Doctor by day, emergency volunteer by night: John goes above and beyond in the fight against coronavirus
Junior doctor and British Red Cross volunteer John on how he juggles his two roles, what he’s learned as a volunteer, and recovering from coronavirus
Twenty-six-year-old John from Dundee is a busy man. On top of his day job as a GP, he goes one step further on weekends and after hours: he’s an emergency response volunteer for the British Red Cross.
“I joined the Red Cross initially because I wanted to be part of a big, positive movement where I can just turn up and do something good and feel like I’m doing something for someone,” said John.
In fact, his experience as a healthcare professional has shown him just how valuable his efforts as a volunteer are – particularly now, amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The Red Cross is part of the answer
The Red Cross gives such a different perspective because I’m getting the calls as a GP from the people struggling in these communities, where all these problems arise,” explained John. “[People saying] ‘If I’m shielding or quarantined, how am I going to get my prescriptions?’ or ‘How am I going to look after my kids, my loved ones, my frail and elderly parents?’ – and in the Red Cross I’m part of the answer. I want to think we all have that bit inside us that wants to help someone and here, the Red Cross has the facilities, structure and management in place to do so.”
Bringing the personal touch to his volunteer work
Currently, John is helping deliver groceries to isolated communities around Dundee, in places like Angus, Perth and Kinross. Many residents there are shielding and struggle to receive deliveries as they live further out than many supermarkets will deliver. John helps to bridge this gap, and likes to bring the personal touch, too.
“When you are shopping for them, you do a little bit of browsing, picking out exactly what people would want,” said John. “I like to think about what I’m getting to these people – ‘Ah, this lady wanted some vegetables for soup, so I’ll throw in a bit of turnip and I’ll pick the nicest carrots.’”
DOING SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE LIFTED MY SPIRITS A LOT.
John recently had to take a break from both work and volunteering when he caught coronavirus. “A lot of people are surprised when they hear about it because I’m alive,” said John. “It’s built up as a very scary or all-encompassing diagnosis – I mean, I’m not going to put it lightly, it sucked – but I got through it and a lot of my colleagues have been through it and gone back to work too.”
He was tested through work after suffering from chest pains, a cough, palpitations and a high fever. As soon as he was fit for work, he was back volunteering, in spite of feeling quite lethargic in the early days of his recovery. “Getting that fresh air and doing something for someone else lifted my spirits a lot, having been stuck indoors instead of being on the front line,” he said.
HUMANITY IS BEING GOOD IN THE FACE OF SOMETHING AWFUL AND NOW WE SEE HOW IMPORTANT THAT IS.
John’s work with the Red Cross comes in two parts: the first as a volunteer, and the second as a volunteer representative, having been elected by his peers four years ago. But he says it’s his experience in the field that means the most to him – both in first aid at big festivals and serious events like the Grenfell Tower fire.
“Having experienced quite a lot of things, I’ve built up a sort of understanding of how to approach different problems very differently,” he said. “How to manage and de-escalate situations – just speaking to someone who is stressed and anxious and taking it out on you, but being able to properly handle it.”
Now somewhat of a Red Cross veteran at the tender age of 26, John has learned to look at his role with some perspective, and encourages anyone looking to volunteer to do the same/
“Making sure you are looking after yourself psychologically and physically is really important, because the natural response for a volunteer – or any humanitarian person – is to throw yourself completely at it,” he said. “And that would be fine if this was a one-day disaster, but this is a longer-term problem and we need to sustain it. Humanity is being good in the face of something awful and now, during this pandemic, we see how important that is.”
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