‘We were frightened’ – healthcare workers on Covid-19

Thousands of frontline workers have been at the coalface of the Covid-19 pandemic.

For those working in hospitals, residential homes and healthcare settings, it's been one the toughest years of their careers.

More than 12,000 healthcare workers became ill, and eight died as they worked to help the ill and elderly.

Here, some of those workers share their reflections on an incredibly difficult year.

Ronnie Weston is the security manager at a Dublin hospital. It is often he or someone on his team who is the first to meet a Covid-19 patient, in need of hospital treatment. 

"It all kicked off the week after St Patrick's Day," he said.

"We all became a family, because we didn’t talk much when we went home maybe. But we talked about stuff that was happening here in the hospital," explained Ronnie.

Clíona Ní Cheallaigh is an infectious diseases and internal medicine physician.She spent this year working on a ward for Covid-19 patients.

"We were frightened, frightened for what we were going to have to face at work, frightened for what people were going to have to go through," she said.

"A nursing colleague spent a whole night singing songs to somebody who was dying on his own, that’s just incredible and so important."

"I’m going to carry that sadness, that sorrow for all the suffering and the grief and the isolation that people felt, especially during wave one. I think I’m going to carry that in some part of my heart for the rest of my life, and I think anybody else who cared for people during that will too," she explained.

Hannah Flemming is a healthcare assistant in a nursing home. She started her job just before Covid-19 hit Ireland.

"I really had to knuckle down and say right, I know I’m 20 and I love my social life but I have to stop, because all the people that are important to me they come first," she said.

"It was tough, the window visits and seeing the residents upset and especially their family members, those days were extremely tough. When I went home I wanted to hug my mam so much, even an air hug."

Joanne Dowds is a clinical specialist physiotherapist. She has been working on a respiratory ward with patients recovering from Covid-19.

She says "ten years of transformation happened" in the health service in the first month of the pandemic arriving in Ireland. 

"I think we’ve seen some of the extremes of people in the hospital, both the great and the good, and the horrendous experiences," she said.

"I have a new nephew that I’ve only seen three times and he’s walking now. I’d love to see him. But then again, I don’t know if I’ll be able to give him a cuddle, I’m not sure that’s something I’d be okay with, knowing what I do in here."

Adela Taina is a healthcare assistant. She’s from Romania and has worked in Irish nursing homes for five years. 

She said that this year was like "fighting an endless battle" which was "not going to finish his year".

"It was probably terrifying for the residents because we had to wear masks, the full aprons and PPE, and it was probably hard for them to recognise the faces of people that care for them," she said.

"I’m from Romania and it’s been hard and heart breaking to know that I can’t actually go home and visit my family this year."

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