North-east health workers have urged people to stick to the rules as they reveal how they have gone through the toughest of times fighting Covid-19.
Frontline staff have been working long shifts in full protective equipment in a bid to save as many lives as possible.
Two staff working in critical care at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary – nurse manager Helen Paddon and consultant Lee Allen – told the Evening Express of the “devastating” impact the disease has had on families.
Working with the most desperately ill coronavirus patients, Helen and Lee have seen first-hand the effect of the virus.
The pair believe there is light at the end of the tunnel amid promising news of effective coronavirus vaccinations – but pleaded with members of the public to stick by current rules for a while longer to keep others safe.
Helen said: “The threat of Covid is absolutely real. It’s not gone away and we would encourage the public to remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions, look after themselves and each other and be kind.
“We’ve seen some devastating consequences of the virus on people and families. It’s been a very distressing time for a lot of families and the team here.
“The threat is absolutely still here and we hope the public understand that.
“The Grampian population are being really good about sticking to the rules so we would tell them to keep doing what they are doing.”
Lee added: “There are a number of factors which have played into the number of cases being lower here. Aberdeen was subjected to the local lockdown and that is probably a big reason why we are seeing lower numbers.
“Isolation and lockdowns do have an effect so it is really important people listen to the current rules and continue to stick by them.
“Most people don’t get to see what we see. It is vital we get the message out there that this disease affects people badly and not everyone comes through it.
“The public needs to take simple precautions, and it’s not a big ask to do things like wearing a face covering or washing your hands.
“As well as saving lives, it allows us to maintain an element of normality in our day-to-day lives.”
Since Covid-19 arrived in the north-east almost 10 months ago, health professionals have learned a great deal about the disease and how it affects the human body.
That, Lee said, has allowed medics to treat patients more effectively and increase their chance of overcoming the virus.
He said: “The way we treat patients has changed. There are a lot of similarities to how we would treat patients normally when they present with similar viruses.
“However, what we were dealing with at the beginning was a complete unknown. Since then, we have learned a bit more about the virus and we can now anticipate some of the complications. That allows us to refine our treatments.
“Outbreaks don’t come along very often or with this severity. The novel coronavirus is unprecedented in terms of its impact across the world.
“At the beginning of the year we didn’t know what to expect, and NHS Grampian did very well to create so much critical care capacity for patients needing multiple-organ support.
“That was a huge task to get that done but it meant we were in a good position.
“Our teams have managed the outbreak here exceptionally well.”
Helen, who leads a team of nurses all working to treat those affected by the virus, paid tribute to the staff who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.
She said: “This has been the toughest period of everyone’s careers in the health service. The last 10 months have been incredibly challenging but the message we want to get out is that we are so proud of the team in critical care. They have done an absolutely amazing job.
“They are working so hard in full PPE for 12-hour shifts, so working conditions are not pleasant. They are looking after the sickest patients, and the quality of care and professionalism they are showing has been absolutely astounding.
“The public in Grampian can be reassured because the level of care and expertise is absolutely world-class.”
Despite positive news regarding a vaccine – with the Scottish Government’s health secretary Jeane Freeman announcing a programme is set to begin by the end of the year – Lee and Helen believe it may be some months yet before life begins to get back to normal.
However, the pair welcomed the development – and said the lessons learned from the pandemic will benefit the healthcare service in the future.
Helen said: “We are all really hoping this vaccine is going to have a positive impact on the way the public look at the situation.
“The main thing is we all want this gone. Nobody wants Covid to be here this time next year – but a lot of the planning we have put in place around this will make us more ready for the future.”
Lee added: “The government are talking about spring next year in terms of getting the majority of the public vaccinated.
“I think we are probably looking at that sort of time before we see normality begin to creep back in.
“It might be a few months yet. That’s one of the most difficult things – we don’t know exactly how long this is still going to last.
“It very much hinges on how quickly we can get the vaccine rolled out and how many people in the country we can give it to.”