“It felt like people were more appreciative of what we do” – Physiotherapist Melissa shares her experience
When the UK went into lockdown back in March, those working in hospitals found themselves on the frontline as the COVID-19 crisis unfolded.
Melissa Gullett (26) is a senior physiotherapist in neurological rehabilitation at a Surrey hospital. When the virus broke out, Melissa and her colleagues had to react quickly to the change in environment.
“The whole stroke unit physically moved to another ward in order to keep the hospital split up into zones” she explained. The type of care Melissa had to provide to stroke patients also had to be altered. “We couldn’t take people into the gym, which we usually use everyday, so we had to be a little more creative in our bedside rehabs.”
While many of us read about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortages in the news, for Melissa this was a distressing reality. “We weren’t given the correct PPE in the beginning which was scary,” she shared.
Other medical staff were able to give advice over the phone to avoid moving from ward to ward but the physical nature of the physiotherapist role meant that it was impossible to administer care in this way. Melissa explained that this created “an internal moral battle because obviously you want to put patient care first but you’re worried about catching the virus yourself when providing the treatment.”
Luckily, she was fitted with appropriate PPE eventually but this brought with it new challenges. “For a lot of our patients who rely on lipreading to communicate, it’s been really difficult with a mask.” Again, Melissa was able to overcome this new obstacle by adapting quickly. “We tried to communicate with our eyes to show that we were smiling and were more expressive with our body language”.
The camaraderie amongst the hospital staff was a source of strength for Melissa. She said: “Everyone was so positive and pulled together. We all understood what our colleagues were going through and would always find the time to properly check in on one another.”
Addressing the weekly nationwide clap, she said: “It felt like people were a lot more appreciative of what we do.” She hopes that this appreciation endures as the last few months have left her feeling burnt out.
Like many frontline staff Melissa’s annual leave was cancelled, meaning her annual trip to Greece to visit her family was postponed. She’s planning to go later this summer and said “I’m so excited to have a break and be reunited with my family. I feel like I don’t take anything for granted now; I’m grateful that they’re all ok and I can go and see them at last.”
If you’d like to help key workers like Melissa have a well earned break, please donate to our Give Them a Break fund.