To go to work, I walk under the hospital, past the ambulance bay. One day, at the end of March, as I made my way past the line of ambulances, I noticed two giant generators. They were blowing ice cold air as I walked round them towards to the hospital entrance. By this point, our intensive care unit (ICU) had thirty patients and I knew there was lots of coronavirus positive patients throughout the hospital. I knew we would be using more and more energy, therefore I simply assumed that they were for extra energy demand.
I was wrong. They were fridges. They were fridges for the mortuary.
There is a fifty/fifty survival rate if you become so critically unwell with coronavirus, that you require to be ventilated (a machine breathes for you). I also heard that many people had died on wards as ICU would not have been appropriate or kind for some. However there was something about seeing those two fridges that brought it all horribly home. Horribly home that many of the general public had no idea how bad this situation was. The death toll then was about 2,000. As I write this the death toll is over 30,000.
Over 30,000 people have died in the last two months. Numbers do not give us feelings. They do not make us emotive. It is easy to forget these numbers are people. People who have lived. People who have loved and are loved. People with heartbroken friends and families left behind. People who would be alive today if it was not for this horrendous disease.
Although the daily death toll is slowly going down the overall death toll is an ever climbing number. I find it strange as I see the numbers and know I have been with some of those 'numbers' when they have died. Usually with only one family member with them, or even worse with family over video call. I am the one who washed them after they died. I am the one who put them in the body bag. When I see the daily death toll, I see their death become a statistic. It is vital we remember their death is not a piece of data. Their life is the most important thing in the world to someone. Someone who loved them.
I know there are some people who have been very fortunate to not have been personally affected by the devastation this virus can cause. So it can be difficult to process and appreciate these figures. They are hard to believe if you cannot see it first hand. But I can tell you now, the truth is so hard to stomach. The more I write, the more my heart breaks.
All I ask is when you hear or read about the death toll. Do not ignore it. Process it. Think about the people who have lost their lives and their families left behind. Think how beautiful their life must have been. We need to ensure these people are remembered for the people they were, not simply a statistic. Think how can I respect that life lost? How can I help to reduce this loss and suffering. We all need to do our bit. We are all in this together.