A sports injury picked up playing rugby influenced Alexander Bereziuk’s decision to become a physiotherapist.
“I was out with dislocated shoulder and fractured elbow for several months so there was plenty of time to think,” recalls the 26 year-old who was one of many physiotherapists redeployed to help fight Covid-19 at Northwick Park.
Outpatients was one of the departments whose routine work was suspended to help reduce the potential spread of the virus.
Alexander started out delivering prescriptions to patients who were shielding and later joined the proning teams in intensive care helping turn patients onto their chest to help them breath.
The proning teams, which included anaesthetists, nurses and physiotherapists, were required to turn up to 16 patients a shift at the height of the pandemic in April.
Alexander said: “It’s hard work, especially in PPE equipment. The patients were heavily sedated but they had a lot of equipment coming in and out of them. We used a technique where you wrap the patients in their bed sheets to turn them over and then back again after several hours.”
He moved out of home and in with a colleague who was also working in intensive care to protect his flatmate from the risk of infecton.
Alexander added: “It’s all a bit of a blur looking back on it but I’ve got to know so many colleagues that I wouldn’t normally have met.
“It was great to just see people from all over the trust come together to do what needed to be done. There was no fuss. Everyone just got on with the work.”
He is now using his physio skills to help get Covid-19 patients back on their feet with many so weakened by the virus they initially struggle to raise their arms or sit up unaided. Some of those are patients he helped turn while in intensive care.
This included Jal Makai who was interviewed by the BBC after spending 25 days on a ventilator after collapsing at home. Jal is now recovering at home with his family.
Many patients who are recovering have only a vague recollection of being in intensive care. A booklet has been produced by the senior physiotherapy team explaining to patients what they went through and what to expect on their journey to ecovery.
Alex added: “The booklets help to give patients an understanding of what happened to them and how they were looked after. A lot of patients have found them useful while processing the whole experience."
Alex and his colleagues are now slowly getting back to normal and have been busy producing a series of short exercise and rehab videos for patients to use once they have been discharged.
Has the experience changed him?
“We’ve all been through something extraordinary together and it does teach you not to take things for granted.
“I haven’t seen my family for three months but plan to see them as soon as I can. I have my name down for the proning team if they need me again. We’ve all been through it once so know we can do it again.”