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Preeja's story

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“I have to work, I have to cook, I have to look after the kids. Because I’ve been taking care of my family, I haven’t had the time to become a proper nurse.”

“I’ve been in England for 10 years. I was a very good nurse back home in India, where I met my husband who is a nurse too. Here, he’s a band 4 in the community and I’m working as a Senior Care Assistant in Horsham Hospital, but I’m trying to take my exams to become a nurse again.

In India I learned English and got a few years’ nursing experience in different departments. But when I came here with my husband in 2011, I found it difficult to speak in English because of pronunciation. When I’m working in the hospital, the patients speak in such a different accent. I learned and practised for 2 years, until I became pregnant and went on maternity leave to look after Aiden. Once I started working again, I had Joshua, and when the pandemic came and I had a third one. We thought we might have a girl this time, but 3 boys it is!

I have to work, I have to cook, I have to look after the kids. Because I’ve been taking care of my family, I haven’t had the time to become a proper nurse. Sometimes I’m really upset with that. I got married, which is for life, but I’m still planning to be a nurse one day.

My husband and I both work morning and night shifts. Sometimes he will come home at 7 in the morning, then I have a shower and go to work for 7:30. At night, I get home at 10 and he goes to work for 10:30. We work opposite shifts, so home is like a hospital. We’re constantly handing over.

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In lockdown, all 3 kids were one-by-one getting a runny nose, sore throat and sickness. My husband and I both had to work and at home we weren't getting any rest. Joshua had a high temperature – for 2 days I was giving him Calpol but it wasn’t helping. I hoped after 2 days the temperature would’ve gotten lower but it was going up to 39.5, something like that. By the Friday I realised he had an ear infection.

I wanted to show a GP the redness of his ear. Sometimes you get an appointment very fast, sometimes it’s really hard especially with Covid. You often have to wait days or call at 8 o’clock and even then it just says ‘user busy’. On the weekend there’s a walk-in centre at Crawley hospital but I couldn’t get there because I had to go to work.

When I went to work and my husband was at home, he called me saying no one could sleep. Joshua had an even higher temperature. One was crying, one was vomiting, the other was jumping around making noise, not listening. Me and my husband couldn’t get an appointment, couldn’t spare any time and were fed up. I was already taking more sick days than I’m allowed because the kids were very unwell. But it impacts patient care. If I call in sick they are one staff member short and can’t arrange cover.

We just thought, ‘We gotta go back to India.’ There, we have parents and other family members who can help us in this kind of situation. They can take them to hospital, help make food, help look after them. But we couldn’t do anything because of the Covid restrictions. I have friends here to support us but they are also nurses with kids so it’s hard for them too.

It was only me at home when I realised I had to do something myself. But I had 3 of them here, one is a baby, and I don’t drive – how am I meant to get to the walk-in centre? My friend told me to use Livi. I had a video call with a doctor and explained. He contacted my GP practice straight away so they could look in Joshua’s ear, then like an emergency, they called me! They already knew what was wrong with Joshua and told me to get him there in the next 2 hours. I arranged for my friend to look after my small one and I took Joshua in the taxi. When the GP saw the redness, he gave me a prescription, and an hour later I got it from a pharmacy near to me, which I could walk to. I didn’t want to disturb anyone again.

The kids are better now, but I was very fed up. I called my parents and they’re going to stay with us soon for 6 months. They’ll be here for our little one’s baptism too. I haven’t been able to see them because of the pandemic so we’re all excited. They have health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure so I’ll be able to look after them too for 6 whole months. And after I finish a night shift they can make me a pot of tea and I can relax in the living room. Usually when I get home in the morning I try to make tea but one will want coffee, one will want juice, then they want breakfast, but they won’t all have the same! One wants chocolate cereal, one wants Oreo cereal, one wants toast.

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My husband and I have 2 days a week together – Wednesday and Sunday. Those are our family days. We like to make our traditional food, like fish curry, chicken biryani, nice spicy dishes. Then we take the kids out. We also like to sit in the living room and watch movies like Spiderman and cartoons.

We’re looking forward to having a joint family birthday because our birthdays are all in May and June. We’re going to have lots of English foods which we love – steak, roast pork and beef, sandwiches, soup. Knowing we have our family days together helps us get through our busy lives.”

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