Meet the intensive care nurse whose Covid poem goes viral

Chloe Kerwood on duty and a copy of her poem. Pic: Chloe Kerwood

When Chloe Kerwood sat down at 2 am on April 2 to write her poem about the mental and physical state the pandemic has made the nation feel, she never imagined it would go viral the way it did. More than three hundred people shared it within days.

The mother of two felt writing the poem was a way to express her emotions and come to an understanding of what she was feeling and what others might have felt during this pandemic. 

Kerwood, a wife to a “wonderful husband” wrote in her poem: 

I’m sorry to the husband I spoke to on the phone,

frustrated as I tell you she’s ‘critical but stable’

Whilst you’re forced to worry at home.

Giving hope

Chloe Kerwood has been a nurse in the ICU department at Croydon University Hospital for over 10 years. 

The traumatic events experienced through her shifts inspired her to write the poem

The whole pandemic experience has made Kerwood feel very humble. She has also learnt a lot from her colleagues and from people with whom she might never have worked had the pandemic not happened.

Her aim in writing the poem is to give people hope and to let them know that they weren’t alone. It was a way to express what she had felt during the pandemic and which she knew others can relate to.

Chloe Kerwood’s Poem

Kerwood said: “I’ve been an intensive care nurse for quite some time, and I’m used to dealing with quite intense situations and quite worrying and emotionally draining situations I can only describe the last year, especially the pandemic’s first wave, as haunting.”

Kerwood said: “There was a huge amount of guilt in relation to how we were looking after the patients, especially in the first wave of the pandemic.

“The parents or any other relatives that were of the patients weren’t allowed in to visit them at all because of Covid and we found that really difficult because these patients were dying without any loved ones around.”

Despite many years of experience in the intensive care department, Chloe had still found it very emotionally challenging. She said: “Intensive care patients were quite stressful and a huge weight on your shoulders as you had to have eyes and ears everywhere.”

“Every night I came in from work and it was like a bundle of emotions; it was complete guilt and worry about bringing Covid home to my children and my husband. It was completely emotional and physical exhaustion from having to look after multiple patients.”

‘Frightening situation’

Kerwood said the pandemic had scared and left many disorientated. 

“I’ve been a nurse for many years, and I’ve been in situations that have been absolutely tragic and devastating and that I’ve brought home before but never in my whole life have I ever had to face such a frightening situation, whereby it affected my life, my career and my mental health.”

Chloe has recently had psychological stress treatment, known as EMDR therapy, as she has come out of the pandemic with PTSD, panic attacks, traumatic flashbacks and deprivation of sleep due to constant nightmares. 

“With intensive care patients, you’ll generally know when someone is deteriorating from the heart rate numbers or their blood results.

“However, with Covid patients, they didn’t give us any warning and they just arrested or deteriorated very fast. We were daily putting 2-3 people in body bags.” 

Kerwood wrote about her experience caring for Covid patients in her poem: ‘I’m sorry to the patient that’s opened her eyes, how frightened you must be feeling, I promise this masked stranger is trying to keep you alive.’

Kerwood said Croydon University Hospital had been hit very hard due to the pandemic. Croydon has had 30734 confirmed Covid cases and 139 deaths; these numbers, however, are going up daily. 

 Nurses had to wear a fully covered uniform that was very uncomfortable but essential, according to Kerwood.

Chloe Kerwood on a 13 hour night shift wearing her full uniform.

“It was very hot and tight. I’m quite claustrophobic, so that was very hard and awkward for me to wear for 13 hours.

“The face coverage gave sores on the face, behind the ears and pulled the hair back- later giving a horrid headache.

“The face mask/ helmet enables you from drinking water which was very difficult at the time as we had a lot of patients to look after so you get very dehydrated and hungry.”

Childhood interest

Kerwood’s medical interest was inspired from a young age; she’s always known she wanted to work around science and help people. 

Initially, Kerwood wanted to be a doctor but unfortunately, her dyslexia got in the way and she chose nursing instead. She said she has loved it ever since. 

“My natural way is to help people and to be there to support people.”

Chloe Kerwood in the video that went viral. Pic: Croydon NHS Trust

Qualified nurses start on salaries of £24,214 rising to £30,112. Low-level rise for NHS workers would fail to distinguish their hard work and resilience and could lead to a migration of nurses once Covid-19 is under control, according to Kerwood.

She said: “I don’t think you go into nursing for the money, I think it’s definitely a passion of yours or something that suits you. However, the pandemic questioned whether I wanted to stay as a nurse or come out of it completely, due to the way we were treated and mainly due to the pay, as it had been insulting.”

“A lot of us nurses were quite shocked by Boris after he’d thanked two nurses that held his hand during one of the nights that were his worst, we thought he’d seen what we were truly worth and then all of a sudden he said that we’re not getting a pay rise.

 “It isn’t about the pay like I said it’s more about the fact that we were there to care and make a difference, but it is very disheartening when other careers are getting money thrown at them.” 

Kerwood left the ICU nursing department four weeks ago and has started her job as a specialist nurse in organ donation for NHS Blood and Transplant

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