A Wolfson medic reports from the COVID-19 wards

Dan Zahedi (CGCM 2018) is halfway through his medic's course, but like many other students he's volunteered to work at the front lines of the NHS, caring for patients with COVID-19. He tells us what it's been like through the first weeks of the pandemic.

Daniel Zahedi

I'm currently working at the Barts Health NHS Trust in East London, mostly at the Royal London Hospital. I've been working as a healthcare assistant, much of the time in critical care units. I did a shift at the paediatric A&E which was strangely quiet and we had very few patients. The Covid Intensive Care ward was fairly surreal at first but I quickly acclimatised. It's interesting how the hospital is divided into clean zones and 'COVID-19'/dirty zones where different precautions have to be taken. Wearing the PPE is a bit difficult and I've had to shave my beard since so the FPP3 masks fully protect me. But we know the precautions are absolutely necessary.

I've also been helping out with a research project at St Barts Hospital. We are trying to find out why the virus affects some people far more than others. 

Contrary to media reports, the Trust I'm working for was well prepared and we've mostly had adequate PPE, staff and ventilators, although we were advised not to waste too much equipment. At one point we were close to running out, but the Trust managed to avert that. As well as the PPE, local companies make sure that staff are fed incredibly well.

There is a bit of a military aspect to it all. The whole hospital has been rearranged and there are lots of handwritten signs and repurposed rooms for donning and doffing PPE and storing supplies in COVID-19 areas. We have runners helping to grab equipment and bring it where it is needed. I know that at Papworth in Cambridge, which is less affected, they have specialised Task Teams which go around different areas and perform essential care tasks such as proning patients and making sure staff are happy, supported and have everything they need. I'll be moving to a job in Cambridge in the next few weeks.

So, lots of good news from me!

But on the other hand, it is difficult seeing patients mechanically supported and sedated as many of them live out their last few days. I was looking after an incredibly young patient who tried to take his own life and was also COVID-19 positive, which was probably the saddest part of it so far. That was really hard.

Photo courtesy of Dan Zahedi. He has since shaved his beard.