I remember the first time we talked about coronavirus at work the team were called in to an urgent meeting about preparations for the hospital, should anyone travelling from Wuhun, China arrive. We were immediately instructed to produce materials and get information out across the hospital that same day. Though there was limited knowledge about the virus at this stage, keeping patients and the local community well-informed is a vital part of my role in healthcare communications and sharing information about covid increasingly became standard procedure. It was scary. The idea of a new and complex virus that was killing so many people, so quickly filled me with complete anxiety. It was frightening to go into work every day, an environment that would always feel safe, now felt so daunting. Not long before covid, my Dad was taken ill in hospital with an unrelated condition and was thankfully discharged a few days before we went into national lockdown. During this time, visiting restrictions had already been put in place in the hospital and this meant that out of myself and my sister who has a young family, I was the only person able to be with him – it was extremely overwhelming to know that the virus was looming and the NHS was about to come under what feels like an understatement to say, incredible strain. The day my Dad arrived home, hospital ward moves started to take place and patients presenting with symptoms of covid were on the increase. The horror of the rising death toll, new symptoms, PPE supplies and panic buying dominated the press – everything started to look and feel different.

Faith over fear
Coronavirus felt (feels) like a plague – will it ever end? Throughout the past year, I have never once questioned my relationship with God, if anything my faith has gotten stronger. I come from a close-knit and welcoming church community, one which I have been part of for many years. I trust in the statement ‘faith over fear’ (“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:3) when the world has felt like such a scary place, plagued with a virus – the future couldn’t have felt more uncertain. I’ve written about, heard and spoken to so many people; especially colleagues at work – those on the frontline sharing detailed accounts of caring for patients feeling helpless and afraid, comforting families dealing with the loss of a loved one as well as each other among the despair of this pandemic. I’ve had family members who got covid and who were even admitted to hospital for treatment. I’d ask Lord why? Please take this virus away – make it stop, it was causing so much pain and so many people suffered, people lost their lives! Even while my heart was saddened to know how people were grieving over lives cut too short, there lied hope in the stories of so many who recovered. Family prayer, online Sunday Mass and listening to Joel Osteen minister on his daily podcast has kept me going most days. Also, spending time with my support bubble; my Dad, my sister and her children whenever I can has been the biggest blessing and comfort knowing that we have each other as the days went by. I believe there is strength in having faith over fear, God knows that we shall overcome and like many others, I am so grateful for hope to see an end in sight.

Personally, working through this pandemic has been one of the biggest challenges of my career, I have learnt so much during this experience, as my job became extremely reactive. Business as usual, a distant memory and Government briefings an everyday occurrence. It’s been like working in controlled panic mode. With lockdown in full force and the rate at which the virus spread, I started working from home a few days a week. Essential workers have been at the forefront of stepping up to combat coronavirus, hailed as heroes on the frontline. A year on, it ceases to amaze me! Almost everyone has played their part and I am proud to be part of that contribution, no matter how big or small.

I knew I had a responsibility to do it to protect myself and my family
The vaccine has been an incredible milestone, one which has been at the centre of almost every conversation I’ve had around the virus. Every weekend I’d be on video calls with my cousins and in working for the NHS I began to feel like a ‘spokesperson’ or an advocate for ‘getting life back to normal’. You can’t escape the news even if you try, it’s everywhere! Even with the refreshing attempt to avoid talking about covid, the subject most certainly came up. When Boris set out his most recent roadmap, it was enough to make me worry about what’s around the corner. But when the vaccine programme started and it was my turn, I knew I had a responsibility to do it to protect myself and my family. Challenging anyone’s opinion about vaccines is tough and with so much misinformation shared across social media, it’s no doubt people hesitate and in a society where mistrust is prevalent, helping to change one person’s mind makes all the difference. Through work this has been via support networks, and as a member of the Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff network and in my role as communications lead, being part of opportunities to provide support and promote having the vaccine among my BAME colleagues has been a high priority. Support with staff risk assessments, holding peer-to-peer drop-in sessions, Q&A’s, virtual events and sharing positive messages with the network are just some of the ways the network has been providing support. It’s opened up a platform for people to confidentially raise their concerns and have their voices heard. Although these actions are part of the many steps it takes to support my colleagues, it’s successfully resulted in giving a number of people confidence in the progress we are making to overcome the damage done by this virus.

As we transition back to ‘normality’ if there is one word I can use to describe the past year it would be ‘resilience’. The days have been long and faith has personally got me through it. When I think about this time last year, it still feels unimaginable, but I thank God that “This too shall pass” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.