On the Covid Frontline – 15th May

Nigel Beeton (pictured above in his PPE) works in Radiology in a hospital in the East of England. During this time of the coronavirus crisis, he is writing a weekly diary of his life at the hospital. 

Weekend 15th May

You can say what you like about the coronavirus, it has certainly brought some colour into our lives! This morning I encountered one of my colleagues. Starting from the top, she was wearing a bright yellow visor, a pale blue regulation issue surgical mask, bright pink scrubs and bright orange clogs. She looked like one of those rainbows that we now see all over the place!

I can assure you that her bright pinks scrubs did not come through the NHS supply chain! No indeed, those scrubs were put together and stitched by a member of the public.

Scrubs, for those of you not addicted to Holby City, are pyjama-like outfits of trousers and top which do nothing for your figure (mine’s a hopeless cause anyway) but which are cool to wear and easy to keep clean. The idea is that you can change out of your day clothes and into scrubs and vice versa so you are not carrying bugs into or out of clinical areas. They were originally worn in the operating theatre environment, hence the term associated with ‘scrubbing up’ for theatre. Their use had become considerably more widespread but the advent of the requirements for PPE in the covid situation put enormous pressure on demand for scrubs, and our existing stocks quickly ran out. It was the same story across the NHS.

But the public have responded magnificently. Carol, my wife, sews, and in fact she has made us both masks that we can wear when out and about (but not at work). It took her a while, and of course she’s at work nursing so doesn’t have the time to make scrubs, but I would think that a set of scrubs must take several hours to make.

The hospital has put one of those wire cages on wheels in the front entrance so that donors can put their home-made scrubs into it. There’s a poster on it thanking contributors most effusively but otherwise it’s just a bare wire cage.  So these paragons of home sewing, after all these hours of cutting, stitching, overlocking and elastoplasting the occasional cut finger, just drive up to the hospital and deposit the fruits of their labours into a wire cage.

I think that is true charity. No formal thanks, no prize for producing the most scrubs, no smiling grip and grin photos in the local paper (grip and grins are out for the duration anyway). Just the simple satisfaction of knowing that you are making a real difference to the working lives of staff facing the greatest challenge of their health service careers. (It’s certainly been the greatest challenge of mine, and if any twenty-somethings setting out on their careers will have to face worse, then I tremble at the thought.)

If you, or someone you know, has been sewing scrubs, then on behalf of all of us, may I say:

Thank You!