The doctor who brought the coronavirus to the world’s attention in China and subsequently died, was an ophthalmologist. So, although I’m aware of the risks (I still think of myself as young and invincible), I would not dream of classing myself as working on the ‘frontline’ during this COVID-19 pandemic; to do so would detract from the heroic efforts of medical staff working in critical care settings and intensive care facilities. I chose the right career many years ago in ophthalmic surgery, to avoid the intense work currently being performed by my critical care colleagues. My work life at the moment is much reduced from normal, as sight-threatening treatments are put on hold for more life-threatening emergencies. Having to put on the personal protective equipment we see on the news to carry out my emergency operations, I cannot comprehend how fellow doctors can work like this for hours on end; fortunately eye operations are usually not too long but the heat, sweat and utter feelings of claustrophobia I experience when gowned up are sometimes unbearable, on top of trying to perform delicate eye operations.
We all have our fears however. I fear that if the crisis develops further, I will also be redeployed from work which I am totally familiar with and experienced in, to look after critically ill patients; after all, the Nightingale hospital is only about 10 minutes away from my home in London. Plans have been put in place to redeploy and train us but I fear that after 25 years of not seeing ‘sick’ patients, my skillset is not up to the rigours of patients on ventilation. So far, I have been lucky and I pray that the NHS can cope with the number of patients and there are enough more suitably trained medical staff to deal with the pandemic.
I also fear that when some lockdown restrictions have been lifted, we are not able to cope with all the patients who need to return to the hospital for treatment and I fear that many patients may have irreversibly lost vision from their isolation.
I utterly miss being able to come home to Portaferry at the weekends and see my partner and family and worship at Portaferry Church on Sundays and I pray that I will be able to travel soon but the weekly Zoom services keep me in touch with the congregation and community at large in Portaferry, which I so miss and is so important in these troubling times.