Old Stoics on the Front Line of COVID-19

12 June 2020

Old Stoics in the medical and health care profession have been involved on the front line during the COVID-19 outbreak. True to the character of Old Stoics, some have been involved in innovative and resourceful ways that are making a huge impact.  From Marc Koska (Bruce 79) and his company Apiject which is working with the US Government to provide an innovative delivery system for a future COVID -19 vaccination. To Julian Nessbit (Chandos 07) who has been providing free Mental Health support to NHS workers through his online service, as well as providing remote mental health therapy from NHS patients.

Old Stoics have been on the front line of care of COVID patients in our hospitals. Emma Whiting (Stanhope 14) found herself being rushed through her final qualifications so she could work on the wards as soon as possible. Below we share are the personal stories of two Old Stoics who found themselves right in the middle of the outbreak treating patients in the wards of London hospitals.

Emma Whiting (Stanhope 14)

“As the first cases of COVID started to grumble at the beginning of the year, I was a final year medical student preparing to take my final exams. I had a 3-month elective planned (a period working in Vanuatu, putting my new medical skills into practice and exploring the South Pacific), before starting work officially in August. Little did I know that all these plans would be turned upside down. 

I took my final exams in the weeks just before lockdown and, my graduation and registration as a doctor were expedited to allow us to help with the COVID crisis. Shortly afterwards, I was launched into my first job as a doctor in a busy London hospital that had been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. It was not what I imagined would happen at the end of my time at medical school and I was terrified to enter the NHS at such a critical time. 

It has been the steepest learning curve of my life but has only made me more prepared and excited for work in the future. Even during the most hectic of days with the most unwell patients, there is always something to reflect on of which I am proud. It has been humbling to see an (already strained) NHS come together so fantastically – new skills have been learnt incredibly quickly; jobs have changed with little notice; working hours have increased and new doctors, along with those coming out of retirement, have jumped at the chance to help. Whatever their skillset, everybody has relished the opportunity to make a difference wherever possible. This is something that is very special indeed. 

I am due to start a different job on a respiratory ward in August and I feel as prepared as I can possibly be. I'm sure there will be time to explore the South Pacific later in life!”

Lucie Wellington (Nugent 13) Pictured above

“I usually work within a team that focuses on the rehabilitation of elderly patients, with some weekends spent helping on the intensive care unit (ICU). During the pandemic, I was redeployed to ICU full time, working as a respiratory physio. This included things such as optimising positioning, assisting with chest clearance, helping reduce ventilator support and post intensive care rehabilitation. 

It was mentally and physically exhausting but the support from the local community and beyond made coming into work to an unknown challenge every day a little easier. 

I was so pleased to see the coming together of voices to praise those working in the NHS. I even found out one of my friends from school (Imo O’Brien) was working at the Nightingale Hospital after seeing a picture of her on Twitter being thanked by a colleague.

I feel so lucky to have worked with so many amazing people who worked tirelessly to save so many lives during the pandemic and I have never been prouder to work for the NHS.” 

We are aware that for many people, coping with the COVID-19 and lockdown might have brought with it isolation, loneliness and anxiety.  Michael Spira (Chandos 62) the Medical Director of The Smart Clinics shared his awareness and concern about the increased levels of mental health needs during the outbreak.

“A common issue that patients want to discuss with their doctors is their mental health. This is a worrying and uncertain time, and many people feel bored, anxious, lonely or low. Modern technology (e.g. FaceTime, Zoom) has proved a lifeline for many as has Netflix and Amazon Prime! It is important to talk about your worries with your loved ones and if you have serious concerns don’t be afraid to discuss them with your doctor. Exercise regularly, avoid excessive alcohol, and try to maintain a regular sleeping pattern.”

If you have suffered from mental health issues during the COVID-19 lockdown, you can seek support and information by clicking on the links below:

NHS Every Mind Matters