Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 70(3) August 2020

Coronavirus: A GP’s Tale
Corona and the person

I have continued to work in the surgery though it is bizarre to have an empty waiting room. It was interesting to communicate with patients over the phone and then exciting to see mothers and babies for 8 week checks. The latter were often out for the first time and were pleased to dress their babies in their new clothes that no one else had seen! Most mothers were better supported in the days of strict lockdown than they would have been in normal times, and for some it had been particularly vital.

Some patients with mental health issues I spoke with were doing remarkably well. One chap said, “I have become used to living alone for 20 years. I live on an estate with lots of elderly people so I have been able to help them with shopping.” Another chap said by doing the sensible things to keep safe he was feeling a positive sense of purpose.

The people in nursing homes are perhaps at risk of neglect as doctors are not going in. One story of a woman with an infected foot being given palliative care seemed to exemplify where the concerning tendency to inappropriate sedation is being applied. I noticed the earlier Corona virus mailings which described the home palliative care kit to be used by relatives and thought, ‘Are we working as in wartime?’ This situation did not materialise and I wonder if in the future people will not fully understand the feeling of impending doom and potential lack of care with everyone having to pull to and care in unaccustomed ways. The changes introduced in the rules for certifying death were remarkable in that nurses, paramedics and even non-interested parties can certify death with the remote assistance of a doctor; all previously unheard of.

The elderly who may only have a year or two to live may want to shield and protect themselves, however I have heard how in the early days especially when people were confined to their rooms, some would just cry. My father who has full capacity had had an illness 1-2 months prior to Lockdown for which he was admitted to a home for respite. He then became feverish and subsequently weak in a way he had not been during his previous admission. He had a positive virus test and took two months to fully regain his health. He calls the bug ‘the plague’ and cannot see things settling for 2 years. The home has been very kind and careful and has not had any deaths. They have facilitated FaceTime with family. We are trying to see if by law we can get him out for an afternoon to push him round the corner to visit our garden! We wave to him through his window, but one day when he saw the latest grandchild, he was touched particularly and cried. The children in the family have always been a highlight for his life.

I think we have lived with the severe reality of the potential of the virus through friends who have been very ill, including elderly who have died. Our daughter works in neurology ‘at the sharp end’ and has seen early strokes plus the waves of extremely sick people coming through A and E. Our anxiety has not been huge and perhaps we feel compla­cent about the risks to ourselves. I have heard of a family where the father has been so anxious, the two sons in early 20s have moved out.

Some priests have been undeterred and gown up with the rest to provide the Sacraments, even from the early days when there was understandable fear and even terror at large. They are hugely to be admired.

I hope my little lens on Spring 2020 is of interest though it does not cover the financial problems, the overwhelming sadness in some areas of society, the challenges in education and also cutting of access to spiritual support and cultural inspiration.

Dr Josephine Venn-Treloar GP Assistant. Kent