Last month I was singing arias. Now I’m a hospital portermain
Milly Forrest first leaped to our attention almost three years ago as an usher at the Wigmore Hall who jumped in when a soprano recitalist fell sick. She is still studying at the Royal College of Music with a promising career ahead. But when the Corona crisis broke she answered to a higher call.
Here’s Milly, writing exclusively for Slipped Disc:
I’ve been working as a hospital porter in Watford general for a week now. I applied after hearing that the hospital was in urgent need and all my singing contracts had sadly been cancelled. At the moment there are just 7 porters out of 16 that are working. Most are isolating, a couple have new born babies and some are simply too nervous to come in. I suppose I can understand why.
Each day more and more wards are being turned into areas suitable for treating covid-19 positive patients. Watford general isn’t a massive hospital. On Tuesday I heard from the gentleman working in pathology that there were 85 confirmed positive patients currently being treated at the hospital. Those numbers are changing everyday as more people are being bought into A&E with severe symptoms. Apparently the doctors have now been told to assume that every elderly patient who comes to A&E has corona virus. I was very sad to hear a teary member of the ambulance staff yesterday saying under her breath “I can’t do this any more” to a nurse dressed in full protective clothing.
Because of the pandemic, all non-urgent appointments have now been cancelled until the end of June and all patients who are able, have gone home. There are no visitors allowed at the moment apart from in the maternity building which makes much of the hospital seem eerily deserted. Even then, women are only allowed to have their partners with them once they go into labour! Everywhere is quiet apart from the wards treating covid patients.
The porters are not given PPE. We are only given gloves and masks when we are asked to move covid positive patients between departments. I believe this is because wearing masks and gloves that have been in contact infectious patients must be thrown away immediately. If we touch doors, clean mattresses or equipment with dirty gloves or aprons, then that only helps to spread the disease around the rest of the hospital. This is being reviewed everyday but it’s believed that for now, this is the safest option and it makes complete sense to me.
Contrary to what the news is saying, from what I can see, the hospital staff are coping unbelievably well. There is enough PPE and ventilators to go around and everyone has been trained to use them. They are all exhausted and overworked but I haven’t heard anyone complain. The porters are all smiling and seem to take so much pride in their work. My hands are sore and dry from all the washing and my legs are tired from walking 16,000 steps per shift. But this is by far the most fulfilling job I have ever done. The nurses, doctors and carers are so brave and so determined and it puts the life I’m used to into perspective.
Of course I cannot predict what is to come and it is very sad to see an extra mortuary being built when I look out of the window. What I can say is that everyone is fully committed to defeating this virus and this will not last forever.
Stay at home please and keep smiling!