my intensive care unit (ICU). We now have almost thirty. I think bad is an understatement.
I am not the only one. I do not think any of us, when listening to the news a few months ago, ever thought we would be in the situation we are now in. I think some of us still do not know, or at least fully appreciate the scale of the crisis. When speaking with some nurses who have been redeployed to my ICU they said they did not realise how severe it was. They remember explaining to their friends and families it was bad, but they did not know how bad, until they came and saw for themselves.
It all felt so far away in the early days. There was no way it would get like that here. But then it started to edge closer and closer to home. The death toll rose in Italy. Hospitals were overrun. Doctors and nurses were physically and mentally exhausted. The country was in lockdown. I knew we would not be far behind.
I remember thinking it was a disease that only caused the old and the sick to become critically unwell and die. However this is simply not the case. The Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) released a report last week showing the data of the first 5578 patients admitted into ICU and were positive for coronavirus. It showed the average age of the patients was sixty. Of the 2936 patients whose outcomes were obtained, 1499 had died. That shows a 50% mortality rate. It also showed a majority were fully independent (required no assistance with daily activities) before admission.
At the start of all this I was not worried about catching it. I was more worried about passing it onto someone who could become seriously ill with it. But now, I am scared. At this point in time, there is no clear or evidential reason why some people become critically unwell and some do not. Like sepsis, even like cancer, it does not appear to be very choosy, but it knows how to reek havoc in its wake. As I write this over 16,000 people have died and I am sure when this blog goes out it will have risen.
We have had young and old, men and women fill our ICU. This virus does not care who you are. Up and down the country ICUs have had grandparents who have just retired, sons who have just got married, daughters who have just graduated, brothers who just ran a marathon, sisters who have just had their first baby, mums and dads who are leaving children behind admitted because they have become life threateningly unwell.
It breaks my heart when I go out for my once daily bit of exercise and I see large groups of people walking, running, and cycling in such proximity to each other. Such proximity to me. If they only knew what I do. If only they could see what I see.
I underestimated the severity of this pandemic. I underestimated the severity of the disease itself. Do not think you are invincible. I do not anymore.
Keep healthy, stay safe.