Tom Swarbrick 10pm - 1am
Coronavirus: 'My partner works in the NHS and could become a death by Covid-19 statistic'
30 March 2020, 08:04
The partner of an NHS nurse has spoken of the 'punch in the stomach' moment he realised his partner could die from Covid-19 while working on the frontlines.
With NHS staff working round the clock at the best of times the coronavirus pandemic has put extra pressure on an already strained service.
London hospitals are facing a "wicked combination" of an "explosion" in demand and "unprecedented" staff sickness rates, a senior health service figure has warned.
Earlier this week LBC News detailed the physical impact of long shifts in protective equipment in the marks and sores left on their faces.
But behind the frontline, supporting the key NHS staff are millions of family, partners, loved ones and children. One NHS nurse's partner has spoken to LBC News explaining the heartbreak he experienced at the moment she told him she was "sorting out the paperwork to support me financially if she dies as a result of the virus."
Simon* is one of the millions out there supporting an NHS worker, his partner is a senior nurse on a general medical ward in a busy teaching hospital in London.
He said Lisa normally treats patients with general medical conditions, but her ward is currently in use to treat Covid-19 patients.
Patients are being treated in isolation in 4-bed bays but the NHS staff are staying in the bays almost constantly to tend to them.
Simon said this means healthcare workers have to wear the personal protective equipment (PPE) almost constantly, which is both exhausting and doesn't enable the type of emotional bedside support and care staff want to give.
Simon said his partner Lisa is in her late 50's, fit and well, he told LBC News he doesn't normally think about mortality, but when talking to Lisa about NHS staff being one of the few groups where their income and jobs are protected, even when sick they "sort of stumbled into what would happen if he were to die as a result of getting Covid-19."
Simon said: "Perhaps I should have been thinking about this beforehand, but the speed of the pandemic has meant we are all suddenly realising stuff like this - like a bolt out of the blue."
Simon and Lisa aren't married but have been together for 25 years and have a primary school-aged child, but Simon said they've "never done the 'I do' thing."
If Lisa were to die in service her pension would go to their child who is officially her next of kin.
Lisa has been proactively working with the NHS pensions team to complete the paperwork which means Simon would be named as next of kin.
Movingly Simon said, "clearly she has realised she could become a part of the 'death by Covid-19' statistic and been proactively working to financially help me and our child in this awful situation."
When Lisa told her he was preparing for the worst, Simon said he felt like she had been "punched in the stomach."
Simon told LBC News she knows Lisa is at risk, but also that all of the family are because they live together in a two-bedroom flat.
He said the revelation about Lisa changing her paperwork meant he was faced with the reality Lisa might not be fine, as Simon had always been able to convince himself.
"I was also profoundly saddened to think she had held this all on her own - this was the first I had heard of her thinking about this or taking these steps," Simon said, adding "I felt so sad to think she hadn't felt able to share this with me."
"My partner normally doesn't do emotions, but since this crisis really kicked in she can sometimes be on the verge of tears, especially when thinking about the fragility of life."
Simon has a message for people who are thinking about breaking the Government rules and the risk it puts his partner and family at: "I understand and am grateful that most people will never experience what it is like to be in a hospital ward, or an intensive care ward, even in this pandemic.
"And I know that we can easily deny our mortality, especially if fit and healthy.
"I also know that many people might want to test the boundaries put down by the Government, just as a teenager who feels invincible might flout their parent's rules and do risky things. "
He warned: "A walk in the park might not feel risky most of the time, but right now, it is.
"By not being responsible and thinking of the virus as a killer that you might unwittingly pass on, you may be placing many others at risk, including NHS staff.
"That risk might not just be of a bad dose of flu, but of dying, and of leaving a family and young child bereaved."
*Simon and Lisa are aliases.