James Hendicott: The level-headed sound of Covid’s healthcare frontline

by James Hendicott

Our worlds have shrunk as a result of the pandemic. It feels, at least to me, like we live in these tiny spaces, that our lives lack exploration and excitement and a sense of being able to ‘go’ somewhere. I find it dark, and sometimes debilitating.

This week, though, I got the smallest little glimpse of how things can be for those whose job is actually facing this thing on our behalf. I’m still more in awe of healthcare staff for the experience.

On Wednesday, my son developed an issue with his leg, seemingly out of nowhere. By Thursday, he was in surgery having fluid drained from the knee, and I was stuck in a Dublin hospital accompanying a scared and brave little soul who couldn’t have his mum, for the somewhat arbitrary reason that I had walked in the door with him, and corona rules are strictly ‘one parent access only, ever’.

So I found myself in the thick of the battle against corona, where it’s all masks and protective equipment, and awkward questions about your household’s health, where people are doing already tough jobs in even harder circumstances. These people are quite incredible.

I discovered, quickly, that the sound of the pandemic is the sound of people getting on with it, the sound of time-passing consoles, TV, and stressed phone calls home.

As my son and I sat in this still smaller shrunken world, where for a few days, the height of my day’s excitement was the masked up trip to get a much-needed morning coffee from the hospital shop, we were surrounded by what you’d call safe-hustle.

The ward’s soundtrack was inoffensive songs of hope, designed I suspect, to offer a little privacy to the people who have to share the space while staying as well-dispersed as possible. It’s also the sound of doctors’, nurses’ and support staff’s clarity and common sense and pragmatic positivity.

We’re free now, and our world’s grown, our sounds perhaps less level-headed but more natural, and comfortable, and homely. My son will be okay.

There’s nothing like a glance at what’s not quite – but near enough – the front line to make it clear just how much ‘room’ we actually have.

Life could be so much worse. We’re so grateful.

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