The Muscle in the heart of the NHS

A local nurse-poet has written a heartfelt, moving poem celebrating the work and commitment of all NHS staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mel McEvoy, a Nursing Consultant in Palliative Care at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, was inspired to write ‘The muscle in the heart of the NHS’ after speaking to colleagues about their experiences during this most challenging of times.

Mel said: “The anecdotes my friends and colleagues told me when I asked about their feelings and difficulties were challenging but their commitment to their profession and their compassion for their patients shone through, even as they expressed their own concerns and anxieties.

“Working for the NHS is a calling, now more than ever, and I wanted to express this experience in poetry.

“‘The muscle in the heart of the NHS’ pays tribute to all NHS staff throughout the country and doesn’t shy away from the sad, at times harsh, reality we are all dealing with. But above all, I hope it expresses the admiration, respect and indeed love, that I feel the public have been showing us this last few weeks.

“I’ve always felt proud to work for the NHS and to stand alongside my colleagues. ’The muscle in the heart of the NHS’ is but a small expression of trying to capture that sense.”

The muscle in the heart of the NHS

You have come to the blue from all walks of life
with your faiths, customs and languages
making the NHS echo with accents.

The N is the necessity to give of your best
and gently comfort, at the end of life.
The H is for your hands, a stranger’s touch,

taking blood, making patients feel they belong.
The S is for your skills, mature, experienced,
researched, focused on patients.

You have come to the blue where feet walk for miles
around beds, along corridors, giving out medicines,
looking for the vulnerable in each shift.

Covid twists loose emotions
and stretches to the limits
fibres until they tear.

Patients and their relatives see:
you treat people in the way you want to be treated;
and in these waters, we are all trying to stay afloat.

You have come to the blue and today it asks:
leave your home and enter into the danger
of what you breathe, not knowing if you’ve become a carrier.

Be cautious and wear protection.
Be compassionate but remember you are not invincible.
Be open to discovering the nuances of being a human.

Your family need to hear the turn of your key in the door.
Bring home the heart of what you’ve been a part of.
In this service ask for grace from a God you do or don’t believe in.

You are the blue in the swell of the storm,
powerless from the loss of what once felt secure,
tossed among its waves.

Patients, sometimes couples, holding hands in isolation.
Dying without any warning, after saying they were feeling better.
No preparation, within hours of each other. Texting ‘Good Bye’ to families.

Entering each room, all you can do is swim through
and back up to the surface. Uncover your own words. Be kind to each other.
Do what you can for the people you are trying to bring ashore.

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