News + Views

Healthcare Heroes

By Rob Hulls, Director

Behind every hospital admission there are a plethora of hard-working health professionals doing everything in their power to comfort the confused, calm the stressed, and cure the ill. My recent experience confirms how lucky we are having these heroes in our midst and on our side.

Last month, just after discovering that my youngest son had returned a positive RAT result, I placed him in isolation in his room and within half an hour started to get the most extraordinary feeling of pins and needles in both my hands. I became disturbed when this feeling rapidly spread to my legs and then my face. My immediate thoughts were that I was about to have a stroke or heart attack, especially when I was struggling to get enough air into my lungs, and I could literally feel my heart beating at an extraordinary pace. I knew I had to ring an ambulance but had to crawl to my phone as my legs had gone numb. After dialling 000 and, thankfully, being put straight through to Ambulance Victoria the voice at the other end was calming and assured me that help was on its way. I was not calm and told her I thought I was dying.

After this call, I tried to take myself downstairs but couldn’t walk. I bounced on my backside to the bottom of the stairs and, with my heart rate clearly out of control and the pins and needles getting worse, especially in my face, I thought this was the end. I didn’t want to be found dead on the stairs, so I managed to get to a bedroom and lay there in a complete panic.

Within a minute the door opened, and it was my wife. I struggled to tell her what had happened, as I couldn’t speak properly due to the face numbness but within another minute the Ambulance arrived. The Officers were quick, efficient and effective in checking all my vital signs, confirming my heart rate was far too high, giving me a RAT test and taking me to the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

On arrival at the Emergency Department, the wonderful Ambulance Paramedics handed me over to the Emergency Department team who went into action. Another RAT test was given, heart monitor wired up, blood pressure cuff fitted, temperature taken, and full personal details and medical history noted. All RATs came back negative. The pins and needles were getting worse, and my breathing was extremely rapid as I tried to get air into my lungs. My heart rate had gone to a whopping 205 beats per minute. I was sure that this was the end.

Everyone around me were doing their caring and reassuring best to calm me, telling me to breath more slowly and assuring me that I was in good hands. A PCR test was taken, and I was wired up like a power station. I recall a discussion about sedating me and attempting to electronically shock my heart back to a regular rhythm. Instead, it was decided to medicate me with heart rate lowering drugs. Within what seemed like a short time my PCR test came back positive. This, of course, caused more stress and with the heart still pounding I was taken to ICU.

It is difficult to describe the state of my mind at that time, but my fear and uncertainty were very quickly allayed by the humanity and understanding shown to me by the doctors and nurses. Under extreme pressure, these people are counsellors, carers, leaders and lifesavers.

As my heartbeat returned to closer to normal levels, I was transferred to the Covid Ward for monitoring. Thoughts of people dying in hospital from or with Covid raced through my mind, but again I was calmed by the caring team who work in very trying circumstances. I was assured that my full vaccination status, including my 4th jab, would hold me in good stead.

I have been back home for a while now, feeling worse for the ordeal, but uplifted by it as well. My messages are simple. Acknowledge and respect those extraordinary people who work in our health care system. They are amazing people who are, quite literally, saving lives. To those superstars who cared for me, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

The second message is that this pandemic is not over, and it is crucial to get fully vaccinated, including all your booster shots. I am living proof that it makes a real difference.