I’m an A&E doctor. I live in Hexham but work in Carlisle and I’ve been there for the last six years or so now.
I do my job because I like it and enjoy it. For me it’s a childhood dream: I’m African, I grew up in a village in Tanzania and always wanted to be a doctor. I went to Uni to train in Istanbul and met my wife there, she was a teacher. After graduating I went back to Tanzania and worked for a year and a half, and then because my wife is from this part of the world, we moved to England. I passed my exams here and I’ve been working in the NHS for the last 18 years.
When the pandemic came in, I just happened to be in Tanzania for a teaching session. When I came back, even though I’d not been away for long everything had changed. So the whole department had to be divided into different hot and cold places: hot for suspected Covid patients, and a cold zone for non/unlikely to be Covid patients. And the way we had to do our resuscitation changed as well. You don’t want to infect each other in the process of trying to save someone, so there was quite a lot of changes with that. And doing CPR and resus in full PPE is not fun. When you’re wearing full PPE you can’t have a drink for four hours, it’s a very uncomfortable thing.
I live with my family. I have three daughters, two of them are at home and my wife, who is asthmatic. You always have that in the back of your mind, you go to work and then go home and you worry you might be bringing something back. So for the first three or four weeks I changed outside, had a shower, and chucked everything away in a different washing laundry basket before I saw anyone. And for four or five weeks I slept in the spare room. So it changed my lifestyle at home a bit.
I think the hardest thing was looking after someone who is really sick, and probably you know they’re not going to make it, but they can’t have their family with them. We had to plan ahead, so if we had a lot of sick people, we had to decide who to resuscitate and who not to resuscitate. We had to be prepared as a department, but luckily we didn’t have to make those tough decisions like they had to in Italy.
One positive is I think everyone is looking after one another. It’s nice to see that everyone cares about one another and they’re not just here to do a job. There were fewer patients during lockdown as well, so you had more time to deal with them; you have time to sit there and reflect, think about what’s happening around you. It was exciting and scary at the same time.
When I was driving up my street, I’d come up the hill and people would wave and just say hello because they know I’m a doctor. I think we learned to appreciate one another much more. Everyone was asked to stay at home but I had to go and face the enemy; I was trying to protect everyone and we do it for our community. I’m a very optimistic person and I try to make every challenge an opportunity.
To relax I had more walks with my wife. She is a keyworker too, so when she wasn’t at home, I’d do photography, that’s my hobby. I’d get my camera, go to Hadrian’s Wall, take some pictures, and then I don’t think about work when I get home. It decluttered my brain.
I wanted to take part in this project to show people that this country is built by so many different people from all around the world, to bring a different perspective and diversity. So in 50 years’ time, if someone was looking back, they’d see someone from Tanzania was working here. Yeah, I’d like that!