Sometimes we are the ones who need some care

A painting of a doctor in an intensive care unit
Dr. J

Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine and Anaesthetics

As part of the Our Frontline campaign to support the mental health of all those out working to protect us during the coronavirus crisis, we’ll be regularly sharing stories, tips and other thoughts about what life is like for them at the moment, in their own words.

I am ‘Dr J’, a Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine and Anaesthetics at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. Over the past year, the ICU at Addenbrooke’s has admitted nearly 400 critically ill patients with Covid-19 – every single person a poignant reminder of the devastation that this disease has inflicted but also a reflection of the power of humanity to overcome adversity.

Watching my team rise to the challenge has been a beacon of light throughout

This past year has personally taken me on a tumultuous journey with long periods of despair and darkness as a result of physical and emotional hurt. These periods were interspersed with moments of hope for better times ahead and immense satisfaction when a battle had been won. The bleakest hours are now behind me and the raw wounds are healing, but I shall carry the scars with me. Aside from my family, and seeking professional help when I needed it most, it has been my team that have carried me through the darkest times – watching them rise to the challenge in the most difficult of circumstances, whilst always continuing to provide exceptional care, compassion and empathy, has been a beacon of light throughout.

Each one of us has our own individual story and has made our own individual sacrifices, but we also have a shared story – one that was forged at the bedside in the depths of the night whilst fighting to save the fathers, the mothers, the sons, the daughters, the brothers and the sisters, all of whom entrusted their lives in our hands. The shared story and the shared memories will be of comfort to some – it will allow reflection and healing with friends and colleagues.

A painting of a doctor in an intensive care unit

ICU doctor, Doctor J, painted by classical artist Heath Rosselli, which captures the mental toll of the pandemic on frontline workers. The painting will be shown in NHS staff areas, starting with Addenbrooke’s Hospital, to encourage frontline workers to access mental health support, through Our Frontline.

For others this will not be enough. They need to know additional help and support is there, both within the Intensive Care Unit, the hospital and from outside. I was not afraid to seek help when I needed it; when I had lost sight of the joys of the world and was walking the sleepless night-time streets, I reached out and help was there.

Do not put it off, do not make excuses - seek help

It is OK to be OK, but it is OK to not be OK. Look inside yourself, and if, like me, you find you are not OK and need help then please ask. We spend our lives doing our best and being our best for those in our care, sometimes we are the ones who need some care. Do not put it off, do not make excuses – seek help. A whole support network is there to catch you and cradle you. You are not alone in this.

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