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Mental Freedom

I live in London and I am an ICU doctor. I’m originally from Hungary but I’ve been in London for the past seven years. It’s very unnerving because I’ve always had the comfort of being just a two hour flight away from my family. But right now, I cannot be with them. I cannot go to my family. I cannot see my family. My parents are about 60, so they are obviously at risk. They’re also both GPs so they work with patients, which doesn’t give me much peace of mind. People tend to forget that healthcare professionals also have our own families. We’re carrying extra pressures from just being away from them.

I think everyone’s lives have been turned upside down.

Being an ICU doctor makes you very much in the frontlines. Working with the sickest patients is not new for me, as I’ve been doing this throughout my career— working with the sickest patients is not new for any ICU doctor. But just the sheer amount of patients we have right now is what’s posing an even greater challenge more than anything. Especially because in our ICU, we’ve transferred out every patient who does not have COVID-19. We only have COVID-19 patients on the machines because we’re trying to avoid cross-contamination.

The shifts are very intense, and just having to put on all of the protective gear can be physically draining at times. In addition to being physically drained, we have also been mentally drained from having a lot of difficult conversations with relatives of patients. It’s been especially hard grappling with bad news— having discussions with families about making the decision to take a loved one off of life support or telling them that they may not be able to say goodbye to someone in person... It’s manageable just having one of these conversations now and then, but at a time like this when this happens at such high numbers, it takes quite a toll on all of us. We’ve been having to make incredibly tough decisions and hard conversations through the phone, instead of having them face to face. It’s quite a heightened situation in every sense.

What is surprising to me is how well the medical team pulled together. From what I can see in the ICU, everyone is working around the clock at 100%. The team has really come together to try and get through this and get the patients through this. For example, right after a shift, people will text you to make sure that you got home okay. I also know that some of my colleagues have offered to look after other colleagues' children while they’re working…

I believe that people have really stepped up during this pandemic. It’s a nice thing to see amongst the misery.


Written by: Natasha Leong

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