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Ria—Registered nurse
COVID ward
Metropolitan Melbourne

It was like starring in one of those Netflix apocalyptic movies—only there were no zombies involved.

I was overcome with fear and anxiety. Things were starting to get serious. The city was in lockdown, citizens returning from overseas were sent into quarantine, borders were closed, jobs halted, travelling out of home was only allowed for essential workers.

When our first COVID patients came, I could feel the tension in the air. Although we were covered from head to toe in PPE, everyone was afraid of catching the virus and taking it home to their family. Some workers decided to take long leave and a few moved on to find other jobs.

My colleagues and I carried on doing our usual clinical duties, despite wearing the hot and sweaty PPE. We got into the routine fairly well, and looked after people from different demographics, races and religions—the young and old, some very sick, and many who did not make it.

Families were not allowed to visit and only saw their loved ones through phones and iPads. I remember setting up a FaceTime call for my patient to say hello to his family. Holding the iPad for him as he was too weak, I heard them wish each other well. Their voices started to break. It was so heartbreaking to witness. A tear formed in my eye but I had to hold it in, as touching my eye would breach my PPE. Families of end-of-life care patients were eventually allowed to be with them in their last moments.

It became very challenging for staff working through COVID. The protests and conspiracy theories made us angry and frustrated. I went through my own difficult time when I lost my father—who I was not able to say goodbye to due to travel restrictions—and separated with my partner in the middle of it all. I was lucky to be part of an amazing supportive team to help me push through, but it became mentally and physically exhausting.

The usual chatter and banter became less as we treated very sick patients. The break rooms were limited to a few people, so there was even less socialising. Shops were closed and we could not even enjoy a good cup of coffee to de-stress after work.

Leaving the ward, we were either dehydrated or busting to go to the toilet, but we had to get through at least fifteen steps to correctly doff our contaminated PPE. We had to change clothes at work before coming home. Shaking hands or hugging our friends and families was not accepted. This lasted for almost two years.

With all these hardships, our perspective on the world has changed. COVID is real—we have seen this with our own eyes.

I thank all our fellow frontliners, in all industries, who supported us during the pandemic. Now the world is almost back to normal, let us spend more time with family and prioritise our health. Let us live our life safely and conscientiously. Tomorrow is never promised so let us live life to the fullest, cherish every moment and stay kind to one another.