PS. St. Thomas’ Hospital

Like everyone else, I’m very unhappy with what’s happening around the world at present with regard to the virus. I’m finding that every day there are devastating losses that I can’t allow myself to get used to. Again, like everyone else, I’m moved a few times every day. Right now it can be by anything, but mostly by people being human.

By adversaries agreeing, by the intelligent resolve the Spanish medics are handling what is a national disaster, by the Italian doctors in Naples totally sealed off in impregnable plastic suits who’ve had zero infections among their number since the emergency started, and are making complete sense. By the people singing to themselves in Rome.

Remembering walking around in Rome in the heat of the July day, and spending 2 or 3 hours in the Leonardo museum across the piazza from where we were staying a couple of years ago. And my five stays at St Thomas’ Hospital, Lambeth over the years. Getting better one time, and walking to the end of the ward and staring at the Houses of Parliament just across the river when I was 31. Sister Chapman and nurse Kate. All the death in the ward at the time. “Yes, it has been a little much this last week or two Roy”.

And the most dedicated doctor I’m ever likely to meet in my life, Michael W-P. A pure missionary who’s largely responsible for me still being here. Then all the rushing; a team would come flying in as the curtain was quickly pulled around someone. The frantic atmosphere from behind the curtain, with a lot of movement, but hardly anything being said. 

And then, after about ten minutes, as a still begins to come from behind the curtain, white coats emerge, slowly walking out silently from behind it; and washing their hands in the sinks in the middle the ward. Some walking away quickly, others just strolling disconsolately. 48 years ago. Then again, just over twenty years ago, the same doctor, in the same place, and two procedures later, over a period of 3 months, giving me another 20 years, and counting..

Funny slightly aged building now, seeing it on tv, parts of the decor have fallen off the front of it. The first time I was in there, the ward had about 25 beds. The second time, it had been divided up a bit more. There were more wards, and they all had four beds. It looked like it was easier for the nurses to work in. They didn’t have to walk all day. It’s a huge warren, but it’s also a regular, very busy, ordinary hospital in there, always in some state of re-reparation, with all the staff working tirelessly around everything else.

Inside the entrance on the north east side there’s a statue of the young king, Edward V1, son of Henry V111 and Jane Seymour, who died as a teenager. I remember reading the inscriptions on it and thinking that he must have been a bright young man. I rarely think about privilege when I’m reading something like that, I always think about the human, and the time. He signed a charter for the refounding of the hospital in 1551. He died a couple of years later. His privilege couldn’t save him. Both his sisters succeeded him. What a different world it might have been without Elizabeth 1, and Walsingham..

In Ireland, we got the disease later than the UK, which made a big difference. We were better forewarned, and didn’t change course. We had a week or two’s grace to get ready, and closed some amenities, pubs and gatherings, just four days after the UK. It could be said that we’re more protected in Ireland, but it’s not finished yet.

A local nurse lives near us, and the messages from there are not that different than they would be from the UK. Everywhere in Europe, it’s the same story. They’re all going to get PPE tomorrow, but it never comes, and the medical staff work in danger.

 In France, Macron has finally admitted that there’s a problem getting hold of PPE worldwide. The world delegated China in their spare time, and it’s not working. New York has now told people to wear masks. It’s a no-brainer. We knew that weeks ago, but we also knew that the medics needed all of them.

I don’t know why the NHS don’t let that be known in England. The government surely has to tell them to. Just be honest. We can all take that. I saw Vallance prevaricating today. Raab has to say something. We can all see it on their faces.

I’ll be writing. It’ll probably be a song. It’s already started in my head. I’ve got to be extremely careful. No meaningless words. Got to observe with grace. And write with charity.