Leveraging photography to cope with the stress of the pandemic, a London nurse prepares to show the hard truth about what life is like in the UK’s Covid wards. coronavirus hit.
Pediatric matron Hannah Deller of Bermondsey has transformed her children’s ward into an adult covid ward specializing in palliative care.
He will showcase his dramatic portrayal of life in a London hospital at the height of the pandemic at the London Photo Show in November this year.
Hannah’s collection features her colleagues dressed in full PPE, and this is the everyday reality for staff at Paddington’s St Mary’s Hospital in London for over 18 months.
Describing how she started her pandemic photography journey, Hannah explains: “I remember walking down the hallway one day and having one of my colleagues looking out the window at the door of the intensive care unit.
“It was a one-way system and he actually stayed at the door wearing full PPE.
“It looked like a scene from a horror movie.
“I love taking photos, it’s a big passion for me. I trained as a photographer in New York and now I do this mainly in and around my other passion, nursing.
“I just looked and said, wow, that’s a really good shot. I felt like I had to take that photo.
“So I asked permission and he said ‘yes, of course.’ This was my first photo.”
From that moment on, Hannah began to record daily life, both in the wards and in the streets around her area.
Attendees of the exhibition at the Bargehouse Gallery in London’s Oxo Tower Wharf will be reminded of some of the strange sights stemming from the coronavirus restrictions.
Hannah added: “Looking back, I think my way of coping with stress was to take pictures.
“When we all started wearing PPE, in the beginning it was almost like getting dressed. It was really weird.
“I remember saying ‘wow’, it’s so weird.
“I think that’s why I and other doctors and nurses have so many shots in PPE, it was a way of helping me understand what was going on around me.
“I started taking pictures not only in the wards but also on the way home, I remember seeing some swings in a cordoned off park, as if a huge spider came and wrapped them in a web.
“It was a surreal time.”
Participation is free and will take place from 11-14 November.
Hannah continued: “It was a very difficult time emotionally. We turned our children’s intensive care unit and ward into Adult Covid Units overnight and got immersed in some kind of horror story.
“On the same evening, patients, most of whom were unfortunately palliative, were admitted to the ward one after another.
“I’ve never experienced this level of sickness and death before, and sometimes it was totally overwhelming.
“Besides coping mentally, there were tremendous challenges for us as nurses.
“Relatives were not allowed to see patients at the time, and one of the hardest things was talking to patients’ families on Facetime and trying to reassure them that their loved ones were getting the best possible care.
When the second wave hit just after the first, Hannah said many doctors and nurses would go to psychotherapy to help them process their experiences, including losing their colleagues to the illness.
For Hannah, photography was her solace, and she says it helped her remember some good times.
He said: “It sounds strange to say, but unlike moments of extreme sadness and despair, there have been some incredible experiences.
“Many people have achieved this and have been sent home. Many people survived. Eventually, many families were allowed to see their loved ones.
“It was so sad and scary, but with some really beautiful moments – these were experiences you could never have imagined in your lifetime.
“I am so grateful for being able to take pictures that will help me remember this time.”
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