How year of Covid affected Thrapston ambulance worker as the world stood still
Carl Mardell wanted to be helping patients but was frustrated by having to shield
A Thrapston ambulance worker has explained how Covid robbed him of a job he loved at a time when he wanted to be playing his part in the pandemic.
Having to shield on three occasions, East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) crew member Carl Mardell realised how his mental health had become more important than ever in the past year.
As the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK, it didn’t cross the 54-year-old's mind that he would have to stay indoors, let alone on three separate occasions.
When his wife, Dawn, had received a letter telling her to shield, he called his GP to find out what he should be doing for her health and safety, but to his surprise Carl was told that that he too should be shielding as he was also vulnerable.
Carl said: "That was the moment that I realised how serious Covid-19 was, and how I ended up shielding the first time."
This meant that Carl couldn’t go to work as a Patient Care Assistant for EMAS’ Patient Transport Service in Northamptonshire – a job that he loves.
Before joining patient transport services in 2018, Carl had been a retail manager at Marks and Spencer’s for more than 20 years, so the idea of not working was alien to him.
However, his new priority was keeping safe at home, and Carl found the first period of shielding wasn’t so bad.
He said: "There were loads of jobs to do around the house and I knew I was going to be off for a period of time, so my wife and I sat down and made a list. I spent my time doing jobs that needed doing."
By the end of the first lockdown, Carl had completed a major project.
He said: "The stairs were a real challenge to do up. I managed to re-do the whole stairwell so that is looking really nice now."
In July, he was told he could return to work, but Carl didn’t feel too assured when he returned. Since the new guidelines were still relatively new, he worried others might not take them seriously.
He said: "It was my first time back at work since being told I was ‘vulnerable’, so I was newly aware that if I caught it, it could be deadly for me."
In August, Carl returned to shielding. This time around, his list of things to do was running low, so Carl decided to pick up his old hobby of building and painting World War Two models.
He said: "I was not sure what to do at first, I didn’t have any chores left to do.
"I have an 8ft x 6ft platform set up in my garage-turned-office and I have built a complete scenery of an airfield with a military base, with a working railway network around it.
"Spending time on this led to me learning different brushing techniques and I even learned how to use an airbrush for a better-quality finish."
As 2020 came to an end, a third national lockdown was announced which meant a third period of shielding for Carl. He admits that this time around, the isolation has begun to take its toll on him.
He said: "I feel very isolated this time. It is affecting me mentally because I feel very guilty that I’m not at work helping, and I’m also not able to get out there in the world and do stuff to contribute.
"Right now I don’t feel valuable at all. I’m sure my colleagues don’t think of me negatively, but I worry that’s how they feel."
But there is light at the end of the tunnel as Carl received his first dose of the vaccine in January. He’s really positive about the vaccination and understands it’s going to really benefit him in the long run.
Carl also offers assurance for anyone nervous about taking the vaccine. He said: "I can understand people’s fears. The issue is Covid isn’t going anywhere soon and anything we can do as a population to lessen the blow, we’ve got to be doing what we can. If that means having the vaccine, then we need to do that."
And for the future, Carl is cautiously optimistic for what 2021 and beyond brings. Not to mention he is definitely looking forward to getting back to work.
He said: "I’m excited for what it’s going to bring, though understanding that our lockdown might get extended again and I don’t know how I’m going to feel at that time.
"I’m looking forward to going back to work because it means I will be more active, and meeting people – both colleagues and patients - will give me self-worth again."