Talk Code: 
Astha Tanwar
Author institutions: 
Queen Mary University London

Link to the poem and blog

This poem explores the resilience of the human spirit and the central theme of hope as we navigate a pandemic that has changed medicine, perhaps forever. Using push-and-pull imagery often seen in nature whether in waves or seasons as they shift, it considers the intricate relationship of resilience and hope.    

The poem is based not just on my own experiences but rather as testament to the strength of every healthcare professional and family altered irreversibly by the impact of Covid-19. For many medical students, the Covid-19 pandemic taught us lessons that lectures could not – about the pressure of working in a healthcare system close to breaking point, facing a new poorly understood disease and knowing that not every patient will make it.    

Having volunteered with a communication team connecting ITU patients and their families, I found the meaning of an empty bed quickly changing, becoming symbolic of the pandemic. Coming onto the ITU unit and seeing an empty bed was no longer just about transfers and discharges; it now represented a rapid turnover, a broken family and another lost battle.    

But intriguingly, against this backdrop of devastation, I have never felt more a part of the team. Everyone was united – not just against this deadly disease but also in the hope of fewer admissions the next week and fewer deaths in the weeks that followed after that.    

This hope wasn’t just restricted to the medical team. With every medical update, families still held onto hopes of recovery to cope. I was amazed at the strength the families exhibited.    

On one occasion, a senior nurse asked me, unprompted, if I was doing okay, recognising my inexperience and the challenges that brought.

The conversation that followed was a stark reminder that whilst she may be more experienced than me and more equipped to deal with the challenges of Covid-19, she was not immune – her resilience required hope.  When I was applying to medical school, over 5 years ago, I distinctly recall the emphasis on resilience – but it was meeting the doctors and ITU nurses, the families, the patients that I understood what it meant.