Day one was always going to be tough. I didn’t really sleep well last night with the anxiety of the unknown plus a few weird specifics my brain decided to prioritise. First one was how to get to work. I normally get the bus but staff have been told that we can drive in and park for free, however the spaces were going quickly. I opted for driving because when I got up the buses were not showing any times and left about half an hour before I needed to. I arrived in plenty of time but just stood about in the sunshine waiting for the shuttle bus. Driving to work for the first time in a few years feels very odd!
I can see that line across my nose becoming permanent
My day has been busy and quite exhausting after having been off. It become very apparent the overstretching of everything that is happening in the NHS right now. The mortuary, for now like most others, is absolutely fine but this could all change depending on the situation over the coming days. Had my first day where I wore a face mask more often than not. Certain to not be my last. Also grabbed a free cup of tea on my way out from Costa, I cannot thank the companies giving out free things enough. It’s such a small but significant gesture.
In the evening I had a little, for want of a better term, breakdown at the situation. I have to face facts that not only is work going to be tough but my wedding, my promotion to being qualified and even the bathroom being fixed is all on hold. I phoned one of my best friends and just sobbed down the phone. I came to the conclusion this is all very much bigger than me and my personal problems.
Woke up feeling a lot more positive today after a much better sleep. Drove to work listening to Chris Moyles on Radio X which I haven’t done since I worked in finance three years ago. The streets are quieter today but still a lot of cars about even though the country is on ‘lockdown’.
I arrive at work and it’s not as bad as I thought it could be from overnight. My calmer feeling continues but also very aware that the situation can change and develop at any time. In the morning I saw a nurse from A&E who said that there are lots of people attending who don’t need to, but it’s hard to keep people away. Then bumped into a friend who works there who came to pick up some supplies from and said that it wasn’t too bad. Maybe it’s just all very subjective.
The afternoon is busy and the time flies by, I didn’t get out too late today. My hands are showing signs of constant washing, they burn with the sanitiser gel I use after walking from the mortuary to my car. There’s news today of a temporary hospital being developed at the ExCel Centre about ten miles from our hospital. It brings some relief at the thought there is a good reaction to what is happening now but also it’s terrifying to think people I know could be affected. Got in from work, had a bath and then went for a long walk to clear my head.
The day started in the knowledge that I was supposed to have had my spa day for one today as my treat to myself for having worked so hard on my course. Obviously it was cancelled and I’m heading to work. Driving to commute entirely now and not getting the staff shuttle bus as it was very busy yesterday.
The morning was good, I am enjoying speaking to funeral directors who are remaining cheery despite all of this. It’s a bit of contact while remaining socially distant of course. Some of the more pessimistic people seem to be revelling in the misery of it all but I cannot be like that. I am going to keep smiling through this. I wore my new socks that my fiancé got me last night in Tesco and that also made me smile.
Lunchtime we had pizza delivered by Pizza Hut which was excellent and made me so happy. There’s been a lot of confusion over the PPE and way in which the deceased should be cared for in the midst of this. We’re also listening to the Prime Minister say that the NHS will be tested ‘as soon as possible’. It’s all a very confusing and frustrating time. Things are changing so quickly day by day it’s hard to keep on top of it all. In all honesty it feels like I’ll wake up one day soon, until this becomes the normal.
The day ends with a delivery of scrubs including the medium size which has been hard to come by recently. I’ve been wearing all kinds of odd combinations of sizes. I’m really grateful to have my size, although the five sets won’t last long and we don’t know when we’ll get more. There’s also talk today that the South Essex crematorium nearby is using the car park as a mortuary soon and you can read it here. Measures really are happening quickly to deal with large numbers of deceased.
The biggest challenges so far are the fact all post mortems are now considered high risk so I can’t conduct them or help. This is not ideal staff wise and is incredibly frustrating being so close to being qualified but unsure of when I will be now assessments are postponed. Also, the general guidance from the AAPT, Royal College of Pathology and Public Health England all state the PPE to be used and measures in place for mortuaries but people still seem to be confused about it all. If you’re interested all the reference material is available here from the AAPT.
Of the three original annual leave days this week I had I kept one because of two reasons. I have a counselling session today (phone call!) which I arranged for the middle of the day as I thought I was off and I thought I might be tired. The fact I went to bed last night at 8.30pm and woke up at 6.50am certainly confirms that!
I woke up and had breakfast with the cats, and I thought about what to wear. A few weeks ago I had a day vintage shopping with my lovely friend and, although not vintage, I bought a long floaty dress that I haven’t had a chance to wear. I figured screw it, and I’m wearing it now. Today I plan to catch up on cleaning, some computer work, do a small food shop, go for a walk and maybe some gardening too. Although I might save some of that for the weekend depending on how much time I have. I feel guilty about having a break but at the same time I know that I’m doing the right thing for myself both physically and mentally. Managed to catch the meditation session this morning live too which felt really good. Keeping positive.
Started my day right by using the Headspace app to have a little meditation and then got to work early to figure out what was going on. I had some spare time so caught up with my other daily meditation and felt positive but calm. Speaking to a Funeral Director today I decided on the mantra ‘Keep safe, keep sane’ and that’s all we can hope for in all of this.
The morning was busy and the capacity is starting to become a bit of an issue now. It’s looking like we will have to manage it daily but there are also lots of talks going on across mortuaries to manage the problem. Extra storage will be available soon to us on site, as well as storage at other locations including the larger mortuaries being developed across the country. There’s talk today of a huge mortuary being made at Birmingham airport.
I finish the week knowing that I will most likely be going in at least one day this weekend but hopefully not for a full day on either day. I don’t mind and I volunteered because I had yesterday off. We have to be so careful not to get burnt out and exhausted. It’s stressful but I think largely because it feels so unfamiliar and scary but not for any particular reason. I have found myself reaching out to other mortuary workers for some peace of mind that we are all in this together even though we work miles apart.
I’ve had some questions in the last couple of days about PPE and all the information can be found on the link from Wednesday from the AAPT. Oh and thank you to The Cake Box for the free cake today!
I’d like to finish on the fact that the cheering and clapping at 8pm last night was just beautiful and really made me smile (and cry!). It felt huge and momentous which I really didn’t expect. Please don’t forget that in the key workers included in what’s going on right now there’s funeral directors, bereavement officers, coroners and coroners officers, Crematorium workers, grave diggers and so many other death workers who are tirelessly working to keep everything going.
Stay safe, stay sane.
Uplifting and inspiring work Gemma! I work in Cytology in Cellular Pathology, and looking at redeploying into Mortuary here to help however we can, any tips or advice? Feel free to email me, keep up the fantastic work you are doing xxxx
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That’s brilliant! We have a few people helping us from Pathology too. It’s great to have people to help with the busy times, there’s so many things you can help with and you’ll get the hang of it all in no time I’m sure. It’s such an important time to get as much help as we can in the mortuaries so thank you so, so much. I hope you enjoy your time there! xxxxx