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Coronavirus in the UK: anaesthetist reveals reality of working in ICU

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Kayleigh Dray
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Coronavirus in the UK: anaesthetist reveals reality of working in ICU

The ICU in Frimley is already full of Covid-19 patients on ventilators.”

This weekend saw the sun come out in the UK for the first time in what feels like forever. As such, thousands of Brits descended upon the nation’s parks and beaches in search of a little vitamin D – despite the fact that we have all been advised to follow social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic.

Is it any wonder, then, that NHS staff have felt prompted to share their own Covid-19 warnings on social media?

On Sunday 22 March, Nick Dennison, a consultant anaesthetist working in Frimley Park Hospital, shared his own Facebook messages with the masses.

In the post, which has already been shared 86,000 times, Dennison explained that he – like so many other anaesthetists – recently saw himself re-roled as an intensive care doctor.

“We will be tasked with putting the sickest patients under anaesthetic and onto ventilators/life support machines,” he said. “Each patient will require 10 days+ on a ventilator then may need a temporary tracheostomy to get them off the ventilator.”

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Dennison went on to reveal that the intensive care unit at his hospital already has 12 patients with Covid-19 on ventilators, with more requiring ventilation every day.

“My hospital usually has 4-10 patients on ventilators and is planning and expecting 80 patients to require ventilation,” he said. “It seems the public health message is not getting through. Let me be clear: a lot of people are going to die. They will mainly be 70 years plus but be in no doubt, 30-40 year olds will die too.”

Dennison continued: “Pubs have been busy, offices open, social events and kids parties happening… it all needs to stop. Infected people shed coronavirus and it must be everywhere by now. So it is your social responsibility to engage in social distancing. Actions now can prevent further disease transmission, ICU admissions and deaths in 10-20 days.

“Two of my anaesthetic/ICU colleagues in other hospitals are off work due to being infected (doing ok). As health care workers, we are now EXPECTING to catch it despite PPE. This virus has been transmitted around the globe unchecked and will not stop until it has nowhere to go – social distancing/isolation Or patient death.”

You can read the full post below:

While Dennison’s public health message ends there, the anaesthetist did go on to add a personal note about his own loved ones.

“My son turned three years old last week and is six weeks into a three year chemotherapy program for lymphoma,” he shared.

“This virus is a big threat to his life and, as I am going to be exposed this week doing my job, I can no longer live at home. I have had to make the difficult choice: to do my job and save lives of people I don’t know, or to be with my son whilst he battles cancer.”

Dennison finished by saying: “Alfie hopefully will survive his cancer and chemo, but many people will die from [the coronavirus]. My heart is broken making this decision, but I choose to save the lives of strangers and leave him in the care of my beautiful wife and family.

“Later this week I’ll be moving into a motorhome and will not be able to take any further part in his care for the next six months.

“Bottom line. SOCIALLY ISOLATE or people die in two weeks.”

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We can only hope that Dennison’s post, which has been liked by well over 46,000 Facebook users, will make an impression on the British public before it’s too late.

According to official figures, the number of people who have died in the UK with coronavirus rose to 281 on Sunday, with confirmed Covid-19 cases reaching 5,683.

In a bid to flatten the curve, people across the UK who are at most at risk from Covid-19 are being told to stay at home for 12 weeks. Indeed, the NHS in England has announced it has identified 1.5 million of the most at-risk people, while there are 200,000 in Scotland, 70,000 in Wales and 40,000 in Northern Ireland.

And, later today, MPs will debate emergency legislation that would grant powers aimed at tackling the pandemic.

For now, though, the advice remains the same: practise social distancing. This means avoid non-essential use of public transport when possible, work from home if you can, avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces, avoid gatherings with friends and family and use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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