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We can take these first steps together | This month’s thoughts

The Government’s recent announcement revealing the roadmap out of lockdown offers light at the end of the tunnel. And for many, it’s been a very long and very dark tunnel these past 12 months.

In many ways, my job is being a guide to help patients, their loved ones and the bereaved, through their own tunnels. Thames Valley Air Ambulance is known for being at the frontline of saving lives, but the aftercare we offer is another vital service to help people come to terms with what was probably the most traumatic experience of their life.

The toll of the pandemic on our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing has been high. I’ve seen this first-hand with the sheer volume of former patients and the bereaved who have been seeking my help since the first lockdown in March 2020.

Sadly, death is a fact of life and despite all our best efforts, some of the most critically ill or injured patients that we’re called out to don’t survive.  There are no rules or timeframes on bereavement, but I have certainly observed that the grieving process and the feeling of isolation has been compounded by the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns. While video conferencing is no substitute for face-to-face contact, it still allows me to continue to do a very important aspect of my role – to provide support and practical advice to bereaved families and friends.

While the loss of personal contact is far from ideal, much of what I can do can still be done remotely. For many patients, being discharged from hospital is the start of the recovery journey. Patients are given a tome of discharge notes, and straightaway trying to make heads or tails of notes about your own health in what is medical jargon causes great anxiety and worry. During the pandemic, patients have sent me scans of their notes and over Zoom and a cuppa we can take the first steps together and I can demystify the medical jargon.

Covid-19 has also caused immense practical challenges. For those who live alone, including one patient whose life-changing road traffic collision requires him to have a lot of intensive rehab, simply getting to vital sessions during a time of social distancing and travel restrictions seemed an impossible task.  As Thames Valley Air Ambulance is at the heart of the community, we have established good networks with other charities, and I was able to contact another organisation to provide safe and secure transport.

As I reflect on the last 12 months, it’s easy to fall into the trap of only thinking about the negatives. But I’m also heartened by patients who have contacted me to tell me that being able to spend such precious time with their partners or their children, time when they’d ordinarily be alone, has been an unexpected gift.

As we say goodbye to a hard winter, Spring holds much renewed hope. And although it will take time to reach normalcy, I look forward to when I can meet patients in the same room soon.

If you or a loved one were a patient of Thames Valley Air Ambulance and would like to contact Adam Crosby, please email adam.crosby@tvairambulance.org.uk or call 01494 923936.