Frontline to Backline

From the UK to the Persian Gulf

I’ve spent 14 years working for the NHS. Spent a variety of years tasting many specialities spending days and nights walking along various hospital corridors. After this I decided to become a general practitioner and for the last nine years this is what I did until 14th February 2020. This was the last day I worked in the NHS and then on 15th I boarded a plane to my new future. My children and I were welcomed at the airport by my husband who had arrived a few months prior to me and had already begun working as a primary health care consultant. I, on the other hand, had decided on a career break. I wished to break free from the madness that was life working as a GP and being a mother of three children aged nine, six and three. 

Many people work hard and juggle children. It’s not easy and you lose yourself in it. Being a doctor there is always that worry that it’s not just an email that you might send to the wrong person but a mistake with much worse consequences. It’s the sadness you feel when you lose the patient that you had developed a close relationship with or discuss a devastating diagnosis. There are also happy moments to share, like the news of a pregnancy from a lady who has been waiting so patiently for so many years. It’s a wonderful job, but also an emotional rollercoaster, and that coupled with my own children and the challenges of motherhood and life in general meant I needed to stop. Not permanently, but just to breathe and enjoy. To slow down time and cherish my children before they quickly grow into young adults. So came the move. 

The first few weeks were like a holiday. Beautiful weather, sights to discover and lots of fun. The children settled into their new school, which was my biggest worry, but it was as smooth as could be. They attended for 12 days and then in mid-March the schools announced closure. The process of lockdown had started and slowly the measures became stricter. Shortly after schools closed, play areas, pools, beaches, parks and malls all closed. All in a matter of days the streets became quiet. 

We now live our life in the confines of our small flat. I don’t have the clothes, toys, books and every possible gadget that we had access to a few weeks ago. I only have what I could squeeze in my suitcase and I have realised that even this is more than enough. It’s a testing time but I know I have the luxury of spending this time with my children. I help them with their school work, we paint, we read and we play. My dream of time with my children came true but never would I have imagined these circumstances. 

I am baffled as to how I have spent 14 years in the NHS and at the time of a pandemic I am so far from home and work. Word from colleagues at the extent of the problem back home causes so much worry. I pray for my family and friends back home, the patients I had once cared for and my colleagues. 

I wonder what life would have been like if I had not made a leap abroad. There would have been some difficult decisions. Would I have sent the children to live with their grandmother? I could not have come home from work and risked my mother in law or mother getting unwell. I would have had to change the way I had worked and brush up on my telephone consultation skills. General practice until recently has been about face to face consultations. However, this pandemic has meant a change in the way general practice is working. I think this will change the way we work forever. I applaud the frontline workers all around the world. They have always been at the front line but we have only just recognised it. 

There is also some sadness and guilt. My patients of nine years may have needed me now during this pandemic more than ever. A familiar voice of the end of the telephone may have been comforting. Then I remember I am also a mother and I stand firm with the decision to dedicate just a few years to my children.

The problem for healthcare workers and their families is much the same wherever you are in the world. My husband returns home to us now having swabbed patients and cared for them and we can only hope and pray that his clothing was protective enough. The fear of developing the virus is as real anywhere you are. 

My plan of a new life has turned into a new life that has in fact been planned for me. Not just me but for us all. 

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