Rowallane DEA Councillor Kathryn Owen, a trained nursing auxiliary, is playing her part in the fight against Covid-19.
As a recent councillor on Newry Mourne and Down District Council, Kathryn Owen, an auxiliary nurse, decided to take some time out and assist her colleagues on the front line in the battle against Covid-19 writes Jim Masson.
“Early on I realised that this was no ordinary crisis. Our health and social care systems have become quickly overrun and the staff have been under huge pressures. I decided to get back in and lend what help I could to the health service,” she said.
“I am very grateful to my party councillor colleagues Billy Walker and Glynn Hanna who have been very supportive as have councillor Patrick Brown and Terry Andrews. And I’ve also received much help too from Peter Weir MLA and Jim Shannon MP.
“I take heart that there is now light at the end of the long tunnel with Covid-19. We now have a vaccine which will eventually help to get this virus under control.
“At the moment, my role in the health care system is working with a vaccination team administering the Pfizer vaccine to health professionals. These doctors, nurses and others are in the front line and in the danger zone for infection.
“And they are fully supportive of the roll-out of the vaccine. As professionals they know how safe the vaccine really is and have every confidence in it. They know that the vaccine has been fully tested and gone through all the clinical hoops.”
Kathyrn added that if anyone has a concern about the vaccine they should speak to their own health professionals or GP and be reassured.
She added: “I have been doing 12-13 hour shifts and can see that many of the staff are pretty well exhausted by this long drawn out pandemic. And we are not quite out of the woods with it yet.
“Medical staff who feel the need to use the counselling services provided can do so. Many have been in situations where they have seen people dying on their own and with no-one there to hold their hand as they pass away. This not only has an effect on the medical staff but also on the families who don’t get closure on the death of their loved ones.
“Staff if areas such as A&E, Intensive Critical Care and in respiratory wards are at the sharp end of it. But patients in cardiology and other wards too are deeply affected.
“Many patients are presenting with stage-3 cancers and illnesses when normally they would be coming in at stage 1 and 2.
“There will likely be longer-term effects of this on the medical staff and the families. But we are all focussed on getting out of Covid-19 at the moment and we will likely have a few more months yet to get through.
“When I am at home and watch news footage of the pandemic, I still get teary-eyed when I think of some of the difficult situations I have come through with people passing away and with their relatives. No-one should be dying on their own.”
Kathryn said that she has almost completed her PhD doctorate in cardiovascular medicine and hopes that her research will make a contribution to health care. It has been three years of study punctuated by the Covid-19 pandemic, but she will be finished in September.
“I’ve enjoyed studying for the doctorate but when the pandemic broke, my nurses calling kicked in and I just had to get back in there and help out.”
And Kathryn also said that it was important to stay tuned into proper medical advice from authoritative departments such as the Public Health Agency. She said: “There is still quite a lot of inaccurate information around on the pandemic and we need to be on our guard against it. It is so easy for stories to be carried that are scaremongering and untrue.”
So Kathryn, a mum, a PhD student, a Rowallane councillor, and currently an auxiliary nurse , is certainly living up to the maxim, ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person’.
Kathryn is looking forward to the summer months when the Covid-19 virus should be more under control and putting less pressure on the NHS and social care system.