Please tell our readers a little about yourself
I am 24, living in a Kentish village with my husband Jack. I am a massive foodie, we love to eat, drink and spend time with family and friends. I am very close with my brothers, although the youngest will try to deny it! I enjoy taking long walks which are normally with my mum and brother’s dog, Bramble. I have always loved holidays, from laying on a beach to sitting in an apres bar after a full day of skiing, I always have a trip or adventure booked. Jack will tell you I always have a parcel on the way, I love fashion and supporting independent brands. On a rest day you will normally find me with a nice gin in hand.
Grace, you have served as nothing but a complete inspiration over the past months. As a paramedic, I applaud you for working on the front line in such a challenging situation. Before we get onto anything else, what were the things that helped you get through that intense period?
Definitely the people I am surrounded by. I am very lucky to have extremely supportive family and friends, of which some also work on the frontline (who are doing an amazing job in their own roles).
As a student, I was very lucky to build strong bonds with the people that I work with. Trust is such an important thing in my job. Work colleagues who take time to listen, have been an inspiration.
What made you want to become a paramedic, and how did you go about it?
I wanted to become a paramedic from the age of 13, of which my mum tried to talk me out of for three years! Growing up I was in the Scouts, I loved to get involved and take part in activities such as first aid and expeditions. As well as roles in scouting, I volunteered in a local dementia centre and a charity ambulance service. Here I learnt my love for helping others. At college, I took health and social care which enabled me to apply for a paramedic science degree.
How long did it take to train?
My degree duration was three years. In this time I spend half of my time in lectures and half completing on the road placement.
How long were you into your career when COVID-19 hit?
As a newly qualified paramedic I was only 5 months into my exciting new career. Now being 9 months in, looking back this time has flown by but it hasn’t been easy. As a new paramedic there are a lot of challenges to face on a daily basis as you are still finding your way as a clinician, Covid - 19 added extra pressure to an already demanding role.
Lockdown happened very quickly, as even at Christmas very few of us knew what COVID-19 was. How was it as a healthcare worker – were you given information about what was to come? How did your employer support you? Did you see an increase in cases very quickly?
As someone who has worked throughout the pandemic, the beginning already feels so long ago. From memory I feel that it happened overnight. We could see what other countries were facing before we were hit, but I’m not sure if anyone really understood what was about to happen. At the beginning I remember daily updates and forever evolving information, which is good as when our understanding of the situation changed we adapted to do what we needed to help keep people safe.
There were many heartbreaking stories as a result of COVID-19, but what, if any, positive stories from your time working through the pandemic that made it all worth it?
I feel so privileged to be able to do the job that I do. We are let into peoples lives at the most scary and difficult times. I feel very humbled to be entrusted to provide care and reassurance in peoples toughest hours. Don’t get me wrong not everyday is sunshine and rainbows but I really do get to see the best in people.
It is a hugely admirable career, which sadly, didn’t get much recognition (apart from those who have benefitted from ambulance services), do you feel you are treated differently as a result of the pandemic?
Everyday is different and everyone's experience of this varies. It is so lovely to be thought of and recognised for the job I do, however, I do my job because I love it and want to care for those in need. I love working with my colleagues and most of all my patients for whom I try and make a positive difference.
How do you look after yourself? What things did you do for yourself when the COVID-19 hit?
This pandemic has really taught me that you need to look after yourself, especially to be able to look after others. I have taken a lot of time to try and appreciate the smaller things. In May I contracted the virus myself, I was extremely lucky in that my symptoms were mild. It has emphasized the importance of staying fit in order to allow the body to stay well. I have been doing yoga and taking long walks. I made a massive point to my husband that we must go for a walk everyday to allow us to catch up on our busy lives to reflect and just breathe. I have taken up embroidery and have used a lot of face masks in lockdown! It’s funny how things change, I have adopted a skincare regime (which I should have done before) but honestly little things like this really make a difference.
The pandemic has hit us all globally and it has certainly made us all question and re-evaluate what’s important to us and what is meaningful to our lives. What have you learned through this experience of personal values?
My family and friends have always been what’s most important to me, but in times like these really do make you appreciate them that little bit more. It’s not until you can’t see the people you love that you realise how much of a role they play in daily life, both mentally and for the cuddles! I have learnt that kindness is key. I really like the quote ‘in a world where you can be anything, be kind’. Kindness is one of the most important things, both at work and in my day to day life.
‘Clap for the NHS’ became a weekly occasion over lockdown, where Brits clapped together from their doorsteps to thank you and your fellow frontline workers. What acts of kindness did you receive, and in the future, if people want to thank you, how best can they?
Before the pandemic a member of the public began ‘HIT the ambulance’. This is where people dropped notes or treats and goodies onto the fronts of our ambulances to say thankyou. This was such a lovely gesture and I was approached by members of the public with their thanks, even if I hadn’t been on a call for them or their family. This really did heighten the spirits of staff when we needed it most. This was just one of the little things that brightened our day. I remember the first ‘clap for NHS’, I was just getting back into the ambulance after visiting a patient, everyone came out of their houses and clapped, it was actually very emotional and really quite beautiful.
There is a lot of confusion here in the UK about the virus. Masks are now compulsory in particular occasions; however, I have noticed that many have become very relaxed and believe there is no virus. What advice, from a frontline worker who has seen the severity firsthand, would you offer for people to look after themselves, and others around them?
This is all very real. All I can say is follow professional advice to keep yourselves and families safe. Wash your hands, wear the mask and be sensible. We have seen such teamwork and community spirit throughout the pandemic, let's keep it up.
As a paramedic, you are highly skilled at doing everything from cleaning a small wound to saving a person’s life. What do you wish most people (not superhuman, like you!) would learn for their emergency ‘toolkit’ on helping themselves or another?
Thank you, I wouldn’t say superhuman, I just have a few tricks up my sleeve. I always say that learning the basics is the most important thing. Learn how to take care of yourself and learning when to seek advice is essential. In addition to this learning CPR is such an invaluable skill, you never know when you may need it and it is something which really makes the difference when we turn up. Learn to listen, a lot of our problems as humans are talking too much and not listening enough, this is something my job has taught me.
On a wellbeing perspective, what would you recommend to others to help them live a more positive, healthier life?
Have compassion, think of others and look and after your own health (stay hydrated!!!). Don't judge and be open-minded, everyone is different. Accept people for the way they are (including yourself), and like I’ve already said be kind. I cannot stress how much in recent months I have realised that everything starts from within, look after yourself, I have always said “you do you” and everything else will follow. Take time to appreciate each other, and make sure your loved ones know you love them.
We met due to your Mother very kindly wearing our Pink Bloomsbury to your absolutely beautiful wedding – congratulations! What were the best moments of your very special day?
I am so lucky to have been able to have such a beautiful day to celebrate our marriage. We were surrounded by so many of our family and friends which helped to make our day so special. I just remember getting to the church, walking through the doors and seeing so many faces of loved ones. It was overwhelming but in a good way, to walk down the aisle to see Jacks face at the end was what I will remember forever. We had a little ‘photoshoot’ just the two of us in a friends orchard after the church service, it was so lovely to take time to step back from the day and just be us. We laughed a lot and we cried a lot, but most importantly I married the man of my dreams.
Mum modeled her whole wedding outfit around the Pink Bloomsbury!! It was the first thing she bought and everything else had to fit in around it. And what a beautiful bag it is.
What inspires you?
My Mum, the older I get the more I realise that my mum is my best friend. My mum takes after my Nan. Like your Grandmother my Nan was also called Elizabeth. She was a beautiful soul, so precious and kind, and I miss her everyday.
What keeps you motivated?
I am so lucky to have such supportive family and friends. Jack helps set me straight, I’m not a very practical person and decision making isn't my forte. I have no problems making decisions at work when stuck in a tricky situation, but personal decisions literally end me. My gal pals (including mum) are my cheerleaders; they are the ones who have cheered me all the way.
What do you wish to see more of in the world?
Togetherness, especially in light of recent world events. We can all learn from each other and in a world where we care for eachother we can celebrate one another.
What’s your happy place?
At home. And I use this term quite freely. Home is where the heart is. Where Jack, or family and friends are feels like home. We are very lucky to be moving house soon and I cannot wait to make it our own and to celebrate us being us and all the wonderful people who have helped us through and will continue to help us through challenging times.
Follow Grace's journey: @_fall_to_grace_
Read more about Coronavius (COVID-19) and how to protect yourself on: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/