My name is Dr Chima Oti, consultant anaesthetist.
Yes, I am of Black African origin.
Yes, I am a consultant anaesthetist working in the Trust.
Yes, I took the Covid vaccine and am happy to share my thoughts.
The last year has been truly challenging for all of us.
March 2020: the first patients
It all started in March 2020, when we received our first patients who presented to our Emergency Department with worsening respiratory symptoms as a result of Covid infection.
A significant proportion of these patients rapidly deteriorated and required intubation and ventilation on the intensive care unit.
Elective operating lists were cancelled and we worked as critical care consultants on the expanded ITU to care for critically unwell patients.
Our anaesthetic consultants and trainees worked various resident on-call rotas.
Teams like the intubation and proning teams were formed to cope with increasing numbers of really sick patients.
Our ITU nurses worked tirelessly to care for our patients and theatre staff supported them by working in many new roles.
Critical care teams use mobile dialysis machines to care for patients in ITU, becoming the first Trust in the country to do so.
Everyone in the hospital worked incredibly hard in very challenging circumstances. It was a truly difficult time, as we witnessed our loved ones and colleagues become unwell. Society changed dramatically to try and halt the spread of this dreadful disease with lockdown restrictions.
Summer 2020: cases drop - but not for long
In the summer of 2020, the number of patients infected with Covid dropped significantly and most of us hoped we could go back to the way things were, resuming elective operating lists, outpatient clinical activity and of course picking up on our social interaction with our loved ones.
A&E nurse Franco Palo prepares to leave Northwick Park Hospital with his wife Grace after spending weeks in intensive care.
Autumn and winter 2020: back to square one
Unfortunately, we started to see a rise in the number of Covid infections late last year, and we are now experiencing similar challenges as we did in the first half of 2020 - patients presenting with difficulty breathing and requiring critical care admission and organ support.
Inevitably, this has led to the postponement of some hospital services so we can divert healthcare resources to these patients.
Lockdown restrictions have been introduced once more with closure of schools, non-essential shops and leisure centres and restrictions on visiting our loved ones and travel. It’s a really challenging time for us as a hospital and indeed the whole nation.
ITU staff at Ealing care for a patient while wearing enhanced PPE.
A glimmer of hope
There is, however, one difference this time round: the introduction of a vaccine, which could stop people from becoming seriously unwell when infected with Covid, and help to reduce the pressure on us in the hospital and with mortality.
Healthcare workers have been prioritised by the Government to receive this vaccine because of their exposure to patients who may be infected.
Science has saved us in the past with the introduction of vaccines, antibiotics and other drugs that have helped to eliminate mortality from dreadful diseases. It should be no different this time, as scientists have worked really hard to develop a number of vaccines.
Anaesthetist Ahmed Abdelaal becomes the first member of staff to receive the vaccine.
But I had questions
I accept there are a lot of questions about the vaccine and it's important to state that I also had questions of my own. I'm aware of the hesitation to take up the vaccine as published in recent polls and surveys.
Reports indicate a higher degree of hesitation in those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities for a number of reasons.
I decided to get the vaccine
After careful consideration, reading the available research and discussions with friends and colleagues, I am delighted to say that I have now taken the vaccine and would like to encourage others to do the same.
The vaccines have been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the medicine regulator. This means they are safe and effective against Covid-19.
Let's fight this dreadful disease together. For those with questions about the vaccine, I am here to talk to you, so let’s keep talking.