National Day of Reflection

It’s been a challenging year. Take a moment to connect with friends and family today, the National Day of Reflection.

We will be sharing our reflections on our social media channels throughout the day.

Below there are stories from two members of staff sharing their experiences of the past year.

Paramedic and mum of two, Pennie Boler has worked on the frontline throughout the pandemic.  She tells her story this week, reflecting back on the last year since the first lockdown began.Pennie

“My girls’ dad was furloughed so we decided in the first lockdown that when I was at work, the kids would live with him.  I was picking them up after my run of shifts and would be worried about hugging and kissing them. We lost a lot of the mum stuff in that time because I was worried about what I could be bringing home with me. It was really hard. I felt like I was choosing to look after other people over my own children

“Mollie understood though. She made posters about me being a hero as she had seen them in windows and wanted to make her own. She said ‘you’re helping people, you’re saving lives.’ I think it’s helped her understand what I do for a living. Robyn’s five and just copies her sister so she started making big thank you posters. I’ve kept them all.

“In the early days we didn’t have much information, everything was changing all the time.  I was definitely scared – mostly because of the unknown.

“In this career, you generally know what to expect – you know what a heart attack or seizure looks like - and you’re taught how to deal with pretty much anything. But this was something else entirely. We had no idea what covid looked like, nobody knew anything about it; it was this invisible thing that you could bring home to your family.

“It’s less scary now. We have more information, we have everything we could possibly need and more PPE-wise, plus we’ve got this lovely vaccine.

“Touch wood, I’ve never caught it. And I know that for definite because I’ve been on the Oxford vaccine trial since April last year, where I’ve had to undergo regular tests. I actually found out in December that I had been given the placebo, which really shocked me as I was convinced I’d had it. I’ve now had the Pfizer vaccine.

“The hardest incident I’ve attended over the last year was the first ever covid job I went to. It came up on the screen that the patient was covid positive and struggling at home. I remember thinking to myself ‘I’m it, I’m the person they’re relying on’. We drove to the job in silence and I went in alone so I could assess the situation first before bringing my crew mate in. I remember putting on my white suit and was sweating with the adrenaline going through me. I listened to the patient’s chest and remembered thinking my heart was pumping faster than the patient’s!

“From that moment on, I think it actually got easier in some ways. We’ve had some horrible jobs

“But there’s always positive days – you rely on your crew mate for motivation and morale, to pick you up when you’re down. Good days are also when you can keep people at home, speaking to the public and hearing their gratitude. A thank you makes my day.

“We go to a lot of mental health patients generally, but obviously that’s all I’m doing at the moment as I’m working on the mental health car. I would say the lockdown is making it worse for people generally. When you’re socially isolated, those little thoughts become massive clouds that weight heavily. Sometimes, we’re the only people they have seen in months. Even if they haven’t got covid, we’re going to them for anxiety because they’ve searched online and scared themselves.

“What I find hard about PPE is that I feel my personal touch has been taken away. I use my smile to communicate and I would think nothing of giving a family a hug. I feel really detached from patients and that’s so sad because you want to comfort people, especially those who have lost someone or who have been shielding.”

Jordan Brown, 25-year old health advisor in the Emergency Operations Centre at North East Ambulance Service has answered calls from thousands of people calling NHS111 or 999 over the past 12 months with health concerns since the pandemic began.  Looking back at his year, he explains.


“I live with my grandma. She works in a school so she’s been working as well. She doesn’t panic about me bringing covid home because she knows we are doing all we can to keep ourselves and each other safe.

“In the early days, whenever Boris was announcing or was due to announce, calls would rocket because people didn’t know what was going on. If they were at all unwell, they were worried it could be covid. It was bedlam really. We’re the first people that people come to for advice but we were still learning about it as well. We were constantly being fed information and trying to remember all the up to date things in the announcements.  But we weren’t watching the news because we were at work so often people would know about things before we did. It’s really hard seeing the calls waiting, knowing you can only deal with one at a time.

“Things have calmed down, although we still get an influx of calls when there’s an announcement. I think there’s always going to be a covid element to the calls for the foreseeable future.

“My colleagues keep me going on a daily basis.

“It’s hard every day because you don’t hear nice things. Every single conversation is covid-related.  I would say mental health issues have increased massively during covid. We get calls from people who have never experienced mental health episodes before.  We might be the first person they speak to about it. These covid pressures are a lot for people. I’m seeing a lot of elderly people with mental health concerns who are used to going out and about, seeing friends and family regularly, and the clinically vulnerable patients haven’t been able to do anything.  I’ve spoken to patients who haven’t left the house since March.

“Personally for me having to go to work has been a bit scary because it feels like a risk when you want to stay home and protect yourself, your colleagues and your family as much as you can. But we can’t stay home and protect ourselves, we have a job to do.”

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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