Breathtaking – a personal perspective

Yesterday morning, Dr Rachel Clarke and healthcare professionals were disgustingly abused on social media for telling how it was as the Coronavirus Pandemic unfolded. The ITV drama Breathtaking, shown this week,  is an adaptation of Clarke’s novel about the impact of the pandemic on hospital staff. 

Healthcare staff making TikTok videos weren’t sacrificing patient care – it was on breaks and days off. With what we were dealing with, why do many begrudge us trying to raise our own morale then? When nurses couldn’t buy groceries because supermarkets were stripped by the time they got off shift? Hospital staff being assaulted in car parks because they were allegedly a) spreading Covid or b) refusing to permit people to see family members? 

Many insist we have vaccine injuries  – the vaccines that weren’t rolled out until late 2020. That Covid is just a cold and Long Covid don’t exist? 

Science is overwhelming in terms of the latter and a timeline proves the former. YouTube and social media are not peer-reviewed sources of scientific research. 

I see new people coming into Long Covid peer support groups. There is still no healthcare, no move from governments to properly tackle this economy-harming issue, no improvements to ensure our future – the kids now getting repeated infections from a relatively novel virus without any idea of what it might do to them in the long term.

Millions of us are still sick. In the U.K., we don’t have financial support. The data doesn’t exist. The situation is underreported and appalling. Governments refuse to acknowledge any culpability or responsibility for us. They won’t change ventilation or air purification standards and so on. 

 Breathtaking is triggering for me, because I know people who moved to work in ICUs from their regular jobs to care for Covid patients, who caught Covid caring for patients with unreliable PPE. 

You clapped for us on Thursday nights for a few months, but do you think of any key worker who had to go to work now?

We are told we are faking it, should be going back to work, we survived. We remain unsupported, bullied and harassed. Those still able to work experience such severe stress it ends their careers.

Many, told how we are now exceptionally vulnerable to infections, get criticised for wearing FFP3 masks in public. Because “The pandemic is over!”

If the pandemic was over, we wouldn’t see thousands still dying of it. We wouldn’t see hundreds of new Long Covid patients in support groups, needing help and advice. Only the emergency stage of the pandemic is over: WHO stated that. 

Over the last four years I’ve seen profiling, ableism and discrimination from society and our governments. I remember people refusing to carry proof of vaccination yet demanding the mask-exempt carry medical proof of exemption. I’m many assumed that Covid was only dangerous to those with chronic conditions, disabled and elderly. This is false.

I won’t forget terror: Was I going to die, waking gasping for breath in the middle of the night? I won’t stress, trying to get my pension and benefits. I won’t forget crying, suicidal, because I was SO close to becoming homeless and unable to do ANYTHING about it. 

We are being punished for not dying and not getting better, thrown out with the rubbish by our employers – many of whom deny we caught this at work. 

I am angry for how key workers are treated; ableism, losing careers, lack of union or financial support, barriers to benefits and allowances they are legally entitled to. 

Most of us are too sick to challenge all this. 

It will be four years since I woke up to life changing symptoms on 3/4/20. I have many new health conditions and disabilities. I have LongCovid. Governments continue to ignore their responsibilities. 

It’s not going away. Our numbers keep growing.

* Cass Macdonald is a Liberal Democrat from Edinburgh, formerly on Federal Council. They are a former nurse, now Long Covid advocate. They are Co-founder of the Keyworker Petition Campaign and part of the Scottish Healthcare Workers’ Coalition – a core participant at the Scottish Covid Inquiry.

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