“It is really hard, but I take strength from working with a team”

6 May, 2020

Miriam is one of our greatest treasures.  She is a specialist nurse and is a key member of our team.  With news of the lockdown and the rising number of people affected by COVID-19, Miriam joined the group of front line health care professionals fighting against the virus.  We are very much looking forward to her return and her re-joining the team at Debra, but in the meantime we would like to share her experiences with you and take this opportunity to send our love and support to all of the healthcare professionals working in hospitals nationwide.

Tell us about your work at the hospital?

My role is to provide care for patients with Covid-19.  I am currently working on one of the 14 floors at one of the biggest hospitals in Madrid that has designated floors for patients with the virus.

I treat approximately 25 patients (there are usually 3 or 4 nurses on duty) and we work 7-hour shifts.  There is very little time for any kind of break.  We take it in turns to wear the required PPE equipment and we wear this for an average of between 2 and 4 hours at a time.  The protective eye wear steams up and it is difficult to breathe wearing the masks for prolonged periods, making our work extremely difficult. However, the most difficult part is keeping a distance from our patients and this is further accentuated because we are totally covered up and we are only with patients for reduced periods of time.  We try to offer some words of comfort and encouragement, smile beneath our masks, we listen to the patients needs, read their letters and help them make contact with family members using videoconferencing tools or phones.

These are very difficult times and even more so for healthcare professionals on the front line.  Where do you get the strength to help and protect patients affected by the virus?

I am not going to deny that it has been and it is really hard, but I take strength from working with a team.  There are no barriers between us and we are all fighting the same war.  I know I am doing the right thing and that this is where I need to be at this time.  There is something very special about working in care that makes you want to help and to be there for others. The intensity of emotions can be overwhelming and you can find yourself crying and laughing at the same time.  But, it is always worth it.

People with EB form part of the high risk and vulnerable group of people.  What advice should they follow?

The Coronavirus can affect anyone although we know that it affects children less and that they have less severe symptoms.  However, I would advise everyone and above all those who are vulnerable, to take the necessary precautions, as currently we have no other solution to offer.

I would recommend staying at home to keep safe, but as they start easing the quarantine conditions ensure that if you go out make sure you stay at least 2 meters away from other people.  Make use of surgical masks in enclosed areas or spaces where it is difficult to maintain safe distances.  It is important to clarify that the masks do not protect you from the virus, but are used as a preventative measure for people who are asymptomatic or could be carriers without their knowledge.

The most important advice is to wash your hands with soap frequently and for at least 20 seconds (or the time it takes to sing two happy birthdays), avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and if you cough or sneeze use a tissue or your arm and wash your hands immediately.

This advice comes from the official guidelines and although it sounds repetitive we must appreciate that these are preventative measures and all we can do until we can find a real solution to the crisis.  We need to keep positive and stay safe.

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