John Johnson | Editor
When a passerby saw 27-year-old London Ambulance Service (LAS) paramedic Hannah Cassford resting her head on the steering wheel of her Rapid Response Vehicle (RRV) he took a picture of the exhausted life-saver.
But rather than just carrying on with his day, the concerned member of the public then went over to Hannah to ask her if she was ok.
A few months ago, if an image like this emerged on social media, then some sections of the mainstream media might have taken the picture and created a ‘hit piece’ asking why the medic was ‘daring’ to ‘rest’ while on the job.
And then our team would have written a piece defending our former colleague.
But times have changed.
When I served in the Met Police, I would often take five minutes to ‘rest my eyes’ during a busy nightshift if five minutes of downtime found their way onto the mobile data terminal of my patrol car.
And you would always be conscious of the fact that a member of the public might take a picture of you to sell the image to the mainstream media.
Little would they know that you had just dealt with a stabbing or a shooting and you were using the five minutes of downtime to gather your thoughts ready for the next 999 call.
But my former colleagues in the LAS and in ambulance services around the country are dealing with an unprecedented situation during unprecedented demand.
They are exhausted, both emotionally and physically. They are scared.
Nobody can imagine what they and other healthcare professionals are having to endure as they treat countless patients who are having to fight for their own survival, hoping that their immune systems are going to battle off COVID-19.
Unless you have seen someone fighting for their life, then you will never experience the look of sheer panic and fear on their faces.
Emergency services personnel may see someone in this ‘fight for their life’ situation, perhaps once every couple of shifts.
But NHS staff and emergency ambulance crews are witnessing this harrowing scenario several times each shift. It will be emotionally draining for them.
And wheresas, before COVID-19, you could finish your shift and head home and be comforted by your family and friends, at the moment this is not possible.
Medical professionals, including emergency ambulance crews, have had to move out of their family homes to try and prevent their loved ones from getting COVID-19 should they end up contracting it themselves.
After a 16-hour shift, they are heading ‘home’ to an empty flat where they will get maybe 8 hours of rest before doing it all over again.
A few days after the image of Hannah was shared on social media, she made this emotional plea to the public:
“Please stay at home #pleasestayathome
“A member of the public took this photo before knocking on my window to ask if I was ok.
“We are not ok!
“I don’t think I realised quite how exhausted I was until seeing it from a different side. Yet we keep going!
“I miss my son and family so much! We stay here for you, so please stay home for us!”
The fact that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now in intensive care – someone who has no underlying health conditions – must act as a warning to anyone who thinks that they are invincible when it comes to contracting COVID-19.
If you are fit and healthy and you get a high viral load of COVID-19, then you too could be fighting for your life in an intensive care unit; regardless of how young and how fit you are.
And yet, you can drastically reduce your chances of getting COVID-19 if you just follow the government’s advice.
Stay at home. Save lives. Protect the NHS.
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