I’m from Greece, but I’ve been living in the UK for the last few years. It’s usually very easy to travel within Europe, so I’ve never felt like I was trapped here or that I was too far away from my family. However, during this pandemic, I’ve had to make really difficult decisions— like if I should stay here in the UK because I’m a doctor, or put personal feelings, like wanting to be with my family, first?
I was really worried about my family. My dad is staying in a different place in Athens so that he can be away from my mom who still has to go to work everyday in a pharmacy. I quickly realized that I might not be able to go back to my country for a while. To be away from my family at a time like this, when you don’t know what’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks, let alone the next couple of days, is really quite scary. At first, I thought, “oh my god, I need to be with my family,” but then I realized, “well this is my job.” After that, I didn’t have any second thoughts. Being a doctor and being asked to be here now, I knew that if I left, I was not respecting my job. It was never a question.
It was never a question that I needed to stay here.
I don’t think the UK was prepared for this crisis. I was at this big meeting at the hospital around three weeks ago, and I just remember how scary it felt just sitting there, not knowing what was going to happen. It can feel like you’re getting ready to go to war in this kind of situation— like you’re ready to fight and do whatever it takes.
In addition to all of the stress from the workplace, I also saw the different sides of people outside of work, which really affected me. For example, even before the protective measures were issued by the government, my boyfriend’s flatmate told my boyfriend that he was not allowed to see me anymore, despite being fit and healthy. He was quite close to me, so I was extremely shocked. I’m a doctor, so of course I’m going to be close to sick people— but didn’t just start happening right when the Coronavirus began. How could he act so insensitive towards me? It felt like I was beginning to see people’s true colors. I have to say, I’ve been very surprised with how some people can act under these circumstances.
At the same time, people are being super giving and extremely kind. When people began to thank healthcare professionals, saying things like, “thank you for saving lives, for working long hours, for sacrificing your health,” I also felt a little bit conflicted because we have always been doing all of these things, even before the pandemic. Of course it’s amazing when people show us their gratitude, but at the same time, I’ve realized how easily people can forget to show their appreciation during normal times. We weren’t waiting for a pandemic to finally jump into action. As doctors and nurses and staff members, this is what we’ve been doing before the pandemic, and this is what we will be doing after the pandemic. This is our job.
Written by: Natasha Leong