This is from Nigel Beeton who works in Radiology in a hospital in the East of England and is a regular contributor to our magazine.
There was a group of my staff just standing in the waiting area outside one of the CT scanning rooms the other day. I opened my mouth to speak but one of then caught my eye and put his gloved finger in front of his visor in the universally understood bid to be silent, understood despite the fact that his lips were separated from his finger by the visor and a face mask. They don’t often shush their boss, so I very obediently closed my mouth again. The door to the room opened, and an elderly patient appeared, accompanied by another radiographer. “Happy Birthday Mabel!” everyone chorused (I’ve changed her name to protect her confidentiality.) Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday, dear Mabel,
Happy Birthday to you! Even I joined in. I’m not sure if my singing voice is up to much, but my sentiments were genuine. I hoped she’d have a good birthday. We all rounded off the melody with a round of applause, latex gloves make a strange popping noise if you clap while wearing them. Dear Mabel loved it. She was clearly surprised and taken aback by the sight of half a dozen staff in PPE singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her, but the experience had transformed an alien world of CT scanners and PPE into a familiar one of birthday wishes and a well-known song. “Oh, thank you everyone, you’re all so kind; my family can’t be with me today. Usually they come for my birthday.” Mabel, in her eighties, was self-isolating due to her age, but still living independently at home. We check dates of birth as part of ensuring that we are doing the right thing for the right patient, and so my colleague had clocked that today was her birthday. Having got to know her well enough during the setting up stage to be happy that she wouldn’t mind, he conspired with his colleagues while watching the scanner do its stuff. The coronavirus may be keeping us separated from one another, but it is spurring us all on to make greater efforts to be connected to one another, to show our humanity towards one another. Someone bought us lunch today. It appeared in pots by our gate, and we sat down and enjoyed a meal of restaurant quality food. Our friends had supported a local restaurant which, in its hour of need has branched out into ‘meals on wheels’, and shown us such love and concern that a tear was brought to my eye. I hope and pray that the coronavirus will soon fade into history. But I pray equally fervently that its legacy of connected humanity will last for many, many years to come.