Health worker fights the virus

By Zoe McMaugh

As a frontline health worker in the United Kingdom, former local Ray Nicholson has been an important piece of the puzzle in stemming the spread of Coronavirus.

Right up until he contracted the virus himself.

Mr Nicholson, who says he was proudly born and raised in Deniliquin and returns as often as he can, said the virus quickly spread through his family, with only his nine year-old daughter Daisy free from symptoms so far.

He contracted the virus while working at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

‘‘Royal Marsden is a cancer hospital, but we were tasked with looking after some suspected COVID-19 patients,’’ he said.

‘‘After a weekend at home I woke up on Monday (March 30) with a temperature of 38.1 degrees. In the UK the cut off for testing is 37.8 degrees.

‘‘I was swabbed the following Wednesday and unfortunately it was another five days before the test came back positive.

‘‘One of by bosses had gone off the Wednesday before me saying he felt really rough.

‘‘Initially I isolated myself in the bedroom at home so that everyone else in the family could roam around the house.

‘‘I really didn’t want to get out of bed anyway because I had a high temperature, I was shivering all over and I felt really rough myself.

‘‘About 4am on the Thursday morning my wife Claire woke me up when she had a temperature of 38 degrees.

‘‘By the Friday, our 13 year-old son Harry had a temperature of 38.’’

Mr Nicholson said the first indication he might have contracted COVID-19 was a ‘‘slight cough’’ over the weekend before he was tested, after which he says he was ‘‘knocked out’’ for days.

Mr Nicholson said one silver lining is that the illness has passed quickly, except for some latent fatigue.

When speaking to the Pastoral Times via video call from his home in Oxfordshire on Tuesday evening (Tuesday morning UK time), he said he expected to return to work on Wednesday.

Mr Nicholson said it is hard to determine whether he contracted COVID-19 from one of the patients at Royal Marsden, or his colleague.

‘‘We have done our best in the health service to keep our distance, but it is difficult when you are on top of one another.

‘‘We were assisting people suspected of having COVID-19, having been redeployed (from normal duties) as it were.

‘‘People are succumbing to the virus every day.

‘‘When I do go back to work I will be going back to my my normal role as a urology advanced nurse practitioner.

‘‘There is talk we may have to do night shifts, which I have never done before, because there are just so many health workers not able to work.

‘‘I’ve been pretty keen to get back to normality.

‘‘I felt really good on Sunday and could have gone back to work today (Tuesday) but I was just too tired.’’

The UK, and London in particular, went into lock down several weeks ago in an effort to stem the spread of Coronavirus, but as a frontline healthcare worker Mr Nicholson said those restrictions did not apply to him.

But he said given the sheer impact of the virus in the UK, he is still shocked to see some people flaunting the rules unnecessarily.

‘‘Deaths in the UK are now more than 6000.

‘‘When we hit 8000, all I can think about is that is the whole of Deniliquin gone.

‘‘They say it is slowing, but they are not expecting the peak of the virus here for another seven to 10 days.

‘‘As a key worker I have not been impacted by the restrictions. I am more frustrated that when I am on the bus to work I am seeing so many people out and about.

‘‘It doesn’t help that we just had a really lovely weekend here, and people want to get out an enjoy it when they can.

‘‘I am lucky in that while I work in London, I live in Oxfordshire and we have a garden so we can still enjoy being outside. I can only imagine how difficult it is for people in the cities without a garden.

‘My advice to anyone would be to just sit tight — potter around locally so that you don’t inadvertently run in to people.

‘‘We’ve had examples of people here driving half an hour just to walk their dogs.  What happens if they break down?  They are unnecessarily drawing other people to them.’’

Mr Nicholson has lived in the UK permanently since 2000.

He had intended to only spend two years there, like he did on his first stint, but that’s when his life changed.

‘‘I was just about to get on a plane to come back in 2002 when I met Claire, who is now my wife,’’ he said.

‘‘I was born and bred in Deniliquin, went to Deniliquin High School and then to La Trobe University in Bendigo to study nursing.

‘‘In 1994 I left Deniliquin for Brisbane to work at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

‘‘In 1996 I went to the UK for two years, and then I went back in 2000.

‘‘I have been home (to Australia) a few times in the last few years.  I came home for the Deniliquin RSL Club’s reunion celebrations, and then again a year later where I snuck in to Adelaide for my niece’s wedding,’’ he said.