Bejoy Sebastian doesn’t work as a nurse for the money, but he is one of the most dedicated, enthusiastic and compassionate people you could ever meet.
He works as a chief nurse at University College London Hospitals owned by the NHS Foundation (UCLH) and travels back and forth from his home near Heathrow in the far west of the city, where he lives with his wife, Divia, and their eight-year-old son. , Emmanuel. Sebastian is part of a large specialized team of intensive care specialists who travel from the poorest parts of London to care for the very sick.
He leaves the house at dawn to arrive before his shift starts at 8 am. He is due to finish at 20:30 but is more often than not an hour or two late due to his sense of responsibility and concern for patients and staff.
“A team member may have a problem with a patient or just need to talk. A lot of tears have been shed in our office over the past couple of years.”
He usually returns home around 10:30 pm, and sometimes at midnight he sees Divya and looks in on his sleeping son.
The work day begins as night falls into the hands of the day team in a room full of notepads, coffee and focused faces, some fresh, others tired, some talking and some listening. After a while, everyone either leaves for their patients, compartments, and work stations, or picks up their coats and bags and sets off on the long journey home against the stream of arriving passengers.
Sebastian works at an incredible pace throughout the day, moving from job to job, constantly stopping to talk to colleagues and offer information, help and advice. One moment he’s in a tense meeting, the next he’s clearing an intubated patient’s airway, and then writing a proposal to help colleagues thrive in a multicultural work environment. His last job of the day I spent with him was emptying the faeces bags of a patient with kidney failure.
Sebastian and his wife arrived in the UK from Kerala in India in March 2011. He and Divya are both nurses and are very fond of the UK and its healthcare system.
“I love this country, my job and my colleagues, but there may come a time when I have to consider whether I can afford to live here longer.” This problem is related to wage rates and the cost-of-living crisis. Sebastian admits that as a head nurse he is in a better position than many of his peers and understands that young, newly qualified nurses may be having more difficulty than he is.
Of the group of 11 nurses who got off the plane from India with Sebastian 12 years ago, only three are still working for the NHS, and in all cases this is due to the ever-widening gap between wages and the cost of living in the UK. and especially London.
“One of the group desperately tried to buy a house, but it turned out to be impossible. I tried to talk him into staying, but he moved to Australia.” According to Sebastian, many nurses who find it difficult to make a living in London either go to work in care agencies or move to Australia, Canada or the US.
For Sebastian, who went on strike at the Royal College of Nursing, going on strike was a difficult decision.
Many nurses have a moral obligation to their patients and colleagues, and it is widely believed among them that if they did not go on strike, more patients would die and nurses would burn out or leave the profession.
“Ten years ago we used to have a farewell party every six months, now it’s five or six times a month. They always leave in tears, saying the same thing: “I love you all and our patients, but I can’t do this anymore.”
“Young nurses came to me and said they couldn’t afford to pay their pension contributions. It breaks my heart, but they say, “It’s about this or about the products.”
Sebastian and his wife understand the problem. Even on their combined salary, life is a constant struggle to make ends meet. Sebastian decided that he would have to work extra shifts, which meant that he would spend even less time with his son.
This country needs people like Sebastian and his family.
We need them and our teachers and guardians to live and work in our cities, towns and villages so that our society remains a place worth living in.
Back at the hospital, the evening is already in full swing, and Sebastian finally stuffs his work uniform into a small backpack. Just a couple of quick conversations with colleagues tonight as he walks to the ski lifts.
Rush hour is long past when he boards the train to Feltham, and as we speed through the suburbs, his eyes are finally heavy at the nearly empty carriage. He has a 15-minute walk from the station to his house via the supermarket, and although he walks quickly, he finds it unlikely that Emanuel will still be awake when he enters.
Maybe it’s the thought of the photographer coming home with dad tonight that kept him awake because there’s time for a short story in bed before bed.