A care home manager at Royal Star & Garter has spoken about the pressures and stresses she experienced during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking as part of Royal Star & Garter’s ‘Time to reflect’ campaign to mark one year since lockdown, Helen Maher said there were times when she felt unable to cope after residents at her Surbiton Home contracted the virus in April and May 2020.
“I’m an experienced nurse, and I really struggled to work out what I could do to prevent it [spreading],” said Helena. “We ramped up training on PPE and handwashing and we instigated regular deep cleans.
“During that time, I was finding it really hard personally. I had a lot of sleepless nights worrying. There were times when I felt I couldn’t cope. I remember saying to my husband ‘This is too big for me, I can’t do it, I don’t know what I’m dealing with.’ I spent quite a lot of those evenings in floods of tears. I felt really responsible.”
Seven residents died at the home between April and May last year. Nine residents who tested positive mercifully went on to make full recoveries. The first resident tested positive after returning from hospital.
Helena said seeing residents without family members present was one of the hardest things she had to deal with.
Praising her staff, she said: “The team have worked so hard, they’ve all pulled together and been incredible.”
Residents at Surbiton have now had both doses of the vaccine, and Helena says the home is in a far better position than it was 12 months ago.
During her career, Helena has worked in A&E, ITU and paediatrics. She was a student nurse at an A&E in Sheffield when the Hillsborough disaster unfolded. But looking back on those days in April and May, she said: “Professionally, it’s absolutely the toughest thing I’ve had to deal with.”
PICTURE CREDIT: Royal Star & Garter