Northwick Park doctors talk of ICU experiences and prepare for London to Lombardy fundraiser

Dr Sangam Malani, front, with Dr Arjun Nanavati both running the London2Lombardy race. Picture: LNWU

Dr Sangam Malani, front, with Dr Arjun Nanavati both running the London2Lombardy race. Picture: LNWUH - Credit: Archant

A team of doctors have spoken of their experiences in Northwick Park Hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) during the coronavirus pandemic, as they prepare for a fundraising effort to help patients.

The doctors, all deployed to the intensive care unit (ICU) when Covid hit, have come together in solidarity with their Italian medical colleagues, who for a long time had the highest number of deaths in Europe.

Called “London2Lombardy - On the Road to Recovery from Covid19” - the 1,300km “virtual” race is open to everybody and involves individuals pledging to step, walk or run as far as possible over a designated two day period and either donate or collect sponsorship per kilometre covered.

All money will go to ICU Steps, the only charity in the UK for ICU patients and their families.

Dr Arjun Nanavati, was part of the hospital’s ear, nose and throat (ENT)team and contracted the virus back in March and self isolated at home with his parents and his pregnant sister-in-law.

“ENT is very high risk speciality because you’re treating people mouths and very often they come in with illnesses and it was before the PPE (personal protection equipment) situation was fully established about what to be wearing,” he said.

“We were not really having adequate PPE at the time so quite a few of us caught the virus.

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“Luckily my room as an en suite bathroom so I didn’t leave my room. Even with plates, I’d get my food to my door, I’d wash the plates then leave them outside my room for three days. Luckily no-one else caught it.”

By cruel coincidence the day he returned to work with the ICU team his uncle died of the virus.

“The first month was very emotional, it was the same for all of us deployed,” he said. “We didn’t really know what to do because there were so many patients and back then the treatments weren’t established because it was still in the trial stage.

“We were talking one night during the night shift; two of my colleagues were big runners and they were doing 100k in May for their fitness and the talks spiralled from there.

“We thought, how can we get people involved and how can we help patients in ICU?”

Since then physiotherapists have got on board and a dietician is involved.

Dr Nanavati, 28, who has pledged to run 30km, said: “I used to work in A&E and two nurses I knew from there came into ICU with the virus. Both of them have luckily survived.

“Now one of them is a little better we’ll approach her and see if she wants to do a small walk. We’ll ask them what they thought went well and what could be improved so when we do use the money with ICU Steps we’ll be able to focus the money in a more meaningful direction.”

Dr Sangam Malani had never been a runner before and said: “When it was lockdown the only thing you could do was one hour of exercise a day, so people like me who are not runners started running. We realised it helped us and gave us sanity in the middle of ITU and we wanted to share that, amplify that.

“We wanted to run a distance and set a target of 1,300. The starkness of the disease first hit us when we heard the gruelling accounts from Italy, more specifically Lombardy because we were exactly two weeks behind them in the pandemic curve. Social media had pictures of nurses and doctors with bruises on their face from ppe so we heard about how tough it was and knew what was in store for us. Seeing them cope gave us an instant sense of solidarity with them. Now things are getting better that’s the place we wanted to virtually run to.”

The 26 year-old, who worked in gastroenterology before being deployed to ICU, has pledged to run a half marathon and is still in training.

“I was very much a couch to 5k person.” she said.

They have already reached their initial target of 1,300km and another Italian hospital has got in touch to say they wish to run too.

“Our first stop is Lombardy, and why not, Lombardy and beyond,” said Dr Malani. “That’s what amazing about it, it’s got so big because so many people resonate with it. This is something we want everyone to do; get everyone active and raise money for this incredible charity, ICU Steps.”

To join in or donate visit