Commonwealth Games hero Daybell focused on fighting coronavirus on NHS duty

England's Kim Daybell plays a shot during the men's TT6-10 singles gold medal final table tennis mat

England's Kim Daybell plays a shot during the men's TT6-10 singles gold medal final table tennis match at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (pic Ye Aung Thu/AFP via Getty Images) - Credit: AFP via Getty Images

A Commonwealth Games silver medalist has found himself on the NHS front line fighting coronavirus at the Whittington Hospital.

Kim Daybell, who is also a Team England para-table tennis player, has been working at the North London hospital full time since the outbreak of the pandemic, sacrificng his chances of an appearance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

He said: “I graduated in 2018 after six years of medical school and then I was halfway through my second year of clinical practice when all this started.

“I was actually due to finish work for three or four months in the lead up to Tokyo to train full-time, and then literally the Monday or something before I was meant to finish, lockdown came about and then I was working on a full-time rota trying to manage things and help out in the hospital.”

After the country entered into lockdown on March 23, speculation grew about the fate of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

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“For me working in a hospital and seeing how things were progressing, there was no way I could have my head in the sand about what was going on because I was going in and seeing it every day,” added Daybell.

“I remember we all got called into a huge crisis meeting in the hospital, and they said ‘look guys, this is going to be a real fight. We’re stopping all routine things and converting everything to Covid, so just get yourselves ready’.

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“It was quite a defining moment, everyone kind of looked around and thought ‘yeah, this is the time to step up and really help.’ And I’m glad I could to be honest.”

Life under lockdown has meant sacrifices for people across the country, but for Daybell, it was part and parcel of the job he had spent nearly a quarter of his life preparing for.

“I think especially for doctors and nurses, this is why you get into the profession – so during these times you can be there to help people. There’s a definite ethos within medicine, which is that when bad things happen, you brush yourself off, pick yourself up and you keep going,” e said.

“The most challenging thing, I think, was that relatives weren’t allowed to come in. Normally if someone is approaching the end of their life, or they are really unwell, they can have their loved ones around them and you can take a step back a little bit, but you really had to be there.

“We had to update patients’ family’s every day over the phone, we had to hold iPads up to the patients’ faces so that they could see their family. I think that was the hardest thing, that’s what really took its toll.”

Daybell thinks we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel and is especially grateful for the support he has felt from the public.

“We still need to be vigilant, and careful, and look after each other, but there’s a lot less admissions than there were, and things are getting back to normal in the hospitals and on that front line.

“There was a lot of camaraderie and a lot of support from the outside world, and that was great. We got a lot of appreciation and we’re grateful for that, we’re grateful people are supporting us in doing our jobs. Just having that appreciation, for me anyway, make it easier to get through each difficult day.”

*To follow the fortunes of Team England athletes in the lead up to Birmingham 2022 head to the Team England website

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