With calls for aesthetic practitioners to volunteer to support the COVID-19 vaccination programme, nurse prescriber Julie Redmond shares her experience to inspire others
Home-schooling in March last year was not for me and my poor child, who at six was expecting mummy to know all the answers, would completely agree with me! Our third London Lockdown took us all by surprise just before Christmas and we have gone deeper and deeper into the abyss since then. I have friends and colleagues messaging me daily telling me how depressed and full of anxiety they are. Usually, I am the one with all the answers and advice, but I do not have any.
After working over the last few months as a Health Champion for Westminster City Council and sitting on the committee of the Marylebone Association helping residents and business in the Marylebone area during this period, I felt I really needed to do more. I watched my peers from afar working on COVID-19 hospital wards, losing their colleagues and patients to the virus as a normal everyday occurrence. They are the real heroes. I am taking the easy option…
I joined the COVID-19 NHS vaccination programme; little did I know what I was getting myself into. Forty online assessments later, I was getting ready at 6am to go to Lords Cricket Ground. I ate my normal breakfast of a bowl of gluten-free porridge with cinnamon and honey and had a strong cup of coffee, along with a good dose of Vitamin D, C, and zinc vitamins.
At 7.30am I arrive on site to Lords Cricket Ground in the rain and do my Lateral Flow Test. I wait for 45 minutes – it is negative. I look at my watch and it is 8.30am. Usually, I am doing a Barry’s Bootcamp abs and ass class!
My first patients arrive... it is exciting to be part of the vaccine role out, but in the back of my mind I am hoping it works. Everyone gets briefed then I go and set up my pod. My adrenaline is pumping. There is an anaphylaxis protocol on the back of my chair. There are eight vaccinators, and each vaccinator has an admin support.
We start drawing up syringe after syringe of 0.3ml of Pfizer vaccine and 0.5ml of the Astra Zeneca vaccine. People with allergies get the Astra Zeneca vaccine. We all take it in turns to have a 10-minute break for a coffee.
The question I am faced with all morning is, ‘Can I hug my grandchild now’? with tears in their eyes and, ‘When do we get our second dose’? The funniest comment from a fit ninety-year-old, ‘I have never seen so many old people in one place’!
I tell anyone who has received the Pfizer vaccine to wait 15 minutes before leaving the building. When we run low, we have people drawing up the vaccine for us. It is a production line, a highly organised one where everyone has their own job. I am really impressed and humbled. Every second person thanks me.
Lunch is at 1pm and pizzas are donated, but I go for a walk instead in the rain for some fresh air to Gail’s and pick up a full fat latte and salmon roll. It cheers me up and brings some normality to the situation. The NHS team I am working with all know each other, from the tech support, admin support, managers and doctors and nurses. Their team spirit is contagious.
At 1.45pm we start back in and we work solidly for the afternoon. By 3pm there are ques of elderly people lining up in the rain and it is getting dark, my heart breaks but this is nothing to do with the organisation, people are just turning up without an appointment and then some are early.
I see my neighbour with his walking stick, and I vaccinate a retired Harley Street surgeon who asks me what job I normally do? He then offers me his business card. By 4pm, I feel like I am a Duracell bunny. We vaccinated a total of 1,500 that day. I think my count was 150. I met some amazing people, full of spirit and inner strength.
At 7pm I drive home and realise my back is stiff and into an Epsom salt bath I go with a large glass of Pol Roger. The beginning of the end…