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Queensland based nurse Beatrix Todd has been working in Victoria to support nurses, healthcare staff and patients during the state’s second wave of COVID-19. In a candid account during her quarantine, Beatrix reflects on the pandemic and her experiences.

So many questions; why? Why? WHY?

As far as the COVID pandemic my cousin sums it up well: “we’re at the mercy of stupid people”. It is as simple as that….

These people are however the minority. The majority get the message and do the right thing. These people are able to ascertain that if you don’t get with the program, you or a loved one will potentially die- or a group of vulnerable people will die- or a group of people who do not have the luxury of calling 000.

I now know how heartbreaking it is to see an elderly person infected with COVID and have their families visiting outside the window. The “window visit”. This is a tear-jerking moment even for our seasoned staff who have seen death and suffering. I wish all the sceptics could witness a window visit. Perhaps only then would they open their shut eyes.

On my last morning on the beautiful Sunshine Coast, I walked with both my sons Julius and Alex to school separately as one had an early cello lesson. It worked out well as I had a chance to have a 1:1 with each. They both asked me “why are you going to Victoria, mummy? Isn’t it dangerous?”

I gave them an answer I thought young kids might understand. “Victoria is in big trouble and one should help if needed, even if it’s a little uncomfortable.” I saw the little cogs turning in their heads.

By now you know I’m in Victoria working with COVID patients. This was not an active plan, however when our home state Queensland had restrictions and schools shut down, Craig and I hypothesised about the possibility of a major disaster at some point. We both knew I would have to help if ever needed. He is as always looking at the greater good most unselfishly.

Why I did not have a chance to miss anything?

I simply jumped in as the clinical lead of my team and head first it was.

Arriving in Victoria, we were shown a number of facilities and we approved of the second one we saw, after which we committed to going to work next morning. Twelve hour shifts, three days on and one off. It was a 45 minute drive each way, end of course the very tedious arrival back to the apartment after work.

We were “marinated” in COVID and we knew it. Before entering, we all had to follow our strict system on how not to bring the COVID marinade into the apartment.

One step in without shoes – which were left in the car in a bag sprayed with hospital grade disinfectant and closed in plastic bag for tomorrow morning. Disinfect small items such as car keys, etc. before placing down onto clean surface.

All clothes straight into the washing machine and straight into the shower, shampoo. Every day. By now it’s around 2030-2100. Set the alarm to 0515 for 0610 departure. We all slept really well.

Despite the time consuming continuous vigilance, PPE off, PPE on, we all LOVED the work, the purpose, the fact that we did make a difference, small and big.

The mandatory COVID testing seemed routine, and the text message with negative result next day was just to confirm our sense of safety. Until one day one of my team members received the very unsettling test result. Confirmed positive. This was a game changer.

All my team was interviewed as per protocol and we all but one became a “close contact”. In my case, having a cup of coffee on the morning drive sealed my fate. My “yes” answer to the question: “did you take your mask off to drink the coffee?” resulted in 14 days quarantine. This will take us to the end of our contract and we face another 14 days in isolation in Queensland when we return. If all goes well on the 5th that is. I will be tested again and keep my fingers crossed until then for a good result – a negative result.

At the beginning of quarantine I was going through various emotions. Now I feel proud, we arrived at the worst of times here, an absolute warzone, and the numbers have been gradually coming down, it looks like it is all getting under control. Unfortunately, it is in slow motion.

We did provide excellent care to our patients, we gave them our time, love, smiles, our quirky little individual gestures, facilitated many phone calls between families and their loved ones, provided their medical and basic needs, dressed their wounds, played their favourite music on their CD player, sent them off with dignity. We saw many discharged (recovered) patients, we were able to welcome back staff who we had never met before but were there when they returned to work after contracting COVID. It was joyous as if we were family.

I had the pleasure of receiving the glowing feedback from the Commonwealth Rep, and it was touching.

As I’m listening to the update on TV in the background; we are all celebrating the “double digits in Victoria today”. For the first time it’s below 100 new cases for ages. How good is that?

So for now I just sit back, complete the second half of my quarantine and prepare for my next outing on the 4th for COVID testing. Then the wait for the text message on the 5th.

My heart breaks every time the news turns to the US, updating the world on how many more ways a free, democratic society can go wrong. So much to grieve and we all need to muster all we can to make it all better and heal.

Wishing us all strength, kindness to give and receive!