“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear”
– Nelson Mandela
Kathleen, one of our international nurses, shares her experience of the pandemic
I arrived in the UK late 2019 with a batch of other Philippines-qualified nurses, full of joy, excitement and uncertainty about this new place.
It was a dream come true for the 12 of us who traveled thousands of miles away from home to practice our profession in the UK. It was a great leap of faith; leaving the comfort of our homes all with the same dream but with different circumstances.
You see, I am a mother of 2 kids and a wife to a loving husband with whom I have a perfectly crafted plan about how we will all be together in the UK this year. It was my goal when I relocated to be a UK RN, for my family to also experience how great it is to be in the UK, and to be able to be with them as I fulfill my calling of being an overseas dialysis nurse. I had it all planned out.
A week after they finished their medicals, I was about to apply for their visas online when the whole world experienced something dreadful - the Corona Virus had spread around the world and had been declared a global pandemic. Almost every country in the world had closed their borders to protect their citizens and to control the spread of the virus, including the Philippines and the UK. At that time, it felt so surreal, fear crept in. I was stunned. Here I am visualizing my family here by the end of March in time to celebrate my husband’s birthday in April. I had also envisioned myself going home to the Philippines for my holiday as I was missing my family so much. Everything that I had carefully planned was now wrecked and I was left very uncertain about my next move.
I tried my very best to comfort myself, my husband as well as my kids and to reassure them that I was doing ok. Everyone was on lockdown, except for us, the front liners. My husband couldn’t stop worrying about me, my parents texted me all day asking me how I was. My 6-year-old daughter kept asking me “mummy, everyone has stopped working already because of the virus, why are you still working? I worry about you so much mummy”. I had to fight back tears as I tried to sound calm and ok, but I was afraid.
Personally, the pandemic was a whirlwind of emotions and a roller coaster of experiences for me. The duty was never the same; the people around me were all on edge as we prepared for battle each day. A battle where we couldn’t see our enemy. A battle where I hide from my colleagues as I try to understand how to protect myself to survive this. I thought about my family’s safety back in the Philippines, my own safety living alone in the UK, and strength to go about my daily work. It was not an easy ride.
I thought I had it all held up, until I heard news about a friend of mine who got infected, intubated but passed away two weeks later. This hit close to home for me and I felt very scared. It was hard to deal with that emotion. As if that wasn’t enough, the following week, my best friend, a dialysis nurse in London and her husband tested positive. Things couldn’t get any worse! I cried a lot wondering if she would die as our other friend did. The pressure was taking its toll on me and eventually I had to self-isolate due to chest pains, cough and body aches.
I had a good support network in London and we were constantly checking up on one another because it was too heavy a burden to bear alone. I am also blessed to have supportive colleagues. We struggled together and we have all risen together to continue to hold our fort in the clinic. We were scared, but we are now fighting this battle courageously as a team. It is hard, it has been hard, but I know that this anxiety and fear will pass.
These experiences have reminded me about the value of relationships, the value of time with our loved ones, the value of life. It is great to be alive, to be able to enjoy the casual things in life like taking a walk in the park. It is great to be alive. I have prayed like never before. This crisis has strengthened my personal relationship with God. To live each day is a gift that we all should never take for granted. I am ready to see my family and bring them to the UK when the time is right. I know that everything will fall in its rightful place. I just need to be a little more patient, in God’s perfect timing. I have cried and have let it all out, and I feel much better and I am now ready to stand up again and fight…one day at a time.