A Canadian COVID-19 story from the front lines - Amber’s story

Adding to our stories of brave Canadians working in the field of Radiology during COVID-19, comes this story from Amber, a CT Technologist at a trauma centre in Canada.

"A patient passed away holding my hand on the CT table... The last thing she saw was a masked stranger in a face shield and a yellow gown."


As I was heading into the hospital this morning for my shift, I was trying to figure out how to describe my current work environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. I stopped at the door to get my mandatory temperature check, cleaned my hands in front of the nurse, and headed to the department to change into my scrubs. I decided to recruit the help of my coworkers, asking them to give a one- or two-word answer for what their experiences are so far.

Stressful. Tiring. Ever-changing. Overwhelming. Uncertain. Mentally exhausting. Physically exhausting.

I work as a CT Technologist in Canada. What we have gone through in the last six or so weeks has been unprecedented.

When the announcements came that we were likely going to get hit by some SARS-like virus, everyone was downplaying it. We shrugged it off, most of us having worked through Ebola, H1N1, SARS, and didn’t think much more beyond maybe needing some extra isolation gowns on the laundry cart. Panic within the general public set in quickly, and things escalated to the point where we had to keep all PPE supplies hidden or locked away, as our supplies were disappearing. Our dedicated supplies manager, who would come by every three days or so, now comes three times a day.

Staff e-mail inboxes are flooded daily with policy changes and announcements of new deaths in the province. We are now mandated to wear masks at all times at work. The loops have started chafing and pulling at our ears, and people have started covering their cheeks in Vaseline or baby cream to battle the rashes that form under the mask. Wearing a mask all day is extremely tiring, and I find I am always dehydrated, as we don’t drink as much water in hopes to preserve the life of each mask.

Every case seems to take painstakingly long. We work in an extremely fast pace, high volume, Level 1 trauma centre. Getting patients in and out quickly and efficiently is imperative to the care and survival of the critically injured or ill. We now have to don/doff PPE and sanitize the room thoroughly after every patient. It’s tedious but necessary, and we constantly wonder if we sanitized the room thoroughly. We are stressed, exhausted, and overwhelmed.

The doors remain shut when we have suspected COVID cases in our scan rooms. A patient passed away holding my hand on the CT table, while I tried to yell loud enough for the nurses and techs to hear me on the other side of the lead door. The last thing she saw was a masked stranger in a face shield and a yellow gown.

Patients are getting increasingly more paranoid, watching our every move to see if we contaminated something, if we’re starting their IV properly, make us open doors for them because they don’t think our department is clean, steal gloves from our crash carts, hand sanitizer from the walls.

We change out of our scrubs at the hospital before we head home. Cavi-wipe our shoes, our keys, the inside of our vehicles, anything to feel safe. Stripping down at the door when we get home, throwing everything in the laundry, and showering immediately. There’s a constant fear of infecting our loved ones at home, a feeling of extreme loneliness as we can’t see our family or friends, and a fear of what’s to come.

Even though our experiences seem to paint a bleak picture, we have had some amazing, positive experiences. Numerous people have reached out, asking what they can do to help ease our stress. We also have supported each other by trying to encourage each other to stay positive and most importantly active and healthy. I have heard “thank you” more in the last few weeks than ever before in the past 15 years. My best friend and her husband crafted over twenty headbands with buttons for my team to help save our ears. Friends who have no work have brought me meals, and businesses have offered us discounts. Having the fire department, police department and the general public celebrate healthcare workers at 19:00 hours each day has been so incredibly emotional. As we navigate together through this pandemic, having that support is priceless. My team and I take that energy and have realized that more than ever, we really are ALL in this together.

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