August 13, 2021
Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden: "I am an ICU doctor, and I am exhausted"

Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden is an NHS intensive care doctor, air ambulance clinician, health writer, and TED speaker.

Recently she took to Instagram to share what it's like working on the COVID-19 frontline, and begging people to get vaccinated. Her words serve as a chilling reminder of how very important staying home, washing your hands, and getting the vaccine is for protecting those that we love.

We wanted to share her story, and show her that we appreciate her, and all the other doctors working tirelessly on the frontline to combat COVID-19.

"Hello. I am an ICU doctor. And I am exhausted.

We’ve done this before, twice. But this wave feels different. The patients are younger. Sicker. They are doing worse on the ventilator.

I steady my breathing, trying to figure out how I am going find the words to say what I need to say.

It’s the middle of the night, so I know I’ve got a few seconds before someone answers.

A few more rings, a few more breaths, then…an anxious voice still thick with sleep on the end of the phone.

“I am so sorry…” I begin. I haven’t even finished my sentence when I first hear the sobs.

I close my eyes and grip the phone a little tighter. My hands shake. I hope they can feel me trying to send the hug down the phone…but I feel so helpless.

I hate doing this on the phone. I can’t hold a hand in person now. This virus, this fucking awful virus, has got in the way of this one basic human kindness I could give when all is lost.

No one ever expects to be the person that gets woken up in the middle of the night by a call to say your loved one is in ICU. That we have tried everything, but we can’t save the person you love most in the world.

That is something that happens to other people, right?

Not this time. This virus is as clever as it is relentless. The patients we are seeing are younger and younger. The ones that are really in trouble? The ones keeping me up all night? They are young. And they all have another thing in common, they are unvaccinated.

I can’t have this conversation one more time. What do you say when we are asked…would it made a difference if they had the vaccine? The answer, the gut-wrenching truth, is that yes, it almost certainly would.

My heart breaks as I try and find the words. More often than not I can’t. Instead, I carry these patients home. I think about them often.

Why am I writing this?

We spend so much of our lives running around we barely stop to appreciate the people that make our lives worth living. Tell them you love them, do it now. Pick up the phone with your parents. Text your partner. Hug your kids extra tight.

And do everything, everything you can to protect them from this awful virus. Mask up, get vaccinated. Encourage the people you love most in the world to do the same.

Please don’t be the person I call tonight.

Instagram: @drsammy_

"I can’t tell you how difficult it is for us as NHS staff to watch person after person come in fighting for breath, not knowing when it will be their last. Watching them FaceTime their families for what could be the last time before we put them on a ventilator. Knowing the awful awful truth that this could have been prevented with a vaccine we know works.

We have also had patients who are vaccinated end up in critical care. They are few and far between. But they have all made it. The vaccine means you don’t get as seriously unwell with COVID if you catch it. They almost certainly would have died without it.

There are still people who don’t believe this virus exists. Why would we put ourselves through all of this if we didn’t?

Recently someone commented about only seeing nice photos of us at work, and wanted to see the reality of a hard shift. Well, here it is."

Instagram: @drsammy_

The vast majority are also unvaccinated. This, above all else, is what is breaking my soul. Watching people fight for their lives, knowing things could have been different had they have had the vaccine…it’s hard to bear witness to.

Like many healthcare professionals, I have felt overwhelming guilt that misinformation has landed patients in my ICU. Some will never get home to their families.

It is this which has driven so many of us to speak up on social media, to try and combat the vast swathes of misinformation that is out there.

But those who have put their head above the parapet have become a target for abuse. Twitter is full of anger directed at NHS staff who are just trying to save lives.

How did we get here?

What is the point of this post? I guess what I’m saying is NHS staff are having a really rocky time right now. Many are really struggling. Logging on to see abuse is the last thing they need.

By all means disagree. By all means have rational and respectful debate. But if you are logging on to abuse NHS staff you need to take a long hard look at yourself.

For those who are supporting us, thank you. It means more than you know. Let’s keep Insta a positive place for NHS staff.

And remember: in a world where you can choose to be anything, choose to be kind."
Instagram: @drsammy_

Article by
Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden

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