24 April 2020

"It is tough, but it is also positive"

Tom Walker tells us about his experience on the frontline
Mental Health

We caught up with Tom Walker, Physiotherapist at Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to hear the impact of COVID-19 on his day to day life.

Tell us about what you are experiencing right now in the hospitals?

It is tough, but it is also positive. There is a real feeling of team work, for example my colleagues who are re-training to help the areas most in need, or those asking ‘how can I help?’ if their normal patients are being advised to stay at home. It is inspiring to witness.
We have seen an increase in the number of critical care patients we have at the hospital during the past few weeks and as a surge centre we are starting to see some very poorly people. It is scary and there is anxiety, it’s only normal to feel that way at times of huge change, but we are well prepared and we are really pulling together as a Trust, as the wider NHS and the even-wider healthcare system including hospices, community care and care homes.

What, if any, toll is this taking on your mental health?

It depends on when you ask. Some days the stress and anxiety is extremely difficult to manage but other days I am fine and find myself trying to support other team members as best I can. Relying on all my usual coping methods of exercise, eating well, yoga, meditation, and distraction techniques has been a vital part of dealing with this so far, as well as an extremely supportive fiancée who is the most incredible person I know.
Also, the fact we are all working as one huge team here at Royal Papworth definitely helps as we are all in this together. Knowing we are making a difference, knowing that the public is behind us, and seeing that support on social media, on the news and in person each day really helps to keep us going.

What’s the most important message you want to people to know?

We will beat this. It might go on for a while and there will be many challenging days, but there will be an end to all of this and we will get there together. Keep strong, keep positive and keep indoors.

How are you, personally, staying socially connected right now?

I am mostly using the telephone, different apps for video conferencing and texting. I ran a pub quiz at the weekend with 26 friends and family which I think we all enjoyed.

Do you have any advice for people who are struggling during this period of social isolation?

Arrange to video call your friends and family and talk to them. We are all in the same boat and it is incredibly tough for everyone. You are not alone, we are all in this together and we will get through this together.

Any anecdotes from the frontline?

​Coronavirus has taken a few things from me personally as I am sure it has others; my wedding has been cancelled and rearranged; my first Glastonbury; my beautiful facial hair (as you have to be clean shaved to wear personal protective equipment). It is challenging my coping mechanisms and my resilience but I am learning through this a new strength – it is challenging, but also extremely rewarding.  

Tom with fellow physios and a healthcare assistant as part of the team looking after the hospital’s critical care patients