LIKE everyone else, I too have been reflecting over the past year this week and it has brought to the surface so many mixed emotions both personally and professionally. This will be a time that none of us will ever forget.

This time last year, I had just stopped work to go on maternity leave. Heavily pregnant on the frontline, at a time when we had no PPE, with rumblings of the first wave of the pandemic hitting – it was one of the most anxiety-provoking times of my life.

We were seeing the chaos this pandemic was causing in neighbouring nations and devastation across in the east, and that fear and uncertainty was real. We could see how deadly COVID was for people but we had little to no idea about its impact on children or pregnant women and their unborn babies.

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As a mother then, I was terrified. My husband, also a frontline doctor, had to continue working, of course, and around this time we decided to physically distance in order to keep us protected. He was going out to work and I remember the worry like it was yesterday.

Those lonely hospital trips as a patient and the notion of possibly birthing alone still makes me sad, that people have had to go through such a difficult time.

However as scary as that time was, I gave birth to my baby girl during this time last year. As we have approached the one year mark of this pandemic, my baby turns one too. I remember coming home with my new baby to the first week of home-schooling.

With all our normal support networks gone due to lockdown, the survival mode switched on. All of us have had our own unique experiences, our own story of this time; the world – as we knew it - literally changed overnight.

From children to the elderly, the daily briefings became the norm. Never have we been so exposed to the news, hearing the devastating death tolls and serious impacts of a virus, quite frankly, out of control on our doorsteps. Our routines changed, our behaviours had to adapt and we slowed the pace down as a collective.

We heard of absurdities of people stockpiling toilet paper but alongside this, the braveries of those sacrificing their own safety every day to keep the nation going. A huge gratitude also to all the school staff who have kept the nation’s children thriving – we all really pulled together when we needed to.

I returned back to work much earlier than anticipated. Those of us working in NHS had a calling and this was it. We have all worked our hardest; frontline workers turned up every day to do their bit. It pains me so much when I think of all the precious lives we have lost to this awful pandemic and my heart feels heavy when I think of all of my NHS colleagues who are no longer with us – those who died in the line of duty. This week has felt hard.

There is a lot of collective trauma that healthcare workers have faced. We continue daily to hear from our patients who have been through some of the most unimaginable experiences during this time. Our intensive care teams have perhaps suffered the most.

My hope is that soon there will be more support and more resources available to help manage the huge mental health crisis that faces us. This sadly is not over yet.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though and we do need to look ahead where there is much hope in sight. A year on and I am so proud to be involved in the vaccinating programme, working with my colleagues to get us out of this. The incredible researchers, the scientists, the volunteers – everyone who made this vaccine rollout possible at such speed – thank you. This is a moment in history that we will celebrate forever.

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The world is very different today from what we remember but a lot of the changes have been positive. We have learned new ways of living life, being more connected whilst appreciating the slower pace too. We have become more efficient with technology and moreover have a better understanding and control of this virus. Things are going to be ok, something we didn’t know this time last year.

As I get ready to celebrate my daughter’s first birthday, I realise how surreal this whole time feels. I used to wake up every day and wonder how the time would pass, it all felt so slow. And now I see a human who entered this world at the beginning of all of this and, in a blink, she’s become a little lady.

To all of you, we made it through this very difficult time together so far and if we can get through this, we can get through anything.