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Coronavirus crisis: Bentley nurse returns from Melbourne front line

Coronavirus crisis: Bentley nurse returns from Melbourne front line

WHEN the opportunity arose to fight on the frontline of Australia’s COVID-19 response, Paris Brooks-Pope did not think twice.

The 25-year-old Swancare Bentley registered nurse has recently returned to Perth after spending four weeks working at an aged care facility in Melbourne as the city struggled under a second wave of coronavirus.

“It’s not very often you are presented with an opportunity to put your hand up and help during a pandemic; it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience in my nursing journey,’’ Ms Brooks-Pope said.

Back on WA soil and in mandatory hotel quarantine, Ms Brooks-Pope praised the efforts of her team and the healthcare workers in Melbourne, who she believed were the true heroes.

“Some healthcare workers have been fighting this virus for months now, so I have to take my hat off to them, they are doing incredible work; I only had to endure it for a month,’’ she said.

“When we arrived, the aged care home had 19 active cases and by the time I left it was declared COVID-free, with all elderly patients recovering from the virus, so that was an amazing result and we could not have been happier.”

Dressed head to toe in personal protective gear for hours on end, Brooks-Pope said she lost count of the amount of times she changed in a day, but said the biggest challenge was trying not to touch your face when you got an itch under your mask.

“The patients at the aged care home were just great though, while most were in good spirits, we still had to ensure we attended to their emotional needs as well as their physical needs,’’ she said.

“Being in lockdown for so long does have its mental challenges, so we tried to keep the patients connected to their families through virtual chats, and families were also allowed to drop off care packs with photos and letters.

“I also learnt to smile through my eyes to provide that extra care and assurance.”

Ms Brooks-Pope said working in a COVID-positive environment taught her to be present and conscious of what she was doing at all times, as there was no room for error.

Tested every third day for COVID-19, she said she and her fellow team members had a motto they liked to say daily: “Stay positive, test negative”.

“We don’t realise just how lucky and fortunate we are here in WA and we can’t take that for granted,’’ she said.

“Having to wear a face mask out in public every day in Melbourne took some getting used to, and there were times I’d go for a jog and realise I wasn’t wearing one, and had to run all the way back.

“It’s going to be weird now not wearing a mask, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Ms Brooks-Pope was part of a team of four nurses, three from WA and one from Tasmania, with fellow Swancare Bentley colleague Yan Zhou being one of those.

Swancare chief executive Graham Francis said he could not be prouder of Ms Brooks-Pope and Ms Zhou for helping on the frontline in Melbourne.

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“They are true heroes going into the unknown to help flatten the curve,’’ he said.

“As a company, we were happy to support them on this journey.”