Chris Royle – Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist

Chris Royle - Lead Therapist for Critical Care and Surgery
Chris Royle - Lead Therapist for Critical Care and Surgery

“It’s hard to think we’ve reached the two year mark since Covid began for us all – in some ways so much as changed and in other ways I can’t recall life before this ‘new normal’.

“The Physiotherapy Team and I have continued to work closely with various departments across our hospitals, to care for our patients. Our team deals with a variety of physio needs from chest clearance to rehabilitation. Thankfully, we are now seeing less Covid patients than we were during the first year of the pandemic – when at times it felt like they were the only patients coming in to us – but it’s still here and it’s still making some people very poorly.

“As with most of us, I think we look back at the last couple of years with a kind of surreal focus. It’s hard to go back to the really tough times because they were so awful. Just the physical burden of wearing full PPE for entire shifts, was strenuous enough, let alone the mental and emotional load that I think a lot of staff members are still carrying today.

“On the other hand there were also instances that I will remember forever, for the positive way our staff came together and we made sure we were always able to give that extra care to our patients, no matter how crazily busy our colleagues were. There was a time I worked on Critical Care and before I left, I asked the nursing team if there was anything else I could do to help them. There was one lady who had a very high temperature and was ventilated and unconscious. I spent time combing her hair to remove the matting from her sweating, and plaited her hair to keep it away from her face, and make her more comfortable. That felt like such an honour to be able to help in that way, during such a dark time, when her own family couldn’t be there and the nursing staff, who would ordinarily have taken care of this, just didn’t have the capacity to do it.

“Going through the first wave, we all got on with it, using adrenaline to keep us going and hoping it would all be a short-lived bump in the road. When the second wave hit, it was simply a nightmare. Working in healthcare, you feel supported by experts around you knowing someone somewhere has the answers but we found ourselves with no experts and together we had try to solve the problem ourselves as part of a bigger worldwide team. There were times in the pandemic when there was no one to turn to because this was completely new and we had so much to learn about this virus that was merrily tearing through the world.

“It has been an immense relief to see the vaccines working so effectively and keeping otherwise well people out of our critical care units but we all must be mindful Covid has not gone away. We now have more treatments available to help the most sickest of our patients and every day more information is coming to light in the fight against the illness it causes. One thing that has become more apparent though, is that long Covid is real and it can be hugely debilitating for some. That’s another ‘unknown’ and something we’re still trying to understand due to the wide spectrum of symptoms it causes for some patients. These patients don’t recover as quickly and can’t push themselves because they don’t have the energy or strength. We have set up long Covid clinics to assist with the physical recovery of these patients. As with everything else, with time we will also understand this better and we will adapt to ensure we can better meet the needs of our patients.