Details for 'Life, Death and Biscuits' by Anthea Allen
Life, Death and Biscuits
This is a diary of nursing on a Covid ward.
I didn't think I was ready but it's a description of selfless, tireless, dedicated caring and it's inspiring, encouraging and uplifting.
The author was a sister on an ICU ward in London when Covid hit. Seeing how it was affecting her team, she emailed friends and neighbours asking for treats she could take to her staff.
Anthea Allen's heartfelt plea in her email touched a chord. She was inundated with cakes, biscuits and offers of support. People in lockdown, fearful of Covid were desperate to know more of what was happening on the frontline, and how they might do more than stand on their doorsteps and clap.
Anthea gave more details of her experiences and her emails reached an audience of thousands. Such was the response that she decided to provide regular updates. This book is a compilation of those weekly emails.
Warm and intimate, her writing vividly conveys the humour, fear, monotony and tragedy facing these committed nurses every day.
Anthea describes how the intensity of the work in unprecedented circumstances meant the staff quickly saw each other as famlly, building strong and lasting bonds. They found that they wanted to spend all their time in the wards as this was where they felt they were needed and had purpose. Many would come in on their days off.
She looks back on more normal times and reflects on the regular challenges of being a member of the critical care team, performing CPR, harvesting organs, providing end of life care. The compassion these nurses show is extraordinary and so comforting and humbling to read.
There are details about the practicalities of wearing PPE, of the lack of hot food and drinks, of no time to go to the bathroom. There are the moments of hilarity: an elderly patient is asked if they wanted a cup of tea and says they've already been given one by 'the other astronaut'; a mask confuses a simple request as someone thinks they're asked 'would you like a coffee?' when the question is 'do you know where the mop is?'
There may have been clapping on doorsteps, but the public was quick to forget all that the medical teams had done and continue to do, she says. Despite the pay and the conditions, the nurses continue to dowhat they do because of the job satisfaction. What they do matters.
This is a brilliant book. It's easy and compelling to read and there is so much to take away from it in being reminded of the phenomenal commitment, care and compassion by all those working in the NHS. It's a book to return to not just as a record of the response to the pandemic, but to be humbled by those whose job and vocation it is to care for others.