In her blog, Harefield staff nurse Mamatha reflects upon balancing work and family life in the Covid-19 pandemic

Just like any other mother of two, until the end of January, I was focussed on school runs, swimming lessons, dance and gymnastics sessions, dinner menus, shopping lists, laundry - life was too normal to be distracted. March came around and something did not feel quite right. Bad news was emerging from Italy, but still, they said washing our hands while singing happy birthday was enough to keep the virus away. I believed it and taught my girls the seven steps of handwashing.

I still remember the exact date, on March 12th our PM said "Many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time" That was it. I had learnt about herd immunity in my nursing school. I knew what it meant. I decided to pull my asthmatic child out of school if they were not going to be closing it soon. My biggest worry was for my children - a seven year old with asthma who is under the care of Royal Brompton, and a two year old with an unknown respiratory condition who is a patient at Chelsea hospital.

Maybe because I was so engrossed in their wellbeing, I totally forgot about my work life. I work as a staff nurse in a surgical ward called Maple at Harefield Hospital. This little hospital is my haven, my sanity and a safe sanctuary from the madness of my crazy little family. As the days went by, we started tending to more and more patients testing positive for Covid-19. It was amazing how we soon adapted to the needs of our country. Our wards got closed, no more routine surgeries; guidelines and policies filled our inboxes and more Covid-19 patients started being admitted from nearby hospitals. When a member of senior management came around to ask us whether we had any concerns, we said in one voice "Maple says BRING IT ON!" All of us were deployed to ICU and other areas of the hospital where more help was needed.

The ICU experience was terrifying to me as a ward nurse. I left there in tears after my first shift. Usually my two year old runs to the door to hug me when I am back from work. I told her "this time no more hugs, Mamma is dirty and needs a shower" She stomped her feet, looked down to the floor and went to tell her older sister that Mamma is yucky. I cried silently in the shower that day. I know all my work friends will have similar stories to tell. After only a couple of shifts at ICU, my asthmatic daughter received a letter from her consultant saying she should be shielded for 12 weeks. I was keeping her at home anyway, but my work became a big risk to her health. As soon as I passed this information to our Trust's occupational health, they told me not to work in the red zone any more.

As days went by, homeschooling was getting tough as well. When other parents were sending through learning activities or the new online learning app they had discovered via WhatsApp or Facebook, my child's schedule was crumbling. It took me only one shift in ICU to realise what's important and I decided to let it go. My seven year old girl can go to bed late at night, and wake up when she likes. We learn a bit every day when we both feel we are up to it. My heart fills up when I see her bringing her own ideas as to how she should spend the day. She changes her dress five times a day - I don't care. She does her gymnastics most days, practising and perfecting, while the family cheers her on. She finished reading all her Malory Towers books. She learnt how to roller skate on our small patio. She made a den in our living room with bedsheets. She made an obstacle course for herself and her little sister to play. She video calls her grandparents who live abroad and meets her friends via zoom a couple of times a week. Never once have I heard her say "I am bored Mamma" We may not be sticking to the school schedule, but my child is happy, my child is healthy. This is what matters to me the most.

I let my daughter watch the news one day. The headlines told us the governments website for testing keyworkers went beyond capacity within a few hours of opening. Her little voice asked me how much it costs to test a person, and I replied that I didn't know. She immediately decided to give away all her savings to help the UK fight Coronavirus. She wanted half of her money to go towards testing and the other half to help people who had the disease. She sorted all the coins out, put them carefully into a ziplock bag and left it in my handbag. She didn't want her bunny money bank to get coronavirus if it went to Harefield Hospital.

This kind thought didn't come as much of a surprise to me, this girl donated her long beautiful hair to Little Princess Trust when she was five years old after seeing a leaflet about kids with cancer. She knew about cancer because one of her pre-school friends lost his battle to cancer, it occurs to me now, she decided to give her savings away to fight Covid-19 patients because she knew about it first hand. Her mum is an NHS superhero to her. She herself is a Royal Brompton patient. She knows it, she feels it. She is the one who takes my pots and pans to make the loudest noise every Thursday at 8pm.

To every NHS mum and dad, to every keyworker mum and dad, this is your children too. These little ones are all heroes. They deserve to be appreciated; they deserve to be noticed. They are watching you; they know what goes around them. It might be hard after a long day or a night shift but remember someone at home thinks your job is equivalent to Marvel. Even though their home-schooling schedule doesn’t match up to other kids in school, I promise these keyworker kids will turn out just fine. They are seeing kindness, compassion, strong men & women saving lives.

Today I stood in line with many of my colleagues to clap and cheer another Covid patient getting discharged from Harefield. He left the hospital with a salute to our team and tears rolling down his eyes. I shed a tear too. I am proud of my job, my hospital, and my colleagues. I am blessed in every way.