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The year 2020 was when I truly found my life’s purpose. Our hands were to serve and our hearts were to love.
COVID-19. A global pandemic. A fatal deadly virus. The cause of many lockdowns.
The events witnessed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have plagued my mind for far too long, and perhaps will continue to do so throughout my lifetime. Working in one of the biggest COVID-19 hubs in London has no doubt been a challenge for myself. It has been a time where we’ve loved harder than ever, lost those close to us while feeling helpless, but still igniting hope every step of the way.
“I’m sorry to break the news.” It was mid April 2020 when I received the call about a patient on my gastroenterology ward, who happened to be my colleague’s grandfather. I remember him vividly: a great, young healthy being. It was prime time of the novel emerging virus, inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and, at the time, there was minimal testing available. It was all so scary. He would usually be the first person I saw staring through the window; sometimes he would drop the odd wave and smile, which would be enough to give me hope. I remember running in early that April morning, hoping he’d be well enough to be discharged. I glanced over and asked the nurse in charge if he had gone home. Her face was pure disbelief.
That was the moment my heart sank. The tears rolled down my face, full of guilt and apologies as I felt this heavy weight on my heart.
It was only when I had the courage to start releasing my emotions and speaking with colleagues months later that I realised this journey was not unique to me.
At this point, I founded the Instagram page @covid.pharm to share stories, challenges and experiences faced by pharmacy staff during the pandemic. As a profession constantly underrepresented for its hard work — whether hospital, retail, GP practices or care homes — these are yet only some of the roles we have continuously stood by at the forefront, serving lengthy hours, being the final point of contact for many patients, yet still standing here at the frontline helping to save lives.
It was 20:00 on a Thursday evening in August 2020 and I had arrived home after a gruelling 12-hour shift. To my surprise, I was greeted by my neighbours at their front doors, clapping, cheering and banging pots and pans. Tears of joy and happiness ran down my face. As I scanned across the street seeing my vulnerable, older neighbours clap away, I decided to give back to them.
This is when I decided to use the ‘NextDoor’ app — a social media platform for local communities — to offer a voluntary service for local people who are shielding. Within the first 3 days, I had 17 queries enquiring about the vaccine.
Then, in December 2020, becoming a volunteer at SikhForgiveness allowed me to create the ‘Ask your pharmacist’ portal to help those struggling with mental health-related queries. Many of us are either ignorant to it, refuse to acknowledge it or simply neglect it. For me, the goal became clearer — it is time to take action and create change.
Change begins with you.
Gursimranjeet Kaur Khaira, senior pharmacist, Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow