Caring for others through Covid-19: one nurse and volunteer shares his story
As a community nurse for the NHS, caring for people in a crisis is Laszlo’s day job. But having first signed up as a Red Cross volunteer at the age of 16, it’s more than that: it’s a calling
Laszlo has been caring for others for over half his life. And now, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, he’s continuing to play his part for both the NHS and in his role as an emergency response volunteer for the British Red Cross.
At the moment, Laszlo is busier than ever. “When you work in the NHS, you’re a bit more aware of the current situation and the pressure the system is under,” said Laszlo, 35. “I think for a nurse and for an NHS professional, this is the time to rise and shine."
Maintaining a human element even at a distance
Laszlo has seen the impact of Covid-19 up close in his day job, which involves visiting patients' homes, and is very conscious of taking every precaution to help prevent the virus’s spread.
“You need to be very careful, but also have a human element,” said Laszlo. “Now with the restrictions, for most of [my patients] we are the only social contact that they have face to face in everyday life. We have protocols, obviously. We've got the PPE [personal protective equipment] so we do our best to protect ourselves so that when we go to the next patient and the next patient, you’re not the carrier.”
PEOPLE JUST SUBCONSCIOUSLY KNOW WHAT THE RED CROSS AS AN EMBLEM REPRESENTS - THAT THIS IS HELP.
As well as working in the NHS by day, Laszlo plays a crucial role at the British Red Cross, as an emergency response volunteer. It is the third Red Cross Society he has been a part of, having started in his native Romania, before going on to volunteer for the German Red Cross until he moved to London in 2015.
“People just subconsciously know what the Red Cross as an emblem represents – that this is help,” said Laszlo. “Times change, situations change, services change, but the call of being kind to people and helping those in need is never going to change.”
Always ready to respond
As part of the Red Cross’s emergency response team, Laszlo is normally ready to deploy in the event of a flood, fire, or other disaster. His first experience on the team came after the London Bridge attack in 2017, and he was there to help in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire, too.
When Covid-19 spread to the UK, Laszlo continued to make himself available. “If I’m not working, I’m on call. I’ve got spare time, I’m more than happy to be there,” he explained. “It’s humbling to be in a position to be there to support people when they need it the most.”
Filling the gaps between the emergency services
Laszlo was called upon recently to help a man after a house fire in Liverpool. Half an hour after receiving the message, he was on his way north with a fellow volunteer.
They were on the motorway when they received instructions to go straight to the hospital – the partner of the person they were on their way to help had sadly passed away. “It was a very, very eye-opening situation. You start thinking ‘OK, how can we help?’ We knew that the beneficiary had lost absolutely everything,” said Laszlo. “The house was uninhabitable – no clothes, no money, no phone. Just two bags of groceries that were bought on the day.”
The Red Cross team worked with the council, police and NHS to make sure the man’s immediate needs were met, arranging emergency accommodation and transport. “In the meantime, we sorted clothes out and toiletries and food,” explained Laszlo, who waited with the man while arrangements were made. “The atmosphere said ‘I trust these people enough to share my feelings. I can be upset in front of them. I don’t need to be polite and hide my feelings.’”
AS LONG AS I KNOW THAT I'VE DONE SOMETHING AND THAT IT MADE A DIFFERENCE, IT'S MORE THAN I NEED.
Laszlo continues to be ready to respond whenever he’s needed and says that as an adult, he still feels the same sense of pride he felt as a 16-year-old volunteer in Romania.
“We fill the gaps between the emergency services – because the fire engines go away, the police goes away, the ambulance goes away, and in the middle stays the beneficiary, and they still need support,” said Laszlo. “And that’s where we are. It gives you a sense of achievement. As long as I know that I’ve done something and that it made a difference, it’s absolutely more than I need.”
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