Gary Brigden, an advanced nurse practitioner with a specialist interest in heart failure, embodies the NHS’s heroic spirit.
When he contracted COVID-19 last year, he didn’t think he would survive.
“I caught COVID during the first wave, as did my partner, who is also a nurse,” says Gary, who has worked for the Trust for more than 20 years.
“We were both very ill. It was the first time I had been to hospital in an ambulance as a patient. On three occasions I honestly thought I was not going to survive.”
But Gary fought back, pulled through and has returned to work at the Kleinwort Centre, in Haywards Heath.
“My role hasn’t changed [due to COVID], but as a team we are needing to support each other much more - deal with the anxieties on a daily basis” says Gary. “All we can do is support each other.
“There are several of us who suffer from Long COVID and it can be a real struggle at times; but everyone turns in and does their jobs as best they can. Of course, we wear PPE (personal protective equipment) and have to be much more aware of good infection control procedures.”
Although Gary sees his doctor and has had the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, his life continues to be marked by the virus.
“We keep going because we are a team here,” he says. “I turn in, even feeling really unwell at times, to support my friends at work and to support the patients in our care.
“I try to keep fit and healthy, but the virus has left me with disability. Before I caught it, I was very active; but now I can’t even throw a ball for our dog without experiencing terrible pain in my arms. I keep my fingers crossed and keep on rolling.”
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